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AUTISM UPDATE

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by Alison Hogan

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The eye link
   Autism diagnosis is based on observation; currently, there are no medical tests or devices to identify this brain disorder.  But researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia are looking at the possibility of being able to identify autism through the pupil of the eye.

   Gang Yao, a biological engineering assistant professor, is building a device (similar to those used by optometrists) that will focus on how signals are sent from the pupil to the midbrain and relayed elsewhere throughout the brain. The device will feature an infrared camera that during a 20-second period provides more than 600 images of the pupil and its response to a pulsating light. Using elaborate software, information on how far and quickly the pupil constricts and how swiftly it recovers will be recorded. The software also will help researchers recognize and analyze abnormalities and common patterns of autistic children.

   This project, one of several being undertaken at the university’s Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, is based on a study which suggests the midbrains (which work as a relay system for sensory information) of children with autism differ from those of typical children. Though cautious, Professor Yao says the information could lead to the development of objective tests to help doctors detect and determine autism severity.


… and the food link
   Autism treatments abound.  For decades, health professionals at the Feingold Association have believed that diet impacts symptoms. Maybe, maybe not, but Feingold has some heavyweight doctors associated with it, and if you're a member (which costs $69), you’ll have access to their research.  They regularly look at brand name foods and provide information about which products are free of synthetic dyes, artificial flavors, and certain preservatives.  Its ‘Foodlists’ contain thousands of acceptable brand name products, and its newsletter, Pure Facts, provides updates 10 times a year. Go to www.feingold.org for more info. 


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