Se puede diagnosticar el autismo a través de resonancia magnética

Científicos de la Escuela de Medicina Wake Forest han dado el primer paso en el desarrollo de una prueba objetiva que diagnostique el autismo.

Usando resonancia magnética funcional (IRMf), el equipo pudo medir la respuesta de los niños autistas a las diferentes señales ambientales al visualizar una parte específica del cerebro involucrada en la asignación de valor a las interacciones sociales.

“En este momento, se requiere una sesión de dos a cuatro horas por parte de un médico para diagnosticar el autismo y, en última instancia, es una evaluación subjetiva basada en su experiencia. Nuestra prueba sería una medida rápida y objetiva del cerebro para determinar si el niño responde normalmente a estímulos sociales frente a estímulos no sociales. En esencia, es un biomarcador para el autismo”, explica Kenneth Kishida, el investigador principal del estudio, publicado en la revista ‘Biological Psychology’.

En su trabajo, el equipo probó la capacidad de respuesta de la corteza ventral medial prefrontal del cerebro (vmPFC) a las señales visuales que representaban una interacción social en niños diagnosticados con trastorno del espectro autista (TEA) en comparación con los niños con desarrollo típico (TD).

El estudio incluyó a 40 participantes de edades entre los 6 y los 18 años: 12 tenían TEA y 28 eran TD.

Primero, los participantes del estudio fueron escaneados en una IRMf mientras veían ocho imágenes de personas u objetos, cada una varias veces.

En cada conjunto de imágenes se incluyeron dos fotos de una persona conocida y un objeto de cada participante.

Las otras seis eran imágenes estandarizadas de tres caras y tres objetos, cada uno representando aspectos agradables, neutros o desagradables de una base de datos común en experimentos psicológicos.

Después de completar la exploración por resonancia magnética de 12 a 15 minutos, los niños vieron el mismo conjunto de imágenes en la pantalla de un ordenador y las clasificaron en orden de agradables a desagradables con una escala.

Además, los pares de imágenes fueron vistos y clasificados en cuanto a cuál les gustaba más.

Según el estudio, la respuesta promedio del vmPFC fue significativamente menor en el grupo de TEA que en el grupo de niños con desarrollo típico.

Usar imágenes como un solo estímulo para capturar 30 segundos de datos de IRMf fue suficiente para diferenciar los grupos de TEA y TD.

“La forma en que el cerebro respondió a estas imágenes es consistente con nuestra hipótesis de que los cerebros de los niños autistas no codifican el valor del intercambio social de la misma manera que los niños con desarrollo típico.

Basándonos en nuestro estudio, imaginamos una prueba de autismo en la que un niño podría simplemente meterse en un escáner, ver una serie de imágenes y en un plazo de 30 segundos tener una medición objetiva que indique si su cerebro responde normalmente al estímulo social y a los no sociales”, detalla el investigador.


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