Terje Falck-Ytter

Wallenberg Academy Fellow 2019

Social Sciences

Professor Terje Falck-Ytter

Uppsala University

Can autism be diagnosed in babies? 

The earlier that children with an autism spectrum diagnosis receive help, the better support they can get for developing various skills. Wallenberg Academy Fellow Terje Falck-Ytter will therefore investigate whether it is possible to determine if a child has an autism spectrum disorder during their first year of life. 

Autism spectrum disorder is characterized by difficulties with social interaction combined with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests and activities. Early detection and early interventions have proven to have positive effects on individuals with autism and their families, but there are currently no reliable tools available for determining whether children below the age of two have autism. 

Professor Terje Falck-Ytter from Uppsala University will investigate if it is possible to find signs of autism spectrum disorder in a child’s first year of life. He will follow 110 children who have an older sibling with an autism spectrum disorder (which means that they have an increased risk of autism) during their first year of life. When they are just a month old, he will study their basic sensory functions using pupillometry (measurement of changes in the size of the eye’s pupil) electroencephalography (measurement of brain activity).

The hypothesis is that children with autism not only find it difficult to process social information, but that the way they process basic, non-social visual and auditory information is different very early in life. If this is true, it may have great importance for understanding the basic causes of autism and contribute to the child receiving help at a younger age. 

Foto: Marcus Marcetic