Aims: To conduct a 3D ultrasound scan during pregnancy in autistic women, or women who have an autistic child, or in neurotypical women with no family history of autism. This study is longitudinal so we follow the baby at birth and into infancy up to 18 months old, to test if markers in the ultrasound predict aspects of behaviour in infancy and toddlerhood.
Background: This study seeks to study the development of autism from the earliest time point, which is in pregnancy. Using 3D ultrasound at 24-30 weeks gestation allows us to measure both standard and novel physical markers in both the baby’s body and brain and then test if these show any association with later language and social communication development.
Method: 3D ultrasound scanning takes place at the Rosie Maternity Hospital in Cambridge
Results: These will be posted on the ARC website.
Importance: Since autism is neurodevelopmental we need to track how it develops, from the womb forwards. In addition, ultrasounds are non-invasive and safe and enable us to image the foetus. We are also testing novel markers in the ultrasound which are influenced by prenatal sex steroid hormones, because these are elevated in autistic people.
Relevance: Primarily for basic neuroscience, but with the possibility of early detection towards early intervention in infancy. We are not doing this research with the aim of prenatal screening with a view to termination, since this does not align with our ethical values of respecting autistic people.
Funding: The Autism Research Trust, the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council
- Fetal Anogenital Distance Using Ultrasound, Prenatal Diagnosis 39, 27-535 (2019), E Aydin, R Holt, D Chaplin, R Hawkes, C Allison, G Hackett, T Austin, A Tsompanidis, L Gabis, S I Ziv, S Baron-Cohen