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Hitachi has partnered with universities in Japan to develop fundamental technology for the early differential diagnosis of concurrent autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) patients.

The project involved Jichi Medical University (JMU), International University of Health and Welfare (IUHW) and Chuo University (Chuo-U).

The technology uses an algorithm for automatic analysis of the presence or absence of concurrent ASD through optical topography of brain response when an ADHD patient takes their medication for the first time.

Commonly, differential diagnosis is carried out through follow-up observations over several months.

The new approach is said to offer the potential for diagnosis in approximately two hours with an accuracy of 82%.

The partners intend to further develop this technology through clinical research. They aim to support the healthy development of patients with neurodevelopmental disorders.

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Shirayuri University professor Shinya Miyamoto said: “Recently, it has been found that the number of children with characteristics of both ADHD and ASD is not few.

“Recently, it has been found that the number of children with characteristics of both ADHD and ASD is not few.”

“This technology is a breakthrough from the viewpoints of assistance in diagnosis through the objective displaying of data that serves as a reference for this difficult judgment, as well as its contribution to helping patients receive appropriate treatment.”

During the research, the team used optical topography to measure signals of brain response in 32 ADHD patients five hours after taking the sustained release agent methylphenidate hydrochloride.

The measurement was performed for ten minutes, while patients carried out a simple cognitive task.

Researchers then applied machine learning to the captured signals. It observed that the activation signals from the attention and motor-function-related region could be used to correctly identify concurrent ASD.

In a statement, Hitachi said: “It is expected that by adding these objective biomarkers, the diagnosis period that begins with doctors issuing questionnaires to families and lasts several months will be dramatically shortened, and consequently, doctors will be able to decide on treatment/therapy at an early stage and provide families with advice on how to care for the patients.”