Reaction to smells, autism, linked

Weizmann Institute of Science researchers may have developed a test to detect autism based on a child’s reaction to smells.

The study suggests that children with autism spectrum disorder don’t adjust their sniffing instinctively when they encounter pleasant or foul scents. 18 children with an autism diagnosis, and 18 typically developing children, were presented with pleasant and unpleasant odors, and their sniff responses were measured.  Typically developing children adjusted their sniffing within 305 milliseconds. Children with autism did not respond as quickly

The researchers, who had not been told which children had autism, were able to identify those with autism 81 percent of the time. They also found that the farther removed an autistic child’s sniff response was from the average, the more severe the child’s symptoms were.

The goal is to be able to diagnose and address autism as early as possible.