Podcast: The Department of Defense and Autism Research

Did you know that in addition to the DoD’s support of the military, they all have funded $65 million in autism research?  This podcast discusses some of their programs and how they support military families and benefit the autism community. Want to read more about what they fund?  There’s a list here:  https://cdmrp.army.mil/search.aspx. Listen to the podcast here.

Once again, this week another study  came out dismissing the link between vaccines and autism.  Add this one to the list, but this is one of the largest and takes into account genetic and non-genetic risk factors.  It continues to discredit the vaccine-autism link.  However, in other science, more evidence that prenatal folic acid supplementation, something women should be doing anyway, does reduce the probability of having a second child with autism.  So take your folic acid – either by prescription or over the counter.  As Martha Stewart says, it’s a good thing to do. Listen to the podcast here.

Twins with autism, where either one or both is diagnosed, is crucial to understand the role of genetics and the environment to both autism diagnoses and now, autism traits.  In a study this week, researchers using data from the California Twins Study examined the genetic and environmental influences of brain development in multiple regions and measures.  While estimates of genetic and environmental influences can only be modeled in twins, they can be experimentally tested in animal models.  Researchers at the University of Washington investigate what causes the link between air pollution in humans and autism by studying diesel fuel exhaust in pregnant mice.  Finally, across all of these disparate animal studies – does anything pull them together.  Are these models all one-offs or do they have anything in common?  It turns out disruption in normal brain activity is one thing that they have in common, and something that is at the common core of ASD neurobiology. Listen to the podcast here.

What do Princess Kate and Amy Schumer have in common, and what does it have to do with autism?  The answer:  Hyperemesis Gravidum.  It’s linked to autism, but not strongly, but it does show more evidence of significant overlap between many neuropsychiatric issues and disorders.

More importantly though, those with low verbal ability and low cognitive function are harder to study than most people with autism.  Two new research studies documented what they had to do to make studies in this population possible, and how this group was different from those with average IQ and some words.  One looked at brain structure, and the other was a treatment for minimally verbal girls with autism. Listen to the podcast here.