Monday, November 18, 2013

Jittery limb movements may predict autism subgroups

Tiny fluctuations in the limb movements of children with autism can predict the severity of their condition and track their response to treatments, according to two unpublished studies presented at the 2013 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego. Individuals with autism often have motor problems, ranging from clumsiness and imbalance to wobbly handwriting. But these symptoms historically have been neglected in scientific research. “In autism, movement hasn’t been put in the forefront because [people with the disorder] move: They can point, they can reach, they can grasp,” says Elizabeth Torres, assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who led the new studies. But zooming in on the tiny changes in those motions reveals distinctive patterns, she says. “It’s actually a very rich signal that we can use to diagnose and treat.”

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