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

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

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

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

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

Journal of Medical Genetics
Date Published: 
July 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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


Contact Info:  
Casey Gold
Operations Manager
Autism Science Foundation

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

Date Published: 
August 21, 2014

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

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

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.

IACC Workshop on Under-Recognized Co-Occurring Conditions in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Date Published: 
August 19, 2014

The IACC Workshop on Under-Recognized Co-Occurring Conditions in Autism Spectrum Disorder that will take place on Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET at The National Institutes of Health, John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center, 35 Convent Drive, Building 35, Room 620, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Onsite registration will begin at 8:30a.m.

Agenda: The IACC Workshop on Under-Recognized Co-Occurring Conditions will focus on a range of co-occurring health conditions in individuals with ASD that are under-recognized in clinical and services settings, as well as how to best support both research and increased community/provider awareness of these conditions and foster development of guidelines in areas that are currently under-recognized.

Meeting location:
The National Institutes of Health
John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center
35 Convent Drive, Building 35, Room 620
Bethesda, MD 20892

Nearest Metro stop:
Medical Center Metro Station – Red Line

In the interest of security, NIH has instituted stringent procedures for entrance onto the NIH campus.  All visitor vehicles, including taxicabs, hotel, and airport shuttles will be inspected before being allowed on campus. Visitors will be asked to show one form of identification (for example, a government-issued photo ID, driver’s license, or passport) and to state the purpose of their visit. On-site parking is available for a fee, but very limited.

The meeting will be open to the public and pre-registration is recommended. Seating will be limited to the room capacity and seats will be on a first come, first served basis, with expedited check-in for those who are pre-registered. Please visit the IACC website for access and information about registering.

Public Comment – Deadlines:
Notification of intent to present oral comments: Monday, September 8, 2014 by 5:00 p.m. ET
Submission of written/electronic statement for oral comments: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 by 5:00 p.m. ET
Final Deadline for Submission of written comments: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 by 5:00 p.m. ET

Please read the IACC Public Comment Guidelines and the full Workshop Announcement for detailed information about public comment requirements.

Remote Access:
The meeting will be remotely accessible by videocast  (http://videocast.nih.gov/) and conference call.  Members of the public who participate using the conference call phone number will only be able to listen to the meeting. 

Conference Call Access 
USA/Canada Phone Number: 888-469-0570

Access code: 7134439

Individuals who participate using this service and who need special assistance, such as captioning of the conference call or other reasonable accommodations, should submit a request to the contact person listed below at least five days prior to the meeting. If you experience any technical problems with the conference call, please e-mail at helpdeskiacc@gmail.com or call the IACC Technical Support Help Line at 415-652-8023.

Please visit the IACC Events page for the latest information about the meeting, including registration, remote access information, the agenda, materials and information about prior IACC events.


Contact Person for this meeting is:

Ms. Lina Perez 
Office of Autism Research Coordination
National Institute of Mental Health, NIH
6001 Executive Boulevard, NSC
Room 6182A
Rockville, MD 20852
Phone: 301-443-6040
E-mail: IACCpublicinquiries@mail.nih.gov

Age Alters Patterns of Chemical Tags on Sperm DNA

Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
August 18, 2014

The configuration of methyl tags that modify DNA in sperm change as men get older, according to a study published PLOS Genetics. These alterations may help explain why children of older fathers are at increased risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism. Researchers at the University of Utah collected sperm from 17 men, once in the 1990s and again in 2008. They found that the distribution of methyl tags, a particular kind of DNA modification, shows relatively consistent changes over time in the sperm. However, the study does not necessarily prove that these altered patterns survive past fertilization or influence the risk of disorders such as autism.