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New brain scans to advance understanding of autism spectrum conditions and ADHD

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With Action funding, advances have been made in the early identification of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in babies. New brain images acquired from babies scanned on the most powerful MRI scanner available can reveal insights into how these conditions develop, which could help identify and provide support sooner for children.

Autism spectrum conditions (ASC) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are common neurodevelopmental disorders, with ASCs affecting around one in 100 children in the UK and ADHD up to five in every 100. Understanding what causes these conditions and leads to their challenges is crucial, as children can experience lifelong difficulties.

Dr Tomoki Arichi and his team at King’s College London have used specialised scans to measure key chemicals in newborn babies’ brains – to understand their role in shaping early neurodevelopment and look for changes in children who develop problems.

The researchers have, for the first time in the UK, scanned babies in an ultra-high-field strength 7T MRI scanner. The detailed images from these scans are providing new diagnostic information which is already helping to guide how these babies are being cared for.

The researchers say they are excited about the extra detail and new information they can see on these early images in comparison to those acquired with a standard MRI scanner, and the images already highlight the possibilities for the technology moving forwards.  

Dr Arichi says: “We are incredibly excited about acquiring these first images from babies on the 7T MRI scanner. Moving forwards, acquiring images from babies at 7T will present enormous opportunities for improving our ability to understand how the brain develops during the crucial first few weeks after birth and how this is altered in disease.”

These scans really advance clinical diagnosis and research into early human brain development.”

Dr Tomoki Arichi