More and more, psychiatrists are looking to psychedelic medication to help individuals who are resistant to other types of therapies. These include seizures, PTSD and depression. But can they help individuals with autism or ease autism-related problems or improve cognition? Two new studies on cannabis and one on ketamine are summarized in this week’s ASFpodcast. Promising, interesting, but not definitive. It’s a short podcast this week. You can listen to it here.
Fieri said “Cooking with kids is not just about ingredients, recipes, and cooking. It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment, and creativity.” This week’s podcast produced by ASF intern Mia Kotikovski from Stony Brook University explores how cooking can be not just fun for autistic individuals, but how it can build healthy habits in everyone. She discusses the scientific literature on why cooking improves eating habits and builds confidence. Listen to the podcast here.
Anxiety is common in people with autism – but is is different than other types of anxiety or similar? Is it part of the autism phenotype? When does it start and what triggers it? Two new studies which use a longitudinal design and examine the links between autism features, anxiety symptoms and brain development are summarized this week. It shows that the amygdala is important, that some features of anxiety are core to ASD and some are separate, and it is related to autism features like insistence on sameness. This has implications for how anxiety is diagnosed and treated in those with ASD. Listen to the podcast here.
We’ve heard a lot about social robots – do they help? One or two studies are not going to answer this, but a systematic review and meta analysis will! It turns out when you combined all the data, they do help in social abilities, but not other areas. This is how technology can help those with autism, especially technology which can be adapted to address the heterogeneity across the spectrum. And what about more subtle changes in the environment like light, sound, the built environment in classrooms and the home? Are there things that can be done that should be taken into account when these things are being built or modified? Again, a review article can help decipher all of the little studies that have been published over the year. Listen here for specific recommendations for builders, architects, and even you as you make your home more autism friendly.
This week is a pharmacopeia of inflation. The #ASFpodcast talks debilitating gastrointestinal issues and new efforts to understand and treat them (including the CANDID meeting www.candidgi.com), a new method to understand adverse events in those that cannot report them on their own, and new news on Celexa, which is used to treat anxiety. Listen to the podcast here.
At this year’s International Society of Autism Research meeting in Austin, TX, there was a variety of themes explored. From early development and milestones, to intervention and supports, to different features like sensory issues, treatment, and how to solve the problem of heterogeneity. It comes down to this: Autism means different things to different people. This is just a small subset of everything that was presented at INSAR 2022 and I hope that if you want to see more, you advocate to have the presentations posted online or even have the program book made available publicly. In the meantime, enjoy the 30 minute summary here.
This week, the #ASFpodcast explores different types of interventions for which the core autism features are not necessarily the target, but those that enhance quality of life and provide help for irritability and emotional dysregulation. They include cooking, music therapies and antipsychotic medications. While they may not be effective in core autism features, they may help in other ways. Listen to the podcast here.
This year’s first podcast dedicated to COVID issues explores both caregiver and clinician satisfaction with telehealth. New studies explore this satisfaction with assessment as well as psychiatric interventions. Also, as a follow up to the INSAR presentations on resiliency in mental health, a new study from Canada explains what may be at the core of this resiliency. Finally – why are some autistic people still not getting vaccinated? Listen to the podcast here.
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at elevated risk of suicidal ideation, particularly those with comorbid anxiety disorders and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). We investigated the risk factors associated with suicidal ideation in 166 children with ASD and comorbid anxiety disorders/OCD, and the unique contribution of externalizing behaviors. Suicidal ideation was reported in the child sample by 13% of parents. Controlling for child age, sex, and IQ, perceived loneliness positively predicted the likelihood of suicidal ideation. In addition, externalizing behaviors positively predicted suicidal ideation, controlling for all other factors. Reliance on parental report to detect suicidal ideation in youth with ASD is a limitation of this study. Nonetheless, these findings highlight the importance of assessing and addressing suicidal ideation in children with ASD and comorbid anxiety disorders/OCD, and more importantly in those with elevated externalizing behaviors and perceptions of loneliness.
Keywords: ASD; Anxiety; Externalizing behaviors; OCD; Suicidal thoughts.
Awareness of autism has grown monumentally over the past 20 years. Yet, this increased awareness has not been accompanied by improvements in services to support autistic individuals and their families. Many fundamental questions remain about the care of people with autism—including which interventions are effective, for whom, when, and at what intensity. The Lancet Commission on the future of care and clinical research in autism aims to answer the question of what can be done in the next 5 years to address the current needs of autistic individuals and families worldwide
Background: Marked sex differences in autism prevalence accentuate the need to understand the role of biological sex-related factors in autism. Efforts to unravel sex differences in the brain organization of autism have, however, been challenged by the limited availability of female data.
Methods: We addressed this gap by using a large sample of males and females with autism and neurotypical (NT) control individuals (ABIDE; Autism: 362 males, 82 females; NT: 409 males, 166 females; 7-18 years). Discovery analyses examined main effects of diagnosis, sex and their interaction across five resting-state fMRI (R-fMRI) metrics (voxel-level Z > 3.1, cluster-level P < 0.01, gaussian random field corrected). Secondary analyses assessed the robustness of the results to different pre-processing approaches and their replicability in two independent samples: the EU-AIMS Longitudinal European Autism Project (LEAP) and the Gender Explorations of Neurogenetics and Development to Advance Autism Research.
Results: Discovery analyses in ABIDE revealed significant main effects of diagnosis and sex across the intrinsic functional connectivity of the posterior cingulate cortex, regional homogeneity and voxel-mirrored homotopic connectivity (VMHC) in several cortical regions, largely converging in the default network midline. Sex-by-diagnosis interactions were confined to the dorsolateral occipital cortex, with reduced VMHC in females with autism. All findings were robust to different pre-processing steps. Replicability in independent samples varied by R-fMRI measures and effects with the targeted sex-by-diagnosis interaction being replicated in the larger of the two replication samples-EU-AIMS LEAP.
Limitations: Given the lack of a priori harmonization among the discovery and replication datasets available to date, sample-related variation remained and may have affected replicability.
Conclusions: Atypical cross-hemispheric interactions are neurobiologically relevant to autism. They likely result from the combination of sex-dependent and sex-independent factors with a differential effect across functional cortical networks. Systematic assessments of the factors contributing to replicability are needed and necessitate coordinated large-scale data collection across studies.
Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Replication; Resting-state functional connectivity; Robustness; Sex differences; Voxel-mirrored homotopic connectivity.
A recent theory posits that prediction deficits may underlie the core symptoms in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, empirical evidence for this hypothesis is minimal. Using a visual extrapolation task, we tested motion prediction abilities in children and adolescents with and without ASD. We examined the factors known to be important for motion prediction: the central-tendency response bias and smooth pursuit eye movements. In ASD, response biases followed an atypical trajectory that was dominated by early responses. This differed from controls who exhibited response biases that reflected a gradual accumulation of knowledge about stimulus statistics. Moreover, while better smooth pursuit eye movements for the moving object were linked to more accurate motion prediction in controls, in ASD, better smooth pursuit was counterintuitively linked to a more pronounced early response bias. Together, these results demonstrate atypical visual prediction abilities in ASD and offer insights into possible mechanisms underlying the observed differences.
Keywords: Autism; eye movements; perception; prediction; vision.