Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are the most common neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed in early childhood. While both are separate conditions, their symptoms tend to overlap, making it quite tricky to differentiate between the two. Now, in a new study, researchers from the University of South Australia and Flinders University have found that images from the human retina can provide different signals for both conditions.
“ASD and ADHD are the most common neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed in childhood. But because they often share similar traits, making diagnoses for both conditions can be long and complicated. Our research aims to improve this. By investigating how signals in the retina respond to light stimuli, we hope to develop more accurate and earlier diagnoses for various neurological disorders,” said Dr. Paul Constable, a research optometrist at Flinders University. dr. Constable is also an author of the study published in: Frontiers in Neuroscience.
The team used an electroretinogram (ERG), a diagnostic test to measure the electrical activity of the retina in response to a light stimulus. In their study, they noted that children with ADHD showed an overall higher level of ERG energy, while children with ASD showed low ERG energy.
dr. Constable explained that the retinal signals are generated by specific nerves, and identifying the difference in them can help shed light on the differences between children with ADHD and children with ASD. He added that their study provides preliminary evidence for neurophysiological changes that not only help distinguish ADHD from ASD, but that it can be done using ERG diagnostics.
“Ultimately, we’re looking at how the eyes can help us understand the brain,” said Dr. Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, an expert in human and artificial cognition at the University of South Australia. He is also the co-investigator in the study.
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