Autism Research

Infants with Autism Smile Less at 1 Year of Age

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
September 12, 2014
Abstract: 

A new study reports that by the time they turn 1, infants who are later diagnosed with autism smile less often than those who do not develop the disorder. That suggests that reduced smiling may be an early risk marker for the disorder. In the study, published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, researchers examined 22 typically developing infants with no family history of autism and 44 infant siblings of children with the disorder. These so-called ‘baby sibs’ have an increased risk for autism. In the new study, half of the 44 baby sibs later developed autism. The results of this study are important because clinicians often struggle to identify those baby sibs who will later develop autism versus those who may display autism-like traits but won’t develop the disorder.

ASF President Alison Singer on The Leonard Lopate Show

Source: 
The Leonard Lopate Show
Date Published: 
September 9, 2014
Abstract: 

Across the country and around the world, children are getting sick and dying from preventable diseases—in part because some parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children. Alison Singer, President of the Autism Science Foundation, and Dr. Amy Middleman, Adolescent Medicine Specialist at the University of Oklahoma's Health Sciences Center, examine the science behind vaccinations, the return of preventable diseases, and the risks of opting out. They’re both featured in the PBS NOVA documentary “Vaccines—Calling The Shots,” which airs September 10, at 9 pm, on PBS.

Autism Treatment in the First Year of Life: A Pilot Study of Infant Start, a Parent-Implemented Intervention for Symptomatic Infants

Source: 
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Date Published: 
September 9, 2014
Abstract: 

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of California Davis MIND Institute and published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders suggests that very early intervention can greatly reduce symptoms of autism as children age. The study looked at a 12-week treatment program with seven infants aged 9 to 15 months; researchers followed the children until they were 3 years old. Over time, these children showed fewer symptoms of autism. Although the sample size was small and it was not a randomized study, this study indicates exciting results from this type of intervention.

New Tools Validate Dish-Grown Neurons for Autism Research

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
September 1, 2013
Abstract: 

Creating neurons from stem cells in a lab dish is a popular approach for studying developmental disorders such as autism. For this, researchers begin with stem cells, either taken from postmortem fetal brains or reprogrammed from other cells. They then chemically coax them into becoming neurons. Two new studies suggest that neurons made from stem cells recapitulate the early stages of development, making them good models for disorders such as autism. However, the neurons never fully reach the maturity of neurons found in adult brains.

Expansion of the Clinical Phenotype Associated with Mutations in Activity-Dependent Neuroprotective Protein

Source: 
Journal of Medical Genetics
Date Published: 
July 23, 2014
Abstract: 

A new study has identified a genetic change in a recently identified autism-associated gene, which may provide further insight into the causes of autism. The study, now published online in the Journal of Medical Genetics, presents findings that likely represent a definitive clinical marker for some patients' developmental disabilities. Researchers identified a genetic change in a newly recognized autism-associated gene, Activity-Dependent Neuroprotective Protein (ADNP), in a girl with developmental delay. This change in the ADNP gene helps explain the cause of developmental delay in this patient. This same genetic change in ADNP was also found in a boy who was diagnosed with autism.

Method Reveals Relationship Between White, Gray Matter

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
August 27, 2014
Abstract: 

A new technique helps researchers trace the nerve fibers that connect brain regions by revealing how the fibers physically relate to curves and folds on the brain’s surface. The method was described in Medical Image Analysis. The technique examines the relationship between white matter, composed of nerve fibers and support cells, and gray matter, which is largely made of the cell bodies of the neurons the fibers sprout from. Preliminary findings support the theory that autism involves early, hyperconnected and dense brain growth before an abnormal decline, the researchers say.

Large Genetic Deletion Leads to Autism, But Not Always

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
August 21, 2014
Abstract: 

To characterize people who carry deletions in 16p11.2 and 15q13.3, genetic regions linked to autism, two studies published this summer looked in detail at dozens of people with either deletion. The studies found that deletions in these regions lead to diverse symptoms that only sometimes include autism. The studies were published in the journals Biological Psychiatry and Genetics in Medicine.

Alycia Halladay, PhD, Named Chief Science Officer of the Autism Science Foundation

Date Published: 
August 25, 2014

(August 25, 2014- New York, NY)-- The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding autism research, today announced that Dr. Alycia Halladay will join the organization as Chief Science Officer.  The announcement was made by Autism Science Foundation president Alison Singer.

“Dr. Halladay is the perfect person to lead our growing science department” said Singer.  “She has extensive experience in all aspects of autism research, as well as a deep understanding of how to maximize investment in research to provide the best outcomes for families. I could not be more thrilled to have her as part of our executive team.”

Halladay previously served as the Senior Director of Clinical and Environmental Sciences and Interim Head of the Etiology Portfolio at Autism Speaks. Prior to joining Autism Speaks, she was Associate Director for Research at the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR).  While at NAAR and Autism Speaks, she worked across all areas of autism science, directing or managing portfolios relating to risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment of ASDs.  In addition, she led activities relating to family services, communications, awareness, and advocacy.   She has a Ph.D. in psychology and behavioral neuroscience from Rutgers University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the department of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers where she later joined as faculty and currently holds an adjunct position. She has participated as a guest editor for a number of journals including Neurotoxicology, Autism Research, Brain Research and Gastroenterology and has served on grant review panels for the CDC and the NJ Governor’s Council for ASD. 

“I am proud and honored to lead the growing science program at the Autism Science Foundation” said Halladay.  “This is an exciting and important time for autism research, and I look forward to working with ASF to continue and also expand its scientific contributions.” 

In its five years of operations, the Autism Science Foundation has funded over $1.6 million in grants including pre and postdoctoral fellowships, medical school gap year research fellowships, 3-year early career awards, treatment grants, undergraduate summer research funding, research enhancement mini-grants and travel scholarships to enable stakeholders to attend the annual International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR).

“Autism Science Foundation’s research programs have grown consistently year after year and now need full time leadership to oversee their continued expansion”, said Dr. Matthew State, chair of ASF’s Scientific Advisory Board and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco.  “Alycia is a highly respected autism scientist and has exactly the right experience to lead ASF into the next phase of its growth.”

Dr. Halladay will begin work with the foundation on September 8, 2014.

Founded in 2009, Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a 501(c) (3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting autism research. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism. To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation or to make a donation visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org

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Contact Info:  
Casey Gold
Operations Manager
Autism Science Foundation
212-391-3913
cgold@autismsciencefoundation.org

Loss of mTOR-Dependent Macroautophagy Causes Autistic-like Synaptic Pruning Deficits

Source: 
Neuron
Date Published: 
August 21, 2014
Abstract: 

As a baby’s brain develops, there is an explosion of synapses, the connections that allow neurons to send and receive signals. But during childhood and adolescence, the brain needs to start pruning those synapses, limiting their number so different brain areas can develop specific functions and are not overloaded with stimuli.

Now a new study suggests that in children with autism, something in the process goes awry, leaving an oversupply of synapses in at least some parts of the brain.

See the full article about this study in the New York Times here

Test Measures Children's Ability to Distinguish Between Faces

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
August 20, 2014
Abstract: 

People with autism often have trouble recognizing faces, and tend to avoid looking at others' eyes. These deficits may contribute to their difficulty picking up on social cues. An adaptation of an adult face recognition test for children will make it easier to chart the development of children’s abilities, researchers say. The new test is described in a study published in Neuropsychologia.