Autism Research

Sticky Gaze May Be Early Autism Sign

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
December 20, 2013
Abstract: 

Babies later diagnosed with autism tend to stare at objects after picking them up, a behavior known as sticky gaze, at much later ages than controls do, according to a study published in Behavioral Brain Research. This delay may contribute to problems with joint attention — the tendency to seek out and follow others’ gaze — in autism, the researchers say.

Long Neglected, Severe Cases of Autism Get Some Attention

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Abstract: 

Next February, researchers plan to begin work on a $1.2 million project that aims to link specialized psychiatric units across the U.S. to investigate the most severe and challenging autism cases. The study will include the six largest of the nine specialized psychiatric hospital programs for autism in the U.S. About 1,000 individuals with autism, aged 4 to 20, typically spend between 20 and 25 days at a time in these programs. “We think this is an area we can contribute [to],” says lead investigator Matthew Siegel, medical director of the developmental disorders program of Spring Harbor Hospital in Maine. “If not us, who? We have the expert clinicians and see hundreds of these kids.”

Use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors during Pregnancy and Risk of Autism

Source: 
New England Journal of Medicine
Date Published: 
December 19, 2013
Abstract: 

In the past, studies have raised concern about an association between the use of a certain type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy and an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders in the child. A new study now shows no significant association between maternal use of SSRIs during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorder in the child. However, the children were at a higher than usual risk of being diagnosed with autism if their mother had taken the drugs for depression or anxiety prior to the pregnancy, suggesting a possible link between the mother's preexisting mental health condition and the child's development of an ASD.

Brain Changes Precede Schizophrenia and Autism

Source: 
Nature
Date Published: 
December 18, 2013
Abstract: 

People who carry high-risk genetic variants for schizophrenia and autism have impairments reminiscent of disorders such as dyslexia, even when they do not yet have a mental illness, a new study has found. Researchers report that people with these copy number variants (CNVs) but no diagnosis of autism or a mental illness still show subtle brain changes and impairments in cognitive function. The findings offer a window into the brain changes that precede severe mental illness and hold promise for early intervention and even prevention, researchers say.

SHANK3 Duplication Leads to Hyperactivity in Mice

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
December 17, 2013
Abstract: 

Mice with a duplication of SHANK3, a gene with strong links to autism, are hyperactive and manic, reports a study published in Nature.The mice produce about 50 percent more SHANK3 protein than their genetically typical counterparts, the scientists found, much like people with an extra copy of the gene do. The mice also show signs of hyperactivity. The team observed on further testing that the SHANK3 mice show behaviors typically seen in people going through manic episodes. The mice are easier to startle, eat more, have disrupted sleeping patterns and show heightened sensitivity to amphetamine. The mice also have spontaneous seizures.

Study Links Autism and Somalis in Minneapolis

Source: 
New York Times
Date Published: 
December 16, 2013
Abstract: 

A long-awaited study has confirmed the fears of Somali residents in Minneapolis that their children suffer from higher rates of a disabling form of autism compared with other children there. The study — by the University of Minnesota, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the research and advocacy group Autism Speaks — found high rates of autism in two populations: About one Somali child in 32 and one white child in 36 in Minneapolis were on the autism spectrum. But the Somali children were less likely than the whites to be “high-functioning” and more likely to have I.Q.s below 70. (The average I.Q. score is 100.) The study offered no explanation of the statistics.

Children with Autism Benefit from Peer Solicitation

Source: 
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Date Published: 
December 12, 2013
Abstract: 

Peer solicitation – a child inviting another to play – can improve reciprocal social interaction among children with autism, according to a recent Vanderbilt University study. While the children with autism in the study initiated and engaged in less play overall than typically developing children, the researchers found that other children can facilitate and increase interactions by simple requests. These findings highlight the pivotal role that peers have in social interaction, noting that it only takes a single child to prompt other children – with or without autism – to interact.

White Matter in Brain Develops Differently in Children with Autism

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
December 6, 2013
Abstract: 

A study in Brain Research shows a difference in how auditory nerve fibers develop may explain why children with autism process sounds a fraction of a second more slowly than typically developing children do. It is known that the brain’s response to sound speeds up as children age. This boost in speed is known to be accompanied by the maturation of white matter — the nerve fibers that connect brain regions. It was once believed that in children with autism, the white matter didn't mature with age like it does in typically-developing children. However, it is now believed that it does mature with age in children with autism, just in a different way.

New Diagnostic Tool for Adults with Autism

Date Published: 
December 9, 2013
Abstract: 

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have developed a new screening tool to facilitate the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in adults. The test is presented in the scientific journal Molecular Autism and is unique in that researchers have, as part of their evaluation, compared the group diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder with psychiatric patients. In adults, distinguishing Autism Spectrum Disorder from other psychiatric conditions can be a problem, as their symptoms often overlap or are similar to those in schizophrenia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or severe personality disorders.

Gut Microbes Linked to Autismlike Symptoms in Mice

Source: 
Science Magazine
Date Published: 
December 5, 2013
Abstract: 

More information has come about about the gut microbes study in Cell. "I'd want to know more about the mechanism by which the bacteria altered behavior in the mice before beginning to translate the findings to humans" says Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University and member of the ASF Scientific Advisory Board.