WASHINGTON, July 2 (UPI) -- Most people breath deeper when they smell something pleasant or limit their breathing at something that smells bad, but researchers found that children with autism don't make that adjustment.
Researchers found overwhelmingly in a study that there is a difference in sniffing patterns between children with autism and those without the disorder.
"We can identify autism and its severity with meaningful accuracy within less than 10 minutes using a test that is completely non-verbal and entails no task to follow," said Noam Sobel, of the Weizmann Institute of Science, in a press release.
The small but convincing study included 36 children, 18 with autism and and 18 without, who were presented with pleasant and unpleasant odors while researchers measured their sniff responses. The average age of children in the study was 7, and each group had 17 boys and 1 girl.
Children who are not on the autism spectrum adjusted their sniffing within 305 milliseconds of being exposed to it. The children who are on the spectrum, however, made no such adjustment. The difference in response allowed the researchers to determine which children were autistic correctly with 81 percent accuracy.
"This raises the hope that these findings could form the base for development of a diagnostic tool that can be applied very early on, such as in toddlers only a few months old," Sobel said. "Such early diagnosis would allow for more effective intervention."
The study is published in Current Biology.