Assessing autism at its social and developmental roots: A review of Autism Spectrum Disorder studies using functional near-infrared spectroscopy.


School of Management, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. Electronic address: [Email]


We review a relatively new method for studying the developing brain in children and infants with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Despite advances in behavioral screening and brain imaging, due to paradigms that do not easily allow for testing of awake, very young, and socially-engaged children-i.e., the social and the baby brain-the biological underpinnings of this disorder remain a mystery. We introduce an approach based on functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), which offers a noninvasive imaging technique for studying functional activations by measuring changes in the brain's hemodynamic properties. This further enables measurement of brain activation in upright, interactive settings, while maintaining general equivalence to fMRI findings. We review the existing studies that have used fNIRS for ASD, discussing their promise, limitations, and their technical aspects, gearing this study to the researcher who may be new to this technique and highlighting potential targets for future research.


Autism Spectrum Disorder,Brain imaging,Ecological validity,Infant studies,Social interaction,fNIRS,