Social Interaction

Atypical Cross Talk Between Mentalizing and Mirror Neuron Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Source: 
JAMA Psychiatry
Date Published: 
April 16, 2014
Abstract: 

Atypical brain connectivity in areas that affect social interactions have been found in people with autism spectrum disorders. This difference in connectivity is found in networks of the brain that help individuals understand what others are thinking, and to understand others' actions and emotions. Up until now, it was thought that these areas of the brain were under-connected in people with autism, but this study shows that more often than not, they are actually over-connected. The study also found that the greater the difference in neural connectivity, the more social interactions were impaired.

Adults with Autism Can't Discern False Emotions

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
January 17, 2014
Abstract: 

Adults with autism usually understand in theory when and why others may feign emotions, but they don’t recognize those expressions in real-life situations, reports a study published in Autism Research. This inability to guess what triggered someone’s subtle expression can lead to social missteps — congratulating instead of consoling a disappointed friend, for example.

Children with Autism Benefit from Peer Solicitation

Source: 
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Date Published: 
December 12, 2013
Abstract: 

Peer solicitation – a child inviting another to play – can improve reciprocal social interaction among children with autism, according to a recent Vanderbilt University study. While the children with autism in the study initiated and engaged in less play overall than typically developing children, the researchers found that other children can facilitate and increase interactions by simple requests. These findings highlight the pivotal role that peers have in social interaction, noting that it only takes a single child to prompt other children – with or without autism – to interact.

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

Oxytocin and Serotonin May Not be Rewarding Social Interactions in Autistic Brain

Source: 
Nature
Date Published: 
September 11, 2013
Abstract: 

In the brain, oxytocin and serotonin work together to make social interactions pleasurable, rewarding, and worth repeating. A new study in the journal Nature shows that in individuals with autism, these rewarding functions may not be occurring properly, making social interaction uncomfortable.

An article in TIME on this study can be found here

Manual Gives Emergency Crews Autism Training

Source: 
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Date Published: 
August 20, 2013
Abstract: 

Researchers have developed a manual called, "A Guide for Emergency Department Personnel: Assessing and Treating Individuals With Autism." Emergency rooms are often loud and chaotic; this can frighten a person with autism, further hindering his or her communication or sensory skills. This guide aims to teach emergency care givers how to best communicate with and assess autistic patients in these hectic environments.

Increasing the Gut Bacteria In Mice That Lack Them Helps Increase Their Sociability with Familiar Mice

Source: 
Molecular Psychiatry
Date Published: 
May 21, 2013
Abstract: 

A new study finds that increasing the gut bacteria populations in mice that lack them helps to increase their sociability. The increase in sociability is mainly limited to familiar mice but the study does show support for the theory of a connection between the gut and autism in certain cases.

Voices May Not Trigger Brain's Reward Centers in Children with ASD

Source: 
PNAS
Date Published: 
June 17, 2013
Abstract: 

This Stanford study identifies an underconnectivity between the voice-selective cortex and the reward centers in the brain. This could suggest why children with autism have trouble grasping the social and emotional aspects of human speech.

Seaside Therapeutics Discontinues Arbaclofen (STX209) Extension Study

Source: 
The Boston Globe
Date Published: 
May 31, 2013
Abstract: 

Seaside Therapeutics has discontinued their extension study of Arbaclofen (STX209), a drug that showed promise in treating social impairment related to Fragile X syndrome.

DSM-5: The Debate Continues

Source: 
Molecular Autism
Date Published: 
May 15, 2013
Abstract: 

The editors of Molecular Autism, Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen and ASF SAB member Dr. Joe Buxbaum, invited the labs of Dr. Cathy Lord and Dr. Fred Volkmar to offer their perspectives on the new DSM-5 criteria for the autism spectrum.

Read Dr. Lord's commentary here: http://www.molecularautism.com/content/pdf/2040-2392-4-12.pdf

Read Dr. Volkmar's commentary here: http://www.molecularautism.com/content/pdf/2040-2392-4-13.pdf