Autism Science

'Resting' Autism Brains Still Hum with Activity

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

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.

Spatial, Verbal Skills in Autism Even Out with Age

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
February 14, 2014
Abstract: 

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.

Induced Neuron Cell Line Resembles Immature, Healthy Neurons

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

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.

Neurobehavioural Effects of Developmental Toxicity

Source: 
The Lancet
Date Published: 
February 14, 2014
Abstract: 

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.

Epilepsy Drug Alters Rodent Gut

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
February 14, 2014
Abstract: 

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.

Drug Calms Overly Excitable Brains in Autism Rodent Models

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
February 10, 2014
Abstract: 

The blood pressure drug bumetanide normalizes a deficit in brain activity in two rodent models of autism, according to a study published in Science. The study hints at a mechanism underlying the drug’s benefits for people with autism. Neurochlore, a company based in Marseilles, France, is testing bumetanide as a treatment for autism. In the first phase, 27 children with autism showed some improvement in their autism symptoms; the researchers are continuing the trial in Europe with more participants.

Blazing Trails in Brain Science

Source: 
New York Times
Date Published: 
February 3, 2014
Abstract: 

Dr. Thomas R. Insel’s twisted path to his role as director of the National Institute of Mental Health is a tour of where psychiatric science has been, where it’s going and why.

Blazing Trails in Brain Science

Source: 
New York Times
Date Published: 
February 3, 2014
Abstract: 

Dr. Thomas R. Insel’s twisted path to his role as director of the National Institute of Mental Health is a tour of where psychiatric science has been, where it’s going and why.

New Diagnostic Category Will Hold Subset of Autism Cases

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
February 3, 2014
Abstract: 

Most of the children who would lose their autism diagnosis under the diagnostic criteria released last year will fall under the new category of social (pragmatic) communication disorder (SDC), reports a large study of Korean children. The study was published last week in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. SCD is a condition that includes severe social and communication deficits but lacks the repetitive behaviors and restricted interests seen in autism.

Study Pinpoints Autism Gene in Mutation-Prone Region

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
January 27, 2013
Abstract: 

Mutations in FAN1, a gene in the 15q13.3 chromosomal region, raise the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders including autism and schizophrenia, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The 15q13.3 chromosomal region is a hotbed of tiny genetic deletions and duplications connected to disorders of brain development.