Caring for our children's future

Brain activity in infants predicts language outcomes in ASD

13 Apr 2015 1:50 PM | Anonymous

Date: April, 2015

Source: Cell Press

Autism spectrum disorder can produce different clinical outcomes in children, with some having strong language and speech abilities and others not talking at all. A new study reveals at the first signs of possible autism in infants and toddlers, neural activity in language-sensitive brain regions is already similar to normal in those autism spectrum disorder toddlers who eventually go on to develop good language ability but nearly absent in those who later have a poor language outcome.

The researchers studied 60 ASD and 43 non-ASD children using fMRI method to record brain activity in the participants as they listened to excerpts from children's stories. All toddlers were clinically followed until early childhood to make a final determination of which ones eventually had typical versus poor language outcomes.

In ASD, good language outcomes by early childhood were preceded by normal patterns of neural activity in language-sensitive brain regions, including superior temporal cortex, during infant and toddler ages. By contrast, ASD children with poor language outcomes showed very little activity in superior temporal cortex when they were toddlers or infants.

The researchers also found that, when combined with behavioural tests, these early neural differences may help predict later language outcome by early childhood. 

This research is beneficial to practice as the activation, or its absence, in language cortex may predict treatment responsiveness in toddlers with ASD engaging in behavioural interventions that target language and speech.


Lombardo, et al., (2015). Different functional neural substrates for good and poor language outcomes in autism, Neuron, DOI:

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