Autism Science

Electronic Medical Records May Reveal Subgroup of Autism

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
January 16, 2013
Abstract: 

Some children diagnosed with autism may fall into distinct subgroups based on their symptoms and other diagnoses, researchers report in the January issue of Pediatrics. The three subgroups identified in the study show some overlap in symptoms, but each is characterized by a distinct set of features: seizures, general health problems such as gastrointestinal distress, and psychiatric problems. The analysis relied on the largest database yet, and looked at symptoms over time.

Lack of Training Begets Autism Diagnosis Bottleneck

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
January 13, 2014
Abstract: 

One of the frustrations that parents of children with autism most commonly voice is the long wait for a diagnosis. In the meantime, the children grow up and out of the critical period for early intervention. The scenario for adults seeking an autism diagnosis is even grimmer, as there are fewer practitioners experienced in caring for adults with autism than in caring for children with the disorder. There are few comprehensive statistics about waiting times, but the bottlenecks in access to autism diagnosis and care are widely acknowledged. These concerns are spurring the medical community to take a hard look at the failings of professional training in contributing to the problem.

Catalog of Symptoms Aims to Unravel Autism Diversity

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
January 8, 2014
Abstract: 

Researchers have standardized labels for nearly 300 traits of autism, drawn from 24 diagnostic tests for the disorder, they reported in Neuroinformatics. They can use these terms to search for certain traits among large catalogs of the genetics and symptoms of people with autism. The new study aims to build a defined list, or ontology, of the traits these tests assess. The goal is to allow researchers to compare results across different diagnostic tests and identify the same features, regardless of the test used. The new tool can also help classify individuals with autism into subgroups, which may reflect different causes of the disorder.

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.”