HealthDay reports today on research showing that the risk of developing autism may be detected earlier than one year of age.

(HealthDay News) -- In children as young as 6 months old, changes in the brain that can lead to autism spectrum disorder may have already begun, preliminary research suggests.

Although early signs of autism, such as problems communicating and repetitive behaviors, can often be seen as early as 1 year, processes in the brain linked to communication are seemingly being altered months earlier, University of North Carolina researchers report.

"We know that there is evidence that autism affects the ability of different brain regions to communicate with each other. This study confirms that this atypical brain development begins very early in life," said study co-author Geri Dawson, the chief science officer at Autism Speaks.

"These findings raise the possibility of developing imaging markers that could detect risk for autism in advance of actual symptoms, and [to] begin treatment before symptoms begin," she said.

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