Shalom Life | August 01, 2015

Israeli Study Says You Can Detect Autism in Children Through Smell

New study links response time to smell for children with autism

By: Maria Cruz

Published: July 3rd, 2015 in Health » Israel

Researchers in Israel have discovered a new way to potentially discover autism in young children by using the sense of smell.

Studies have already been conducted regarding the importance of smell in fruit flies distinguishing from good and bad smells, and the impact of odour with humans. Now, while it doesn’t take a scientific study to know that we inhale less when an unpleasant odour is in the air and inhale deeper when a pleasant smell is in the air, a recent study discovered that some children can’t distinguish between the two.

Led by Professor Noam Sobel, Head of the Neurobiology Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science, researchers found that young, autistic children couldn’t tell the difference between pleasant and unpleasant odours.

The study took 18 children with autism and 18 without, presenting both groups with different odours. Those without autism adjusted accordingly to each smell in 305 milliseconds while those with autism didn’t adjust at all. Their responses allowed the team to accurately diagnose the children 81% of the time.

“The difference in sniffing pattern between the typically developing children and children with autism was simply overwhelming,” said Sobel. “We can identify autism and its severity with meaningful accuracy within less than 10 minutes, using a test that is completely non-verbal and entails no task to follow.”

He went on to say that this research raises the hope of finding autism earlier in children and these diagnoses would allow for more effective intervention.

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