CORDIS - EU research results

Portable EEG-based screening of social predispositions in newborns

Project description

EEG for early detection of ASD in infants

Early diagnosis of autism-spectrum disorders (ASD) is crucial for effective intervention. Studies show that newborns with ASD have noticeably different preferences to certain social stimuli. An EEG-based index of face processing could be used as a biomarker for prediction but its measure requires the infant's EEG to be recorded in laboratory settings. The EU-funded NeuroSoNew project aims to design a portable, wireless EEG system for easy, fast and automatic testing of newborns via an ultra-low-power programmable digital platform and a wearable device adapted to newborns. This will enable easy and early diagnoses of ASD, and contribute to studies on perceptual and cognitive functions in newborns.


Predispositions to preferentially orient towards cues associated with social partners, such as face-like stimuli or biological and animate motion, appear to guide human social behavior from the onset of life and are typically impaired in children with autism-spectrum disorders (ASD). An early detector of social predispositions and their impairment in newborns might provide a valuable biomarker for ASD, an indicator of utmost relevance since infants with ASD greatly benefit from early behavioral intervention. This proposal builds on a study performed within my ERC grant in which, by designing an innovative oscillatory visual presentation of face-like patterns and perceptually equivalent controls, we identified an EEG-based index of face processing, present in each newborn tested and obtainable with less than 2 minutes of newborn’s visual attention. However, recording newborn’s EEG is currently possible only in laboratory settings, as no fully portable EEG system adapted for newborns exists in the market. The goal of this proposal is to design a portable, wireless EEG-based device that allows easy, rapid and automatic testing of face processing in newborns in any context, including their homes. This device is ground-breaking because it will combine the efficacy of our innovative experimental paradigm tailored to newborn’s restricted visual attention with a portable, low-power, wireless EEG device based on dry electrodes and an automatic algorithm that will extract on-line the EEG-based index of face processing. Its realization will enable the development of an early, objective and easy-to-test EEG-based biomarker on newborns at risk, potentially opening the way to large-scale screening protocols. Given the flexibility of the paradigm with respect to the content of the visual stimulation, this method might be used for research purposes to explore the neural bases of other perceptual and cognitive functions in newborns.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 113 070,00
38122 Trento

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Nord-Est Provincia Autonoma di Trento Trento
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 113 070,00

Beneficiaries (3)