A standard type of brain imaging may be able to predict whether babies as young as one year are likely to develop autism, according to a new study that for the first time suggests the possibility of diagnosing the disorder before behavioral symptoms appear a year or two.

The research, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, is early, and the findings are based on a very small number of infants. At the moment, doctors don’t know how they could use this early warning to prevent or lessen the developmental disorder.

But the findings, if confirmed, could eventually be highly significant, the authors said.

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