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Research by Topic: Infants
BACKGROUND: Atypical sensory responsivity and sensory interests are now included in the DSM 5 diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) under the broad domain of restricted and repetitive behavior (RRB). However, relatively little is known about the emergence of sensory-related features and their relation to conventionally defined RRB in the first years of life. […]
Long before infants reach, crawl or walk, they explore the world by looking: they look to learn and to engage, giving preferential attention to social stimuli, including faces, face-like stimuli and biological motion. This capacity-social visual engagement-shapes typical infant development from birth and is pathognomonically impaired in children affected by autism. Here we show that […]
Brain enlargement has been observed in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but the timing of this phenomenon, and the relationship between ASD and the appearance of behavioural symptoms, are unknown. Retrospective head circumference and longitudinal brain volume studies of two-year olds followed up at four years of age have provided evidence that increased brain […]
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex and heterogeneous disorder, diagnosed on the basis of behavioral symptoms during the second year of life or later. Finding scalable biomarkers for early detection is challenging because of the variability in presentation of the disorder and the need for simple measurements that could be implemented routinely during well-baby […]
In the current study, a developmental adaptation of pivotal response treatment was piloted via a brief parent training model with three infants at-risk for autism.
Autism Treatment in the First Year of Life: A Pilot Study of Infant Start, a Parent-Implemented Intervention for Symptomatic InfantsPublished September 9, 2014 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
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.
Babies later diagnosed with autism tend to stare at objects after picking them up, a behavior known as sticky gaze, at much later ages than controls do, according to a study published in Behavioral Brain Research. This delay may contribute to problems with joint attention the tendency to seek out and follow others gaze in autism, the researchers say.
Excessive Cerebral Spinal Fluid and Enlarged Brain Size in Infants May Be a Potential Biomarker for AutismPublished April 29, 2013 in Brain: A Journal of Neurology
Researchers find that infants who later develop autism have more cerebral spinal fluid and larger brain sizes compared to typically developing infants. These differences could be a potential biomarker in infants for autism.
Trophoblast Inclusions Are Significantly Increased in the Placentas of Children in Families at Risk for AutismPublished April 25, 2013 in Biological Psychiatry
Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine have figured out how to measure an infant’s risk of developing autism by looking for abnormalities in his/her placenta at birth, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment for the developmental disorder.
Autism researchers and advocates are concerned about changes to the recruitment strategy of the National Childrens Study, which aims to enroll 100,000 pregnant women, monitor environmental exposures, and examine gene-environment interactions in the women and their children. The changes, which include forgoing door-to-door recruitment, may limit the generalizability of the findings.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Associated with Ventricular Enlargement in a Low Birth Weight PopulationPublished February 13, 2013 in Journal of Pediatrics
This new study in the Journal of Pediatrics links ventricular enlargement in the brains of low-birth-weight neonates to ASD.
Beyond Autism: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study of High-risk Children at Three Years of AgePublished February 8, 2013 in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
This study is the first large-scale examination of ASD behavioral characteristics and developmental functioning in high-risk (HR), non-autistic 3-year-olds with siblings on the spectrum. 79% of HR children were either no different from low-risk children (LR; no known ASD family history) with respect to ASD behavioral severity and developmental functioning, or were developmentally on target with high levels of ASD-related behaviors. 21% of HR children with no ASD diagnosis had an “early manifestation” of a broad autism phenotype: high levels of ASD-related behaviors and/or low levels of verbal and nonverbal functioning. The authors highlight the importance of developmental surveillance and intervention for this HR subset.
Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder Concerns, Scientific Evidence, and Future StudiesPublished January 16, 2013 in Institute of Medicine of the National Academies
The Institute of Medicine issues a report in response to questions about the safety of the vaccination schedule for children under age six. Thorough examination of the immunization schedule reveals no major concerns associated with adherence to recommended practices.
Decreased Spontaneous Attention to Social Scenes in 6-Month-Old Infants Later Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum DisordersPublished January 14, 2013 in Biological Psychiatry
Yale researchers used eye-tracking technology to examine social monitoring skills of infants at high and low risk for autism. Compared to infants who developed typically, six-month olds later diagnosed with ASD looked less at the social scene, which involved a woman engaged in various activities. When they did attend to the social scene, they spent less time viewing the womans face.
Prenatal Versus Postnatal Sex Steroid Hormone Effects on Autistic Traits in Children at 18 to 24 Months of AgePublished December 11, 2012 in Molecular Autism
Cambridge researchers are investigating the link between pre- and postnatal hormone levels and autistic traits later in life.
Researchers uncover a connection between exposure to traffic-related pollutants and autism risk. Findings suggest children living in high pollution areas are three times more likely to have autism compared to those living in low pollution areas.
Co-authored by ASF grantee Nina Leezenbaum, this study found delayed visual and oral exploration of objects in infant siblings of children with autism that were not observed in infants with no family history.
A large, prospective study found that children with and without ASD were developmentally similar at 6 months based on clinical tests. Lead author Dr. Rebecca Landa reported, for those children who went on to develop autism, the earliest signs of atypical development were non-specific to autism, such as general communication or motor delay.
