UK scientists studying a group of four- to six-month-old babies who were at a "family risk" of autism because of their older siblings' diagnosis found they showed different brain responses compared to a group of babies at low risk. Published in the medical journal Proceedings Of The Royal Society, the study found at-risk babies showed less specialised brain responses when viewing socially engaging videos and listening to vocal sounds such as laughter.
The scientists rigged the babies up to a near-infrared spectroscopy headset to measure brain activity.
The babies were initially shown a random collection of pictures of trucks and cars to get a baseline reading.
They were then shown a series of videos designed to elicit a social response featuring female actors moving their eyes from side to side, expressing emotion and playing games like peekaboo and incy wincy spider.
The study found the brain activity in both the high-risk and low-risk groups did not differ on the baseline measures.
However when it came to the visual and auditory stimuli the at-risk infants showed a different and diminished response to the cues.