Hong Kong Researchers Develop Retinal Scan Technology To Diagnose Autism In Children

A research team from the University of Hong Kong has developed a novel method to diagnose autism in children as young as 6 years of age by scanning the back of their eyes using textbook machine learning principles and AI technology.

The essentially quick and non-invasive procedure is capable of identifying risks of autism and related developmental disorders with up to 96 percent accuracy.


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Discussing the new technology, team leader Professor Benny Zee Chung-ying highlighted the significance of developing the new method, suggesting that “the importance of starting early intervention is that they are still growing, they are still developing. So there is a bigger chance of success”.

Brief Methodology

As per the research publication, the research model made use of specialized cameras already available in the market to take retinal scans for indicating any risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The results determined through the new technology are invisible to the naked eye, but the machine learning algorithms coupled with high-end computer analysis helped uncover vital differences between children with the disease and those without it.

70 children were tested including 46 with autism and a control group of 24. The technology was able to identify children with autism 95.7 percent of the time. The average age tested was 13, with the youngest being six.

The findings from the above-mentioned testing pool explored that “the diameter of the optic disc, where neurons exit the eye and can be seen as a bright round spot in the images, is larger”.

Autistic individuals have a significantly bigger optic cup, which is located in the center of the optic disc as the above image shows.


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Renowned ophthalmologists and specialists have welcomed the new technology, but remain skeptical due to the fact that most parents are reluctant to believe that their children have autism in the first place.

For now, the Hong Kong research team is planning to develop a commercial product for circulation this year, which would essentially help parents treat their children as soon as possible.