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Brain Scans Can’t Yet Accurately Diagnose Autism

Brain Scans Can't Yet Accurately Diagnose Autism  Despite moves to use brain imaging scans to diagnose autism, one expert urges that the biological basis for the disorder must be understood before technology can be trusted with the diagnosis.

In the current issue of the journal Nature, Dr. Nicholas Lange believes scientists should focus on conducting large, long-term multicenter studies to identify the biological basis of the disorder.

“Several studies in the past two years have claimed that brain scans can diagnose autism, but this assertion is deeply flawed,” said Lange, an associate professor of Psychiatry and Biostatistics at Harvard Medical School.

“To diagnose autism reliably, we need to better understand what goes awry in people with the disorder. Until its solid biological basis is found, any attempt to use brain imaging to diagnose autism will be futile.”

Although Lange cautions against current use of brain imaging as a diagnostic tool, he is strong proponents of using this technology to help scientists better understand autism.

As the capability of brain imaging technology expands via functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and volumetric MRI, researchers have made important discoveries related to early brain enlargement in the disorder.

“Brain scans have led to these extremely valuable advances, and, with each discovery, we are getting closer to solving the autism pathology puzzle,” said Lange.

“What individuals with autism and their parents urgently need is for us to carry out large-scale studies that lead us to find reliable, sensitive and specific biological markers of autism with high predictive value that allow clinicians to identify interventions that will improve the lives of people with the disorder.”

Source: McLean Hospital

Brain Scans Can’t Yet Accurately Diagnose Autism

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Brain Scans Can’t Yet Accurately Diagnose Autism. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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