Autism is defined based on a wide variety of behavioral symptoms, but it's precisely this variation — along with a complex genetic background — that makes it tricky to connect behavior to the underlying genes. A new algorithm may make this challenge a bit easier to solve. The algorithm, which employs a form of artificial intelligence that learns as it goes, analyzes behavioral data and has learned to recognize six genetic disorders associated with autism, according to research published in Molecular Autism. The researchers hope to use these behavioral signatures to hone their search for the genetic underpinnings of ‘idiopathic autism,’ for which there is no known cause.
The risk of certain autism spectrum disorders is highest in firstborn children and declines in each additional sibling born to the same mother, reports a large Finnish study published in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology. When the researchers looked at Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and childhood autism, in which symptoms appear before the age of 3, as a group, they found that a diagnosis is most common in firstborns. The latter two conditions are now considered part of the autism diagnosis. When they looked at each diagnosis separately, the researchers found that the firstborn effect holds for Asperger and PDD-NOS, while second-born children are at the highest risk for childhood autism.
Scoring Goals for Autism is an annual soccer tournament fundraiser that benefits the Autism Science Foundation. Scoring Goals for Autism will take place at YSC Sports in Wayne, PA on Sunday, April 27, 2014. This one-of-a-kind indoor soccer tournament offers both competitive team play for adult players as well a TOPSoccer skills and drills clinic for children and adolescents with special needs including autism.
The mission of Scoring Goals for Autism is to bring the beautiful game of soccer to all athletes and to raise much needed dollars for autism research. All proceeds from Scoring Goals for Autism benefit the Autism Science Foundation.
Autism researchers and advocates often express concern that the average age of autism diagnosis in the U.S. hovers around 4 years even though most cases of the disorder can be reliably identified by age 2. In this highly contentious field, the need for early diagnosis and early intervention is one of the few areas of agreement. Surprisingly, though, there has been little hard evidence that earlier diagnosis improves the lives of people with autism in the long term. At last, this evidence is becoming available. The field turned toward more rigorous studies a decade or so ago, and many of those studies, focused on children between about 2 and 4 years old, are starting to bear fruit.
Researchers have more clues as to why more boys than girls are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. A new study in the American Journal of Human Genetics suggests that for boys, it takes less of a genetic hit to cause autism than it does for girls. The study continues to say that when it does appear in girls, it is due to a much more severe genetic hit, usually resulting in much more severe autism symptoms.
Even at rest, the brains of people with autism manage more information than those of their peers, according to a new study that may provide support for the so-called ‘intense world’ theory of autism. The research, which was published in Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, included nine children with Asperger syndrome, aged between 6 and 14 and ten age-matched typical children. The researchers scanned their brains using magnetoencephalography (MEG), a noninvasive method that doesn’t require lying in a noisy, confined space as magnetic resonance imaging does. The results suggest that in the same boring situation, people with autism process more information than their typical peers.
A rigorous new study confirms that boys with autism tend to score higher on tests of spatial and analytical abilities than on those for verbal skills. But the gap decreases by the time they reach 10 years of age. This suggests that the trait cannot be used to define children with autism or their families, the researchers say. Instead, it may be a pattern of development common in children with autism or other developmental disorders. The report was published in the January issue of the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
A commercially available line of neurons generated from induced stem cells would serve as a good control for autism research, according to a study published in Psychopharmacology. Characterizing these neurons in detail shows that they express most of the genes linked to autism and look like typical, albeit immature, cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, are skin or blood cells reverted to a state from which they can become any cell in the body. Researchers can use the technique to turn cells from people with a neuropsychiatric disorder into neurons. They can then compare the neurons with those from controls to gain understanding of the disorder.
Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency. A new study in The Lancet states that industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence. Building on a 2006 study in which researchers identified five industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants (lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene), epidemiological studies have documented six additional developmental neurotoxicants — manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers. To protect children from exposure to such harmful chemicals, researchers say that untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development.
In utero exposure to the epilepsy drug valproic acid (VPA), which ups the risk of autism, may alter the composition of gut bacteria in rodents, according a study published in Brain Behavior and Immunity. Rats and mice exposed to VPA in utero have social deficits, repetitive behaviors and anxiety, making them a good model for studying autism. It is unclear exactly how VPA exposure leads to these symptoms, however.