Micromovement Analysis Improves Diagnosis of Autism

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US Navy 100310-N-4178C-003 Christopher Adams h...
US Navy 100310-N-4178C-003 Christopher Adams holds his three-year-old son Joey while Board Certified Behavior Analyist (BCBA) therapist Kenna Nelson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Micromovement Analysis Improves Diagnosis of Autism

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 4, 2013

An analysis of microscopic movements is being used by researchers to diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and determine its severity in children and young adults.

The research is the work of Jorge V. José, Ph.D., of Indiana University, and Elizabeth Torres, Ph.D., of Rutgers University who presented the new technique at the 2013 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting.

Their work builds on earlier findings involving the random nature of movements of people with autism.

Earlier research looked at the speed maximum and randomness of movement during a computer exercise that involved tracking the motions of youths with ASD when touching an image on the screen to indicate a decision.

That research was reported in the Nature journal Frontiers of Neuroscience.

Micromovement Analysis Improves Diagnosis of Autism

In the new study, the researchers looked at the entire movement involved in raising and extending a hand to touch a computer screen.

The device they use can record 240 frames per second, which allows them to measure speed changes in the millisecond range.

“We looked at the curve going up and the curve going down and studied the micromovements,” said José.

“When a person reaches for an object, the speed trajectory is not one smooth curve; it has some irregular random movements we call ‘jitter,’” he said. “We looked at the properties of those very small fluctuations and identified patterns.”

Those patterns or signatures also identify the degree of the severity of the person’s ASD, he said.

“Often in movement research, such fluctuations are considered a nuisance,” José said.

“People averaged them away over repeated movements, but we decided instead to analyze the movements on a smaller time scale and found they hold lots of information to help diagnose the continuum of autism spectrum disorder.

“Looking at the speed versus time curves of the motion in much more detail, we noticed that in general many smaller oscillations or fluctuations occur even when the hand is resting in the lap. We decided to carefully study that jitter.

“Our remarkable finding is that the fluctuations in this jitter are not just random fluctuations, but they do correspond to unique characteristics of the degree of autism each child has.”

The work was presented by Ph.D. graduate student Di Wu, who said the more detailed information allows subtyping of ASD and helps to identify typically developing individuals much better than previously.

The new refinement may help advance research in ASD to develop treatments tailored to the individual’s needs and capabilities.

Source: Indiana University

hand selecting dots photo by shutterstock.

A personal story about raising a son with autism:

picsplay_1383352356524-1.jpgMelissa is a stay at home mom raising a teenager, a tween, and a toddler. She is a surrogate mother of two gorgeous little girls who she gets to see whenever she wants. She has explored life and her goal is to never wonder what if. Her toddler was not planned but she is thankful that he chose her to call mommy. People say she is extremely lucky in life but she views her luck as a result of the decisions she has made in life otherwise known as karma. She spends her time guiding her teenager supporting his interests and talking about safe sex, cleaning up after her tween daughter completely shocked that daughters are pigs when she was sure it would be the boys who were disgusting, and running around after her monkey of a toddler desperately trying to be a part of his world. She never kept a journal for her older children and pictures are precious because there aren’t many. So she decided to start this blog to remember her thoughts and time that passed to quickly. She never imagined that her son who she didn’t even know she wanted, who she loved so much it hurts, would be diagnosed with autism. This is a real journey that starts as a normal record of her child’s growth to finding out that what she suspected would become very real. Her words are true, raw, and sometimes heartbreaking. This is a story about strength, love, and acceptance. She is choosing to document this journey with her sidekick Oliver hoping that one day she will learn how to be a part of his world. Keeping her memories of all of the testing and therapy while watching him learn and grow. He is her world. He is autistic but that isn’t all he is. He is quirky, easygoing, curious, interesting, fun, hilarious, genuine, innocent, and lovely. He is her Oliver. He is her world.

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