We found in a recent study that the pupil responded very differently to a short light flash in children with autism than in normal children. The difference was so distinct that the autism group and normal group can be separated based on the pupil responses. These new results suggested that the pupil responses to short flash light may reveal some problems in the brains of children with autism. In other words, it may be used as a "biological marker" for autism. We propose more studies to figure out which part of the brain is responsible for the different pupil responses.
Because biological markers can help to locate the problems associated with autism, this study will provide important knowledge for a better understanding of the causes of autism, which is critical for developing a cure for this disorder. In addition, as biological markers often reveal brain problems before a child's behavior is changed, they can provide some useful information for early screening of autism. Furthermore, pupil responses cause no health risk for the patient and are very simple to test. Therefore, the pupil response examination is well positioned for testing on very young children and for large-scale studies.
To the best of our knowledge, this project represents the first of its kind in the field of autism research. Therefore, it opens a new direction and will generate exciting new knowledge. The studies proposed in this project will be conducted by a multidisciplinary team of researchers with expertise in autism, neurology, neuropsychology, vision science, and engineering. The synergetic integration of knowledge across these diverse disciplines creates a bright new avenue for fighting autism.