Precursors to Social and Communication Difficulties in Infants At-Risk for Autism: Gaze Following and Attentional EngagementPublished October 1, 2012 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
“Whilst joint attention (JA) impairments in autism have been widely studied, little is known about the early development of gaze following, a precursor to establishing JA. We employed eye-tracking to record gaze following longitudinally in infants with and without a family history of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at 7 and 13 months. No group difference was found between at-risk and low-risk infants in gaze following behaviour at either age. However, despite following gaze successfully at 13 months, at-risk infants with later emerging socio-communication difficulties (both those with ASD and atypical development at 36 months of age) allocated less attention to the congruent object compared to typically developing at-risk siblings and low-risk controls. The findings suggest that the subtle emergence of difficulties in JA in infancy may be related to ASD and other atypical outcomes.”
“OBJECTIVE: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorders that onset clinically during the first years of life. ASD risk biomarkers expressed early in life could significantly impact diagnosis and treatment, but no transcriptome-wide biomarker classifiers derived from fresh blood samples from children with autism have yet emerged.RESULTS: Potential ASD biomarkers were discovered in one-half of the sample and used to build a classifier, with high diagnostic accuracy in the remaining half of the sample.”
Dr. Eric Courchesne recently published his work he previewed at this year’s IMFAR in the “Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.”The mRNA expression abnormalities reliably observed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, which are safely and easily assayed in infants, offer the first potential peripheral bloodbased, early biomarker panel of risk for autism in infants and toddlers. Future work should verify these biomarkers and evaluate whether they may also serve as indirect indices of deviant molecular neural mechanisms in autism.
Early Behavioral Intervention is Associated with Normalized Brain Activity in Young Children with AutismPublished August 31, 2012 in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
This randomized trial associated ESDM with normalized brain activity and behavioral improvements in young children with ASD.
“The current study investigated early temperament in 54 infants at familial high-risk of ASD and 50 controls. Parental report of temperament was assessed around 7, 14 and 24 months of age and diagnostic assessment was conducted at 3 years. The high-risk group showed reduced Surgency at 7 and 14 months and reduced Effortful Control at 14 and 24 months, compared to controls. High-risk infants later diagnosed with ASD were distinguished from controls by a temperament profile marked by increased Perceptual Sensitivity from the first year of life, and increased Negative Affect and reduced Cuddliness in the second year of life. Temperament may be an important construct for understanding the early infant development of ASD.”
“The First Year Inventory is a parent-report measure designed to identify 12-month-old infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder. First Year Inventory taps behaviors that indicate risk in the developmental domains of sensory-regulatory and social-communication functioning. This longitudinal study is a follow-up of 699 children at 3 years of age from a community sample whose parents completed the First Year Inventory when their children were 12 months old. Parents of all 699 children completed the Social Responsiveness Scale-Preschool version and the Developmental Concerns Questionnaire to determine age 3 developmental outcomes. In addition, children deemed at risk for autism spectrum disorder based on liberal cut points on the First Year Inventory, Social Responsiveness Scale-Preschool, and/or Developmental Concerns Questionnaire were invited for in-person diagnostic evaluations. We found 9 children who had a confirmed diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder from the sample of 699. Receiver operating characteristic analyses determined that a two-domain cutoff score yielded optimal classification of children: 31% of those meeting algorithm cutoffs had autism spectrum disorder and 85% had a developmental disability or concern by age 3. These results suggest that the First Year Inventory is a promising tool for identifying 12-month-old infants who are at risk for an eventual diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.”
Differences in White Matter Fiber Tract Development Present from 6 to 24 Months in Infants with Autism.Published June 1, 2012 in American Journal of Psychiatry
Research suggests that aberrant development of white matter pathways may precede the manifestation of autistic symptoms in the first year of life.
“The language difficulties often seen in individuals with autism might stem from an inability to integrate audiovisual information, a skill important for language development. We investigated whether 9-month-old siblings of older children with autism, who are at an increased risk of developing autism, are able to integrate audiovisual speech cues.”
“Autism spectrum disorders (henceforth autism) are diagnosed in around 1% of the population . Familial liability confers risk for a broad spectrum of difficulties including the broader autism phenotype (BAP) [2, 3]. There are currently no reliable predictors of autism in infancy, but characteristic behaviors emerge during the second year, enabling diagnosis after this age [4, 5]. Because indicators of brain functioning may be sensitive predictors, and atypical eye contact is characteristic of the syndrome [6-9] and the BAP [10, 11], we examined whether neural sensitivity to eye gaze during infancy is associated with later autism outcomes [12, 13]. We undertook a prospective longitudinal study of infants with and without familial risk for autism. At 6-10 months, we recorded infants’ event-related potentials (ERPs) in response to viewing faces with eye gaze directed toward versus away from the infant . Longitudinal analyses showed that characteristics of ERP components evoked in response to dynamic eye gaze shifts during infancy were associated with autism diagnosed at 36 months. ERP responses to eye gaze may help characterize developmental processes that lead to later emerging autism. Findings also elucidate the mechanisms driving the development of the social brain in infancy.”