EARLY signs of autism can be detected in babies by playing peek-a-boo, research has shown.

If their brains respond less than they should to the game, they are more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as toddlers, scientists say.

Technology was used to compare the brain response to social stimuli – games, yawning and laughter – and non-social stimuli, which included looking at pictures of cars.

Lower levels of response to social stimuli indicated a greater risk of autism. The Birkbeck, University of London, research is the first to show such brain responses before the age of six months are associated with later ASD diagnosis.