Researchers have observed that babies who will develop autism exhibit different brain responses when someone looks at or away from them.
The discovery is the first step towards earlier diagnosis of autism symptoms, revealing that brain measurements may be able to indicate those children who will develop autism at as young as six months.
While the study at the University of London is keen to stress that the findings are in the very early stages of testing, they are hopeful that earlier and improved identification of autism will be possible.
Researcher on the study Mark Johnson explained: "Our findings demonstrate for the first time that direct measures of brain functioning during the first year of life associate with a later diagnosis of autism - well before the emergence of behavioural symptoms."
Currently, symptoms of autism only emerge during the first few years of life, with a firm diagnosis not possible until the age of two.
There is a growing body of evidence indicating that early intervention in autism development can have positive effects on the brain and can change outcomes for patients.
Find out about Barchester's support for adults and children with a wide range of Autistic spectrum conditions.