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Hearing Test Response May ID Newborns at Risk for Autism

Prolonged auditory brainstem response phase, V-negative latency seen in newborns with autism spectrum disorder

THURSDAY, Nov. 19, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Newborns exhibit neurophysiological variation associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a report published online Nov. 2 in Autism Research.

Oren Miron, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues collected auditory brainstem response (ABR) data on 139,154 newborns from their Universal Newborn Hearing Screening, including 321 who were subsequently diagnosed with ASD.

The researchers found that compared with the non-ASD newborns, ASD newborns had significant prolongations of the ABR phase and V-negative latency. Compared with previous studies in older ASD samples, newborns in the ASD group also exhibited greater variance in their latencies; this was likely partially due to low intensity of the ABR stimulus.

“We know autism spectrum disorder is connected to how children process sound, so even if the child’s hearing is normal, it can still be processed differently,” a coauthor said in a statement. “With better understanding of how ABR testing can be used to identify at-risk babies, we can flag children who might be at risk.”

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