It has been known that development of the face and brain are closely related and they are mutually effective on each other. The growth that begins in the embryo continues until a person reaches adolescence. There is a pattern in the development of the face and brain and latest studies conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Missouri have revealed a difference in the development of these features in normal children and in children suffering with autism.
Researchers say that the results of the study can help them comprehend the roots of autism, which can in turn help in developing more effective forms of treatment.
The lead author of the study Kristina Aldridge said that the root cause of autism is not clearly known although the disease is usually attributed to environmental and genetic factors. Aldridge is an assistant professor of anatomy, MU School of Medicine and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neuro-developmental Disorders. She said that by identifying the changes in facial features, the beginnings of autism can be pinpointed. Being able to identify the precise point of time when autism begins to show on the face by altering features can lead to an answer to the cause of autism. The reasons can either be genetic or environmental and in some cases, both factors might be in play.
The study revealed certain distinct differences in facial features such as wider eyes, broad upper face, shorter cheeks, nose and the middle facial region, broad mouth and the upper lip area. Although these differences are subtle, they help in differentiating a normal child from an autistic child. For the study, a total of 105 boys were considered. 64 of these boys were autistic and the remaining 41 were normally growing boys aged between 8 and 12. A camera was used to capture the images of their heads in 3D mode. Seventeen facial points were considered in order to map the geometry, shape and structure of face. Differences were found in these results in both groups of children. The difference was very distinct when it came to shape of the face.
The study also found two kinds of autism manifestations, each of which had distinct changes in facial features. General differences such as repetitive behavior and difference in language levels in both the group of children were found to be distinct as well. The results of the study can also help in identifying different kinds of autisms based on facial features.