Autism Science

Blazing Trails in Brain Science

Source: 
New York Times
Date Published: 
February 3, 2014
Abstract: 

Dr. Thomas R. Insel’s twisted path to his role as director of the National Institute of Mental Health is a tour of where psychiatric science has been, where it’s going and why.

New Diagnostic Category Will Hold Subset of Autism Cases

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
February 3, 2014
Abstract: 

Most of the children who would lose their autism diagnosis under the diagnostic criteria released last year will fall under the new category of social (pragmatic) communication disorder (SDC), reports a large study of Korean children. The study was published last week in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. SCD is a condition that includes severe social and communication deficits but lacks the repetitive behaviors and restricted interests seen in autism.

Study Pinpoints Autism Gene in Mutation-Prone Region

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
January 27, 2013
Abstract: 

Mutations in FAN1, a gene in the 15q13.3 chromosomal region, raise the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders including autism and schizophrenia, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The 15q13.3 chromosomal region is a hotbed of tiny genetic deletions and duplications connected to disorders of brain development.

New Imaging Method Details Brain Abnormalities in Mice

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
November 14, 2013
Abstract: 

A new imaging technique that can assemble finely detailed pictures of an individual mouse’s brain in less than a day is being used to explore mouse models of autism. The automated technique cuts a mouse brain into 280 thin slices, which are scanned by a powerful microscope and the resulting images are then stitched together into a three-dimensional view. The researchers used this technique to investigate the imbalance of excitatory and inhibitory signals in a mouse model of 16p11.2 deletion. People missing this chromosomal region have an increased risk for autism, and about one-quarter have epilepsy, in which an excess of excitatory signals causes seizures.

Adults with Autism Can't Discern False Emotions

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
January 17, 2014
Abstract: 

Adults with autism usually understand in theory when and why others may feign emotions, but they don’t recognize those expressions in real-life situations, reports a study published in Autism Research. This inability to guess what triggered someone’s subtle expression can lead to social missteps — congratulating instead of consoling a disappointed friend, for example.

Potential Impact of DSM-5 Criteria on Autism Spectrum Disorder Prevalence Estimates

Source: 
JAMA Psychiatry
Date Published: 
January 22, 2013
Abstract: 

Researchers found that estimates of the number of children with ASD might be lower using the current DSM-5 criteria than using the previous criteria. This study looked at information collected by CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. This is the first population-based study in the United States to look at what effect the updated ASD criteria in the DSM-5 might have on estimates of the number of children with ASD. One of the advantages of the ADDM Network method is that it does not rely solely on the presence of an ASD diagnosis, but also includes review of records for children who have behaviors consistent with ASDs, even if they do not have a diagnosis. Because of the way the ADDM Network collects data, in the future CDC will be able to use both the previous DSM-IV-TR and the current DSM-5 criteria to estimate the number of children with ASD. CDC will also continue to evaluate the effect of using the DSM-5 on trends in how doctors and other health professionals diagnose ASD and how service providers evaluate and document symptoms as they transition to using the new criteria.

Assessment of Global Functioning in Adolescents with ASD: Utility of the Developmental Disability-Child Global Assessment Scale

Source: 
Autism
Date Published: 
August 21, 2013
Abstract: 

Assessment of global functioning is an important consideration in treatment outcome research; yet, there is little guidance on its evidence-based assessment for children with autism spectrum disorders. This study investigated the utility and validity of clinician-rated global functioning using the Developmental Disability-Child Global Assessment Scale in a sample of higher functioning adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and comorbid anxiety disorders enrolled in a randomized controlled trial (n = 30). Pretreatment Developmental Disability-Child Global Assessment Scale scores correlated with severity of autism spectrum disorders core symptoms (r = -.388, p = .034), pragmatic communication (r = .407, p = .032), and verbal ability (r = .449, p = .013) and did not correlate with severity of anxiety symptoms or with parent-reported adaptive behavior. Change in Developmental Disability-Child Global Assessment Scale scores during treatment was associated with autism spectrum disorders symptomatic improvement (r = .414, p = .040) and with improved general communication (r = .499, p = .013). Results support the importance of assessing global functioning in addition to symptom change and treatment response in clinical trials.

"In the Driver's Seat": Parent Perceptions of Choice in a Participant-Directed Medicaid Waiver Program for Young Children with Autism

Source: 
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Date Published: 
September 22, 2013
Abstract: 

This study investigated families' experience of choice within a participant-directed Medicaid waiver program for young children with autism. Fourteen parents or grandparents participated in in-depth interviews about their experience of choosing personnel, directing in-home services, and managing the $25,000 annual allocation. Key findings included families' preference to hire providers with whom they have a prior relationship, parent empowerment and differences of opinion about parents as teachers. Professionals implementing participant directed service models could benefit from understanding the strong value parents' placed on the personalities and interpersonal skills of providers. Parents' descriptions of directing rather than merely accepting autism services revealed increased confidence in their ability to choose and manage the multiple components of their children's HCBS autism waiver program.

Integrating Mental Health Services for Mothers of Children With Autism

Source: 
Psychiatric Services
Date Published: 
September 1, 2013
Abstract: 

Although up to 40% of mothers of children with autism report clinically significant depressive symptoms, there has been little attention to the mental health needs of parents. Because most autism services for young children rely on active parental engagement to deliver recommended therapies, maternal functioning directly affects the intensity and quality of therapy that children with autism receive. Developing feasible and acceptable strategies to support the mental health of mothers who care for children with autism has the potential to optimize both maternal and child functioning.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors for Treating People with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Source: 
Cochrane Collaboration
Date Published: 
August 20, 2013
Abstract: 

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterised by problems with social interaction and communication, as well as repetitive behaviours and limited activities and interests. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of antidepressants that are sometimes given to reduce anxiety or obsessive‐compulsive behaviours. We found nine trials, involving 320 people, which evaluated four SSRIs: fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, fenfluramine and citalopram. Five studies included only children and four studies included only adults. One trial enrolled 149 children, but the other trials were much smaller. We found no trials that evaluated sertraline, paroxetine or escitalopram. There is no evidence to support the use of SSRIs to treat autism in children. There is limited evidence, which is not yet sufficiently robust, to suggest effectiveness of SSRIs in adults with autism. Treatment with an SSRI may cause side effects. Decisions about the use of SSRIs for established clinical indications that may co‐occur with autism, such as obsessive‐compulsive disorder and depression in adults or children, and anxiety in adults, should be made on a case‐by‐case basis.