Screening

First Direct Recording Made of Mirror Neurons in Human Brain

Source: 
Science Daily
Date Published: 
April 13, 2010
Abstract: 

Neuroscientists believe this "mirroring" is the mechanism by which we can "read" the minds of others and empathize with them. It's how we "feel" someone's pain, how we discern a grimace from a grin, a smirk from a smile. Problem was, there was no proof that mirror neurons existed -- only suspicion and indirect evidence. Dr. Itzhak Fried, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, Roy Mukamel, a postdoctoral fellow in Fried's lab, and their colleagues have for the first time made a direct recording of mirror neurons in the human brain.

It's suspected that dysfunction of these mirror cells might be involved in disorders such as autism, where the clinical signs can include difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication, imitation and having empathy for others. So gaining a better understanding of the mirror neuron system might help devise strategies for treatment of this disorder.

New Study Of Autism Reveals a 'DNA tag' Amenable To Treatment

Source: 
EurekAlert
Date Published: 
April 8, 2010
Abstract: 

A new discovery raises hope that autism may be more easily diagnosed and that its effects may be more reversible than previously thought. In a new study appearing online in The FASEB Journal, scientists have identified a way to detect the disorder using blood and have discovered that drugs which affect the methylation state ("DNA tagging") of genes could reverse autism's effects. This type of drug is already being used in some cancer treatments.

Better Genetic Test for Autism?

Source: 
Science Daily
Date Published: 
March 15, 2010
Abstract: 

A large study from Children's Hospital Boston and the Boston-based Autism Consortium finds that a genetic test that samples the entire genome, known as chromosomal microarray analysis, has about three times the detection rate for genetic changes related to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) than standard tests.

Longitude Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study of Cortical Development Through Early Childhood in Autism

Source: 
Journal of Neuroscience, Courchesne et al
Date Published: 
March 2010
Year Published: 
2010

The first longitudinal study of brain growth in toddlers at the time symptoms of autism are becoming clinically apparent using structural MRI scans at multiple time points beginning at 1.5 years up to 5 years of age. They collected 193 scans on 41 toddlers who received a confirmed diagnosis of autistic disorder at approximately 48 months of age and 44 typically developing controls. By 2.5 years of age, both cerebral gray and white matter were significantly enlarged in toddlers with autistic disorder, with the most severe enlargement occurring in frontal, temporal, and cingulate cortices. In the longitudinal analyses, which they accounted for age and gender effect, we found that all regions (cerebral gray, cerebral white, frontal gray, temporal gray, cingulate gray, and parietal gray) except occipital gray developed at an abnormal growth rate in toddlers with autistic disorder that was mainly characterized by a quadratic age effect. Females with autistic disorder displayed a more pronounced abnormal growth profile in more brain regions than males with the disorder. Given that overgrowth clearly begins before 2 years of age, future longitudinal studies would benefit from inclusion of even younger populations as well as further characterization of genetic and other biomarkers to determine the underlying neuropathological processes causing the onset of autistic symptoms.

Autism's Earliest Symptoms Not Evident in Children Under 6 Months

Source: 
Science Daily
Date Published: 
February 16, 2010
Abstract: 

A study of the development of autism in infants, comparing the behavior of the siblings of children diagnosed with autism to that of babies developing normally, has found that the nascent symptoms of the condition -- a lack of shared eye contact, smiling and communicative babbling -- are not present at 6 months, but emerge gradually and only become apparent during the latter part of the first year of life.

Blood Mercury Concentrations in CHARGE Study Children With and Without Autism

Source: 
Environmental Health Perspectives, Hertz-Picciotto, Green, Delwiche, Hansen, Walker, Pessah
Date Published: 
January 2010
Year Published: 
2010

The Childhood Autism Risk from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study enrolled children 2-5 years of age. After diagnostic evaluation, they analyzed three groups: AU/ASD, non-AU/ASD with developmental delay (DD), and population-based TD controls. Mothers were interviewed about household, medical, and dietary exposures. Blood Hg was measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Multiple linear regression analysis was conducted to predict blood Hg from diagnostic status controlling for Hg sources.  Fish consumption strongly predicted total Hg concentration. AU/ASD children ate less fish. After adjustment for fish and other Hg sources, blood Hg levels in AU/ASD children were similar to those of TD children ; this was also true among non-fish eaters. The direct effect of AU/ASD diagnosis on blood Hg not through the indirect pathway of altered fish consumption was a 12% reduction. DD children had lower blood Hg concentrations in all analyses. Dental amalgams in children with gum-chewing or teeth-grinding habits predicted higher levels. After accounting for dietary and other differences in Hg exposures, total Hg in blood was neither elevated nor reduced in CHARGE Study preschoolers with AU/ASD compared with unaffected controls, and resembled those of nationally representative samples.

New CDC Report on Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Source: 
CDC- MMWR Surveillance Studies
Date Published: 
December 18, 2009
Abstract: 

In 2006, on average, approximately 1% or one child in every 110 in the 11 ADDM sites was classified as having an ASD. The average prevalence of ASDs identified among children aged 8 years increased 57% in 10 sites from the 2002 to the 2006 ADDM surveillance year. Although improved ascertainment accounts for some of the prevalence increases documented in the ADDM sites, a true increase in the risk for children to develop ASD symptoms cannot be ruled out. On average, although delays in identification persisted, ASDs were being diagnosed by community professionals at earlier ages in 2006 than in 2002.

Behavioral Training Improves Connectivity and Function in the Brain

Source: 
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Date Published: 
December 9, 2009
Abstract: 

Children with poor reading skills who underwent an intensive, six-month training program to improve their reading ability showed increased connectivity in a particular brain region, in addition to making significant gains in reading, according to a study funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Experts Summarize the State of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Source: 
Science Daily
Date Published: 
October 14, 2009
Abstract: 

Scientific understanding and medical treatments for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have advanced significantly over the past several years, but much remains to be done, say experts from the Center for Autism Research at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who recently published a scientific review of the field.

Utah Researchers Discover Another Genetic Link to Autism

Source: 
Salt Lake Tribune
Date Published: 
October 8, 2009
Abstract: 

An international consortium of researchers, including three from the University of Utah, has discovered yet another genetic link to autism. Studying the genes of more than 1,000 families -- including 150 from Utah -- who have more than one person with the disorder, the researchers found a region on chromosome 5 that is strongly associated with autism.