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PLoS One. 2013 May 29;8(5):e64967. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064967. Print 2013.

Brain responses to words in 2-year-olds with autism predict developmental outcomes at age 6.

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Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects social behavior and language acquisition. ASD exhibits great variability in outcomes, with some individuals remaining nonverbal and others exhibiting average or above average function. Cognitive ability contributes to heterogeneity in autism and serves as a modest predictor of later function. We show that a brain measure (event-related potentials, ERPs) of word processing in children with ASD, assessed at the age of 2 years (Nā€Š=ā€Š24), is a broad and robust predictor of receptive language, cognitive ability, and adaptive behavior at ages 4 and 6 years, regardless of the form of intensive clinical treatment during the intervening years. The predictive strength of this brain measure increases over time, and exceeds the predictive strength of a measure of cognitive ability, used here for comparison. These findings have theoretical implications and may eventually lead to neural measures that allow early prediction of developmental outcomes as well as more individually tailored clinical interventions, with the potential for greater effectiveness in treating children with ASD.

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