Autism Research

Reward Affects Motor Function in Rett

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
January 10, 2014
Abstract: 

The motor problems seen in Rett syndrome may be the result of deficits in a pathway that mediates reward in the striatum, a brain region that coordinates movement, according to a study published in Brain Structure and Function. Studies have shown that loss of MeCP2 in the front of the brain is sufficient to lead to Rett-like symptoms in mice. The forebrain includes the striatum, which integrates information from other brain regions to help plan and coordinate movement. The new study found that mice that model Rett syndrome have significantly less dopamine — a chemical messenger that mediates reward — in the striatum than controls do. The study suggests that changes in dopamine levels influence neural circuits in the striatum that regulate motor function.

Senses of Sight and Sound Separated in Children with Autism

Source: 
Vanderbilt University
Date Published: 
January 14, 2014
Abstract: 

Like watching a foreign movie that was badly dubbed, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have trouble integrating simultaneous information from their eyes and their ears, according to a Vanderbilt study. The study, led by Mark Wallace, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, is the first to illustrate the link and strongly suggests that deficits in the sensory building blocks for language and communication can ultimately hamper social and communication skills in children with autism.

Study Shows Children with Autism only 10 Percent More Likely to be Using Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Source: 
Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Date Published: 
January 11, 2013
Abstract: 

A new study from the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics looked at nearly 600 children with ASD and with developmental delays. 40 percent of the children with autism in the study were using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). While this may seem like a high percentage, it is only ten percent higher than the rate of nonautistic children in the study using CAM. The most common forms of complementary treatments reported were dietary supplements.

Duplication of Chromosome 22 Region Thwarts Schizophrenia

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
January 2, 2014
Abstract: 

Carrying a duplication of the 22q11.2 chromosomal region may protect against schizophrenia, suggests a study published 12 November in Molecular Psychiatry. This is the first evidence of a genetic region that lowers the risk of a disorder rather than increases it. Deletion of this part of chromosome 22 is the strongest known risk factor for schizophrenia, and is also linked to autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety in childhood. Various other copy number variations (CNVs), or stretches of a chromosome that are deleted or duplicated multiple times in the genome, have been linked to schizophrenia, autism and other neurological conditions. The new study is the first to pinpoint a CNV that lowers the risk of a disorder, however.

Maternal Infection During Pregnancy and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Source: 
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Date Published: 
Jan 1, 2014
Abstract: 

Pregnant women who were diagnosed with a bacterial infection during a hospital visit were more likely to have their child be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders reports. "Multiple maternal infections and bacterial infections occurring during late pregnancy, particularly those diagnosed in a hospital setting, were associated with a higher risk of autism," the researchers reported.

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.