Researchers are constantly looking for early warning signs that a child might have autism. On Feb. 25, it was revealed that researchers at Michigan State University have determined that low birth weight babies may be more likely to develop autism in certain situations. The research may provide doctors a valuable way to help screen babies at higher risk for the developmental disorder.
The study showed that babies with a low birth weight were up to seven times more like to develop autism later in life if an ultrasound showed enlarged ventricles in the brain. Enlarged ventricles can, in some cases, indicate a loss of white matter in the brain. This loss of white matter could be the key to the development of autism in low birth weight babies. It should be noted that enlarged ventricles could point to a number of other medical conditions, including hydrocephalus.
Michigan State University researchers looked at date from over 1,100 infants with low birth weight born in the 1980s. Each of the infants had ultrasounds conducted shortly after birth to look for cranial anomalies. The children were screened for autism at the age of 16, and again at 21.
The research is just a starting point for those hoping to understand autism, and does not mean that all babies born with a low birth weight will develop autism. The results are giving researchers good reason to study the white matter of the brain further to see how it affects developmental disorders and neurological disorders. Of course, the data may eventually be used to help screen children at greater risk for autism at birth, allowing parents to take action earlier in life to help children thrive.