Due to the recent study that was published in the journal Current Biology, scientists could soon use olfactory tests to identify autism in children at an early age. Their findings indicate that children suffering from this disorder do not make the difference between good and bad smells.
The research was conducted by Noam Sobel, an Israeli professor of Science at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He and his colleagues have noticed that people usually adapt their sniffing technique based on the smells they are inhaling.
Thus, a person tends to linger when inhaling a beautiful perfume and, on the contrary, avoid foul-smelling sensations. Starting from this hypothesis, scientists wanted to determine whether children with autism have the same behavior or not.
They have created a special nose tube made out of a red and a green part that they have inserted in the noses of the 36 young respondents, who took part in the tests. 18 children had been diagnosed with autism, whereas the other 18 did not suffer from any medical condition.
During tests, children were exposed to good smells, such as, the perfume of roses and shampoos and bad smells (rotten fish and sour milk). Time measurements have indicated that healthy children adapted their olfactory sense to odors within a 305-millisecond interval. Autistic children used the same sniffing pattern, regardless whether the smell was good or bad.
By closely analyzing the behavior of the autistic respondents, scientists were also able to identify a significant link between possible stages of the disease and the time interval they have spent smelling bad odors.
According to Sobel, the longer these children smell stenches, the more advance their condition is.
Olfactory tests are capable of identifying autism at an early age because this sense, like the disorder per se, is related to social interactions. The smell can dictate whether to interact with a person or not; therefore the new tests for autism could be used in the future for better and faster diagnoses.
The recent finding is a medical breakthrough because physicians can finally use a single test to establish whether a child is autistic or not. Previous methods involved various tasks related to social interactions and behavior.
Researchers are aware that future experiments must be conducted before the method of investigation is generally accepted.
They plan on carrying out olfactory tests that can determine the exact period when the child develops this sniffing deficiency. Scientists do not know now whether autistic patients are born with this condition or whether they develop it in time.
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