Considerations in biomarker development for neurodevelopmental disorders

Curr Opin Neurol. 2016 Apr;29(2):118-22. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000000300.


Purpose of review: Despite significant progress in recognizing the biological bases of autism spectrum disorder, diagnosis and treatment rely primarily on subjective evaluation of behavior. This review highlights the challenges unique to neurodevelopmental disorders that have limited biomarker development.

Recent findings: The field of neurodevelopmental disorders requires objective quantification of biological processes to enable designation of subgroups likely to benefit from specific treatments, index diagnostic status/risk, demonstrate engagement of targeted systems, and provide more rapid assessment of change than traditional clinical observation and caregiver report measures.

Summary: Useful biomarkers for neurodevelopmental disorders must be reliable across development, evident at the individual level, and specific to a unit of analysis, be it diagnostic status or functional process. The ultimate value of biomarkers for neurodevelopmental disorders will relate to their ease of use, cost, scalability, sensitivity, and methodological objectivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Developmental Disabilities / diagnosis*
  • Developmental Disabilities / psychology
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / psychology


  • Biomarkers