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Smell test may detect autism

Kids with disorder inhale foul odors as much as pleasing scents

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.”

Neuroanatomist Johannes Frasnelli of the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières in Canada says that the study’s authors “have a really sexy story to sell.”  But

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