Baby's pupils that react to light changes could mean they will later be diagnosed with autism.
A study has shown that babies whose pupils react more strongly to sudden light changes are more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in later life.
Researchers at Birbeck, University of London, said it provides support for the view that sensory processing plays an important role in the development of the disorder.
The findings, published in Nature Communications Journal, could eventually lead to improvements in early detection of autism.
The participants, from the UK and Sweden, were 10 months old when their pupillary responses to light were first examined with an eye-tracker that measured these changes in pupil size.
They were followed until they were three years of age, at which point they took part in a diagnostic evaluation.
Those infants who eventually fulfilled criteria for ASD showed a stronger pupillary response than infants who did not later fulfil ASD criteria.
The amount of pupil constriction in infancy was also associated with the strength of autism symptoms at three years old.
Across the two countries, the study looked at 147 infants with an older sibling with ASD.Of these, 29 met the criteria for ASD at the follow-up. The study also included a control group of 40 typically developing infants.
Dr Teodora Gliga, a research fellow at Birkbeck's Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, who led the UK branch of the study, said: "For a long time, autism has been defined by atypical social interaction and communication.
"However, researchers are increasingly embracing the view that the earliest signs of the condition may lie in more basic processes of brain development.
"Understanding the developmental mechanisms behind autism will help improve early detection as well as the design of early interventions."
The research was carried out in conjunction with Sweden's Uppsala University.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a range of similar conditions, including Asperger syndrome, that affect a person's social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. In children with ASD, the symptoms are present before three years of age, although a diagnosis can sometimes be made after the age of three.
It's estimated that about 1 in every 100 people in the UK has ASD. More boys are diagnosed with the condition than girls.
Written by Lucy Hollis.
9 stunning locations in the UK which are inspired by children’s books
Beatrix Potter's beautifully illustrated Peter Rabbit books are all influenced by her childhood days spent in the Lake District. Around Brockhole's beautiful lakeshore grounds is a Beatrix Potter trail and in Bowness-on-Windermere is The Wolrd of Beatrix Potter attraction - both great days out for you and the kids.
The Tales of Peter Rabbit - Lake District, Cumbria
Winnie the Pooh, written by A.A. Milne, always played with his toys in the woods by their home in the Ashdwon Forest. You can visit the real 'Hundred Acre Wood', where several locations in the Pooh stories can be matched to real places.
Winnie the Pooh - Ashdown Forest, East Sussex
Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenso - which tells the story of pirates, parrots and treasure - features many places in Bristol. You can take part in a treasure island trail, which is a family friendly walk and app that guides you around Bristol's historic scene and has fascinating insights into Bristol's connections with Treasure Island.
Treasure Island - Bristol
JM Barrie iconically used the opening sentence “All children grow up, except one”, which was a tribute to his brother who tragically died a day before his 14th birthday. His family thought of him as a forever boy and the legend of Peter Pan was born. JM Barrie commissioned a statue of Peter Pan which stands in Kensington Gardens that you can visit!
Peter Pan - Kensington Gardens, London
Written by English author Mary Norton, The Borrowers tells the trials and tribulations of a family of tiny people based in Leighton Buzzard. The house where The Borrowers was set is now a school. Things you can do in the area in relation to the book include a trip to Whipsnade Zoo, the Stockwood Discovery Centre and a Birds of Prey Centre in nearby Wilstead.
The Borrowers - Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire
Written by Edith Nesbit, The Railway Children was inspired by Ediths walks to Chelsfield railway station in Yorkshire. The story follows the lives of three children who move to a house near the railway. You can step back in time by standing on the bridge at Haworth and watch the vintage steam trains puff their way up and down the valley, or jump aboard and travel to the Edwardian Oakworth station which was the location for the famous 1970s film.
The Railway Children - Yorkshire
Written by Richard Adams and based in Hampshire there are many things you can do in the area in relation to the book. Stay near to the village of Ecchinswell which offers a Watership Down walk, taking in Nuthanger Farm which plays a major role in the novel. Along the way, see rare butterflies as well as obligatory bobbing bunny tails as they bounce around the North Wessex Downs.
Watership Down - North Wessex Downs, Hampshire
Written by JK Rowling the Harry Potter books were all based in and around London. The books have inspired eight films, a tonne of merchandise and a studio tour close to Watford Junction - which is a great place to visit. Be sure to pop over to Platform 9¾ at London’s King’s Cross station and have your photo snapped as if you were getting ready to board the Hogwarts Express.
Harry Potter - London
Lewis Carrolls Alice in Wonderland was set in Oxford. The town offers many ways to acquaint the visitor with the history of the novel and its author. Alice’s Day commemorates an important moment for children’s literature and is celebrated annually. Or try a themed walking tour of the city and see the original copy of the books in the Bodleian Library. If you want to expand your ‘Carroll’ tour, take a trip to Guildford, Surrey where he wrote Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Alice in Wonderland - Oxford
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