Measuring how children respond to pleasant and unpleasant odors can help identify children suffering from autism spectrum disorder very early in their lives, suggests a new research. The researchers found that people with autism spectrum disorder do not make the natural adjustment like other people do when they encounter unpleasant smell.
The difference in sniffing pattern between the typically developing children and children with autism was simply overwhelming,’ said Noam Sobel of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, the leader of this study.He also added that he 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.
For the study, Sobel and his team created a “computer-controlled air-dilution olfactometer” equipped with a “pediatric nasal cannula. The team presented 18 children with ASD and 18 normally developing children with pleasant and unpleasant odors and measured their responses. The average age of children in the study was seven. While typical children adjusted their sniffing within 305 milliseconds of smelling an odor, children on the autism spectrum showed no such response, the researchers reported. That difference in sniff response between the two groups of kids was enough to correctly classify them as children with or without a diagnosis of ASD 81 percent of the time.
Sobel and his team believe this could pave the way for more comprehensive medical testing for autism.
Autism has become the fastest growing development disorder in the U.S., where one in 68 children has been diagnosed with autism, the majority of whom are males.