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RNA Bits Vary in Social, Auditory Brain Areas in Autism

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

People with autism show differences from controls in the levels of microRNAs, small noncoding bits of RNA, in the social and sound-processing parts of the brain. MicroRNAs, or miRNAs, bind to messenger RNAs, which code for protein, and flag them for degradation. Each miRNA can interfere with the production of several proteins. Of the more than 5,000 miRNAs and other small noncoding RNAs that the researchers screened, they found 3 miRNAs that are dysregulated in these regions in people with autism compared with controls.

Yale Researchers Find Genetic Links to Autism

Source: 
Cell
Date Published: 
November 21, 2013
Abstract: 

Scientists at Yale have identified which types of brain cells and regions of the brain are affected by genetic mutations linked to autism spectrum disorders. Researchers state that this new discovery has the potential for new types of autism treatments. We may not need to treat the whole brain, they say; only particular areas of the brain may be affected by autism at certain times.

College Students with Autism Often Succeed with Certain Majors

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
November 19, 2013
Abstract: 

Students with autism who attend community colleges — two-year local institutions —tend to succeed if they study science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), reports a new study published October 26 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Students who studied STEM subjects were less likely to drop out and were twice as likely to transfer to a four-year university than their non-STEM peers.

Neurons in Brain's 'Face Recognition Center' Respond Differently in Patients With Autism

Source: 
Cedars-Sinai
Date Published: 
November 20, 2013
Abstract: 

In what are believed to be the first studies of their kind, Cedars-Sinai researchers recording the real-time firing of individual nerve cells in the brain found that a specific type of neuron in a structure called the amygdala performed differently in people who suffer from autism spectrum disorder than in those who do not. Researchers discovered that the mouth, much more than the eyes, is what people with autism focus on to decipher emotions expressed through facial expressions.

Synaesthesia is More Common in Autism

Source: 
Molecular Autism
Date Published: 
November 19, 2013
Abstract: 

New research out of the University of Cambridge and published in the journal Molecular Autism found that people with autism are more likely to have synaethesia, which involves experiencing a mixing of the senses, such as seeing colors when they hear sounds. Both autism and synaesthesia involve neural over-connectivity, perhaps the reason why synaesthesia is disproportionately common in autism.

Gender Differences in the Relationship Between Social Communication and Emotion Recognition

Source: 
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Date Published: 
November 19, 2013
Abstract: 

In a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 3,666 children were assessed on their ability to correctly recognize emotions by looking at faces. Children with autistic-like social communication difficulties were compared with children without such difficulties. Autistic-like social communication difficulties were associated with poorer recognition of emotion from social motion cues in both genders, but were associated with poorer facial emotion recognition in boys only. Relatively good performance of girls on the task of facial emotion discrimination may be due to compensatory mechanisms, though more research is needed in this area.

To read the full study, click here

iPads Help Late-Speaking Children with Autism Develop Language

Source: 
Vanderbilt University
Date Published: 
November 12, 2013
Abstract: 

New research out of Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development found that using speech-generating devices, such as iPads, to encourage children ages 5 to 8 to develop speaking skills resulted in the subjects developing considerably more spoken words compared to other interventions. All of the children in the study learned new spoken words and several learned to produce short sentences as they moved through the training.

Genetic Analysis Links Autism to Missing Brain Structure

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

The largest genetic analysis yet conducted of people lacking a brain structure called the corpus callosum shows that the condition shares many risk factors with autism. The study was published PLoS Genetics. The corpus callosum is the thick bundle of nerve fibers that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. People lacking this structure, a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum (AgCC), often have social impairments, and roughly one-third of adults meet diagnostic criteria for autism. Children with autism seem to have a smaller corpus callosum than controls do.

Autism Science Foundation Announces 2013 Research Enhancement Grant Recipients

(November 12, 2013 -- New York, NY)—Today, the Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding autism research, announced the recipients of research enhancement mini grants.   These grants are intended to enable researchers to expand the scope or increase the efficiency of existing grants, or to take advantage of changes or findings that have occurred in or around the project that warrant more funding.  Six projects were selected for funding.
 
"Our goal with this funding mechanism is to speed up the pace of research and remove research obstacles” said ASF president Alison Singer.  “We want researchers to be able to move quickly when they've made the kind of breakthrough that just needs a bit more funding to exploit rapidly”. 
 
The following projects were selected for enhancement grant funding:
 
Sex Differences in the Neural Mechanisms of Treatment Response
Dr. Pam Ventola/Yale University
This grant will support a 16-week Pivotal Response Treatment trial to expand work funded by Dr. Kevin Pelphrey’s center. This funding will add an additional cohort of girls and will focus on the sex-based differences in neural response to treatment, which is not included in the current NIH funding.
 
Use of Real Time Video Feedback to Enhance Special Education Teacher Training
Dr. Jessica Suhrheinrich/University of California at San Diego
Funds will be used to purchase iPads for teachers to enable real-time feedback during a study implementing classroom based Pivotal Response Training in preschool through fifth grade special education classes. This is significant because this study will focus on teachers who were not previously able to master PRT.
 
The Effects of Autism on the Sign Language Development of Deaf Children
Dr. Aaron Shield/Boston University
This grant will expand the control group of typically developing deaf children to compare to deaf children with ASD.  Findings from this study will inform the eventual adaptation of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule and other instruments for use with deaf and hard-of-hearing children. It will also inform the design of future interventions with deaf and hard-of-hearing children with ASD.
 
Cross-Modal Automated Assessment of Behavior during Social Interactions in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Dr. Adam Naples/Yale University
This grant supports implementation of hardware to monitor a child’s facial expression, gaze, speech, and posture during recording of neural activity in Dr. James McPartland’s lab. This technology will enable simulation of interpersonal interactions based on a child’s verbal and nonverbal behavior. This study will investigate the brain mechanisms of multimodal reciprocal social interaction for the first time.
 
Role of Astrocytic Glutamate Transporter GLT1 in Fragile X Syndrome
Dr. Haruki Higashimori/Tufts University
This grant will allow for promising new discoveries in mice with Fragile X Syndrome to be tested on human brain tissue samples. This is significant because it will bridge their findings from rodent models to humans and help further validate a new therapeutic target for Fragile X and autism. This study builds on a finding during Higashimori’s Autism Science Foundation Post-Doctoral fellowship. 
 
Partners in Schools: A Program for Parents and Teachers of Children with Autism
Dr. Gazi Azad/University of Pennsylvania
Funds will provide financial incentives for urban, public school parents and teachers to participate in a study testing a new paradigm to improve parent-teacher communication about evidence-based interventions. This project will result in a new culturally sensitive tool for communication improvement, which is the first step in fostering family-school partnerships for children with autism.
 
 
The Autism Science Foundation 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 Information:   
Casey Gold
cgold@autismsciencefoundation.org
 
 
To download this press release, please click here

Mild Traits of Autism May Shift with Cultures

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
November 4, 2013
Abstract: 

Clinicians around the world diagnose children with autism, but is autism the same disorder around the world? A team of researchers has begun testing this question by comparing children in two European countries. The American definition of autism travels well across international borders in the case of British and Finnish children, they reported in the journal Autism. However, when the researchers compared mild traits of autism — collectively referred to as broad autism phenotype, or BAP — those of children from Finland do not line up well with descriptions in the DSM-5. This may be because of differences in language, culture and genetics between Finland and the U.K.