A recent study in the journal, Current Biology, presented a study on a “sniff test” for an early diagnosis of autism. The study included 18 children diagnosed with autism and 18 children without autism. They presented nice smells (rose or shampoo) and bad smells (sour milk or rotten fish) to all the children over a 10-minute period and measured their sniff response. The researchers were able to identify the children as autistic or not autistic with an 81% accuracy rate. Children with autism cannot make the appropriate adjustments when smelling a pleasant vs. unpleasant odor. For instance, a person that smells flowers will inhale more, but if they smell garbage they will resist the smell by reducing the amount of air inhaled. Children with autism inhale the same amount of the smell, whether it is a pleasant smell or not. Individuals with autism have impairments in the parts of the brain that are responsible for sensory and motor coordination, known as internal action models (IAM). IAMs are brain templates that create appropriate motor actions based on sensory input. The action of sniffing is the motor response for the sensory input of smells.
Further studies need to be conducted to confirm these findings, but this article offers an opportunity for early autism diagnosis.
“Could a ‘sniff Test’ Lead to Early Autism Diagnosis?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 3 July 2015. Web. 17 July 2015.