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Smell test may detect autism

Kids with disorder inhale foul odors as much as pleasing scents

By
12:00pm, July 2, 2015
sniff test

TAKE A BREATH  Unlike kids without autism, kids with the disorder breathe in just about as deeply whether they’re smelling unpleasant odors (rotten fish, sour milk) or pleasant ones (roses, shampoo), a new study suggests. Researchers delivered scents via tubes hooked up to the children’s noses, and measured length and depth of inhalations.

A 10-minute test could help doctors sniff out autism, a new study contends.

Whether smelling roses or sour milk, children with autism inhale about the same amount of air, researchers report July 2 in Current Biology. In contrast, kids without the disorder breathe in pleasant scents more deeply than stinky ones.

The findings hint that a whiff-and-sniff test could one day offer a quick and easy way to determine whether a child has autism. But the study was small, and other researchers are not convinced.

“It’s a good idea,” says Neil Martin, a psychologist at Regent’s University London who studies the sense of smell. But “you can’t draw any conclusions from this study yet.”

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