Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Autistic facial characteristics identified

Date:
October 21, 2011
Source:
University of Missouri-Columbia
Summary:
Researchers have found distinct differences between the facial characteristics of children with autism compared to those of typically developing children. This knowledge could help researchers understand the origins of autism.

The face and brain develop in coordination, with each influencing the other, beginning in the embryo and continuing through adolescence. Now, University of Missouri researchers have found distinct differences between the facial characteristics of children with autism compared to those of typically developing children.This knowledge could help researchers understand the origins of autism.

Related Articles


"There is no clear answer about whether autism is caused by genetics or by environmental influences," said Kristina Aldridge, lead author and assistant professor of anatomy in the MU School of Medicine and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. "If we can identify when these facial changes occur, we could pinpoint when autism may begin to develop in a child. Knowing that point in time could lead us to identify a genetic cause, a window of time when the embryo may be susceptible to an environmental factor, or both."

Aldridge and colleagues found the following distinct differences between facial characteristics of children with autism and those of typically developing children:

  • Children with autism have a broader upper face, including wider eyes.
  • Children with autism have a shorter middle region of the face, including the cheeks and nose.
  • Children with autism have a broader or wider mouth and philtrum -- the divot below the nose, above the top lip.

She says these are subtle differences that will enable researchers to further study people with autism spectrum disorders.

Aldridge analyzed 64 boys with autism and 41 typically developing boys aged eight to 12 years old, using a camera system that captures a 3-D image of each child's head. Then, she mapped 17 points on the face, such as the corner of the eye and the divot in the upper lip. When Aldridge calculated the overall geometry of the face using these points, and compared children with autism and typically developing children, she found statistically significant differences in face shape.

Understanding that people with autism have statistically different facial characteristics enables researchers to focus on the underlying causes of autism, Aldridge said. Additionally, the study identified two groups of children with autism who show further distinct facial traits that occur in children with specific characteristics of autism, such as behavior problems, language level and repetitive behaviors. Identifying these subgroups within the group of children with autism allows better study of these children and why autism is so variable.

"This research would not be possible without the children and their families that participated," Aldridge said. "Their help is key to advancing research and helping us better understand autism, and how to develop better treatments. We are also indebted to the University of Missouri's Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders for their support of this project and the care it provides for children with autism and their families in Missouri."

The study was published in Molecular Autism. Aldridge collaborated with Ian George, a graduate student in the School of Medicine; Kimberly Cole, a research technician at the School of Medicine; Jordan Austin, a senior in the College of Arts and Science; T. Nicole Takahashi, project director at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders; Ye Duan, associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering and the Thompson Center; Judith Miles, professor emerita in the School of Medicine and the Thompson Center. The entire team is affiliated with the Thompson Center. This research was supported by an Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Program grant, the Simons Foundation and the Thompson Center Research Scholar Funds.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kristina Aldridge, Ian D George, Kimberly K Cole, Jordan R Austin, T Nicole Takahashi, Ye Duan and Judith H Miles. Facial phenotypes in subgroups of pre-pubertal boys with autism spectrum disorders are correlated with clinical phenotypes. Molecular Autism, 2011, 2:15 DOI: 10.1186/2040-2392-2-15

Cite This Page:

University of Missouri-Columbia. "Autistic facial characteristics identified." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111020105914.htm>.
University of Missouri-Columbia. (2011, October 21). Autistic facial characteristics identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111020105914.htm
University of Missouri-Columbia. "Autistic facial characteristics identified." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111020105914.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Alzheimer’s Hope

Alzheimer’s Hope

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) A new drug, BCI-838 offers new hope to halt and possibly reverse the damage of Alzheimer’s disease. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Studying Effects of Music on Dementia Patients

Studying Effects of Music on Dementia Patients

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is studying the popular Music and Memory program to see if music, which helps improve the mood of Alzheimer's patients, can also reduce the use of prescription drugs for those suffering from dementia. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

AP (Oct. 28, 2014) Moms and Dads get a more hands-on approach to parenting with tech-centric products for raising their little ones. (Oct. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Newsy (Oct. 27, 2014) Researchers have come up with another reason why dark chocolate is good for your health. A substance in the treat can reportedly help with memory. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins