In a recent study, researchers from King’s College London successfully used the MRI brain scans of kids with isolated fetal ventriculomegaly to gauge neurodevelopment and determine the presence of Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits at primary school age.
The central nervous system is made up of two components– the brain and the spinal cord. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)– which is a clear, watery liquid– also coats the entire surface of these components. Additionally, CSF can be found throughout the brain’s ventricles– or cavities and tunnels– and is what helps cushion our spinal cord and brain from any impact.
But, according to the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), ventriculomegaly is when these fluid-filled structures within the brain– known as lateral ventricles– are too large.
And in their new study, the researchers uncovered evidence that supports a link between ASD traits and ventriculomegaly.
The team came to this conclusion after following two groups of children. The first group all had normal fetal brain assessments; meanwhile, the second had antenatal diagnoses of isolated ventriculomegaly. Each child in these groups underwent developmental follow-up assessments at the age of 2, as well as at primary school age.
The participants were first scanned while they were still fetuses. Afterward, they were tested using various developmental measures– such as sustained attention, neurological functioning, behavior, executive function, coordination, IQ, adaptive behavior, and ASD traits.
Now, fetal ventriculomegaly is actually the most common brain abnormality that is diagnosed antenatally– or before birth.
And the researchers determined that there is an association between this fetal brain abnormality and ASD traits. In fact, the study revealed that 37.5% of children diagnosed with isolated fetal ventriculomegaly also had ADOS-2 scores that met the criteria for an ASD diagnosis.
So, while the team recognizes that this diagnosis approach is not absolute, they believe this partial indicator could help families by leading to improved early intervention and support tactics.
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