Simple Retina Test Could Accurately Distinguish Autism From ADHD

Autism and ADHD are becoming better understood, but clinicians can still find the two conditions difficult to tell apart.

Now, South Australian researchers say they’ve identified biomarkers that could allow these two conditions to be diagnosed and distinguished from one another using a simple eye test.

They’re very different conditions, but they sometimes overlap, and in many cases the behaviors involved look the same, making it hard to differentiate between the two conditions and put kids on the right treatment paths.

Finders University research optometrist Dr. Paul Constable has been working on detecting Autism through retinal scanning for many years now – we last wrote about his work in 2019.

In a new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, Constable and a team from the University of South Australia, McGill University, Montreal, University College London and the Great Ormond Street Hospital in the UK say they’ve found a particular electroretinogram signal that can not only be used to separate ADHD and autism cases from control cases, but to clearly distinguish between the two conditions.

Significant differences were found between control subjects, ASD patients and ADHD patients in b-wave energy levels and oscillatory potentials, with ADHD patients showing high overall ERG energy levels and ASD patients showing lower overall ERG energy levels than control patients.

“Retinal signals have specific nerves that generate them, so if we can identify these differences and localize them to specific pathways that use different chemical signals that are also used in the brain, then we can show distinct differences for children with ADHD and ASD and potentially other neurodevelopmental conditions,” said Constable.