Researchers might have discovered a revolutionary way to establish whether a child has autism. Namely from now on they could diagnose autism using a sniff test. The study was conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and was published in the journal Current Biology.
The researchers based their study on well-known behavior which humans have when they are exposed to different kinds of smells. Usually when they sense a pleasant fragrance humans take a deep breath, whereas when they smell an unpleasant odor they tend to limit their breathing. However it seems that children who suffer from autism do not react normally when they encounter a bad smell.
The research was conducted on 36 children: half of them were healthy and the other half was diagnosed with autism. The average age of the participants was seven. They equipped each child with a device provided with two tubes in order to measure their reaction to different smells: the red tube was used to send pleasant smells like flowers and shampoo and foul odors like rotting fish and sour milk, whereas the green tube was used to analyze the changes in breathing.
After the study the researchers observed that when they felt the bad smell the healthy children adjusted their smell in 305 milliseconds. On the other hand the children who were diagnosed with autism did not adjust their smell at all. The researchers also noted that the abnormal sniffing behavior also indicated more severe autism symptoms in social contexts.
One of the researchers involved in the study neuroscientist Liron Rozenkrantz from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel remarked:
“It’s a semi-automated response. It does not require the subject’s attention. We hope that it can be used as a diagnostic marker to diagnose autism at a very young age. This is a nonverbal measure, and it only requires breathing.”
Overall the accuracy of the test was of 81%. Dr. Judith Brown, from the National Autistic Society said that it is unlikely that a universal diagnostic test will be developed, but in the future findings such as these could be an additional tool in the process of autism diagnosis.
Image Source: BBC