Links for Keyword: Autism

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By Bruce Bower Children with autism may understand more about how other people think than they’re usually given credit for. The trick to exposing this awareness, a new study finds, is to motivate these youngsters to show what they know. In a lab game that requires a child to compete with two adults for a prize, many kids with autism demonstrate insight into how other people’s thoughts shape their behavior, say psychologist Candida Peterson of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and her colleagues. The finding suggests that previous research testing this ability, called theory of mind, underestimates how well youngsters with autism can interpret other people’s actions, Peterson’s team reports March 19 in Developmental Science. Studies published since 1985 have found that most high-functioning individuals with autism — those who have serious social and language problems but average or better IQs — fail a standard theory of mind test at least through adolescence. Kids without autism usually pass the test by age 5. In the standard test, called the Sally-Anne test, children watch an experimenter play with a doll named Sally, who has a covered basket, and a doll named Anne, who has a box. Sally puts a marble in her basket and leaves. Anne moves Sally’s marble to the box. Kids with autism usually indicate that, when Sally returns, she will look for her marble in the box, failing to recognize that Sally falsely believes the marble remains in her basket. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17960 - Posted: 03.28.2013

By Smitha Mundasad Health reporter, BBC News The risk of developing autism may be passed on through - and not just to - future generations, researchers say. The international study suggests older fathers are more likely to have grandchildren with autism than their younger counterparts. The mechanism is unclear but it is thought they may transmit "silent mutations" to their grandchildren. But experts have urged caution, stressing autism is the result of many different factors. The study, looking at almost 6,000 people with the condition, is published in the journal Jama Psychiatry. According to the National Autistic Society, more than one in every 100 people in the UK have the condition. Previous studies suggested older fathers may be at greater risk of having children with autism than younger dads. But the team of UK, Swedish and Australian researchers say this is one of the first pieces of evidence to show the risk can be passed on through - rather than just straight to - future generations. The "silent mutations" - changes in genetic material - are likely to have no obvious impact on older fathers' own children, but they may build up through subsequent generations, or interact with other genes and environmental factors, to increase the chance of their grandchildren developing the condition, the researchers say. BBC © 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17933 - Posted: 03.23.2013

by Peter Aldhous Women abused in childhood are more likely to have children with autism, a new epidemiological study suggests. The finding adds a disturbing new dimension to the heated debate over the condition's underlying causes. Andrea Roberts of the Harvard School of Public Health suspected that there might be a link between childhood abuse and having an autistic child: women abused early in life are more likely to smoke, suffer from gestational diabetes and have premature babies – all factors that may affect fetal brain development. To investigate, Roberts and her colleagues turned to the Nurses' Health Study II, which includes almost 55,000 women who had indicated if they had a child with autism spectrum disorder and also answered a questionnaire about their experience of abuse as a child. This allowed the researchers to develop a scale rating all the women for the intensity of abuse in their childhood. There was a clear link between the "dose" of abuse received and the risk of having an autistic child. "The associations get stronger as the level of abuse increases," Roberts says. After accounting for demographic factors such as age and socioeconomic status, the 2 per cent of women who reported the most serious childhood abuse – who were frequently hit and also sexually abused – were about 3.5 times as likely to have a child with autism as those who reported no abuse at all. "I think it's a really interesting, innovative and well-conducted study," says Hannah Gardener at the University of Miami in Florida. "There aren't a lot of risk factors with that magnitude." © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17932 - Posted: 03.23.2013

At 7 months of age, children who are later diagnosed with autism take a split second longer to shift their gaze during a task measuring eye movements and visual attention than do typically developing infants of the same age, according to researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health. The difference between the groups’ test results was 25 to 50 milliseconds on average, the researchers found, too brief to be detected in social interactions with an infant. However, they showed that this measurable delay could be accounted for by differences in the structure and organization of actively developing neurological circuits of a child’s brain. Image of brain structure known as the splenium of the corpus callosum When they were infants, children who were later diagnosed with autism took longer to shift their gaze during a measure of eye movements than did infants who were not diagnosed with autism. The researchers believe that brain circuits involved with a brain structure known as the splenium of the corpus callosum (shown in this scan) may account for the differences in gaze shifting between the two groups. Image courtesy of Jason Wolff, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Efficiently shifting attention early in infancy is thought to be important for later social and cognitive development. Split-second delays, the researchers suggested, could be a precursor to such well known symptoms of autism as difficulty making eye contact or following a parent’s pointing finger, problems that generally emerge after a child turns 1. Typically, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not diagnosed until after 3 or 4 years of age. The study appears in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 17931 - Posted: 03.23.2013

Marissa Fessenden U.S. business and policy leaders have made it a priority to increase the number of students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as STEM. But one source of STEM talent is often overlooked: young people with autism spectrum disorders. A study published late last year in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that students with autism choose majors in science, technology, engineering and math at higher rates than students in the general population. Yet students with autism enter college at far lower rates. The authors say the results highlight the need to encourage students with autism to pursue a post-secondary education and that doing so may strengthen participation in the STEM fields. The only previous study to directly examine the connection between autism spectrum disorders and STEM majors was limited to a single university in the U.K. That paper, co-authored by Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Center at the University of Cambridge, found a link between autism and mathematical talent. The new study, led by researchers at the independent research institute SRI International, based in Menlo Park, CA, examined 11,000 students across the country and found that more young adults with an autism spectrum disorder choose STEM majors than their peers in the general population (34.31 vs. 22.8 percent) as well as their peers in 10 other disability groups (which included visual disabilities, intellectual disabilities, speech and language impairment and others). Students with autism, however, were unlikely to enroll in college at all—their rate of enrollment was the third lowest of all disability categories. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17761 - Posted: 02.05.2013

Maternal inflammation during early pregnancy may be related to an increased risk of autism in children, according to new findings supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers found this in children of mothers with elevated C-reactive protein (CRP), a well-established marker of systemic inflammation. The risk of autism among children in the study was increased by 43 percent among mothers with CRP levels in the top 20th percentile, and by 80 percent for maternal CRP in the top 10th percentile. The findings appear in the journal Molecular Psychiatry and add to mounting evidence that an overactive immune response can alter the development of the central nervous system in the fetus. “Elevated CRP is a signal that the body is undergoing a response to inflammation from, for example, a viral or bacterial infection,” said lead scientist on the study, Alan Brown, M.D., professor of clinical psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and Mailman School of Public Health. “The higher the level of CRP in the mother, the greater the risk of autism in the child.” Brown cautioned that the results should be viewed in perspective since the prevalence of inflammation during pregnancy is substantially higher than the prevalence of autism. “The vast majority of mothers with increased CRP levels will not give birth to children with autism,” Brown said. “We don’t know enough yet to suggest routine testing of pregnant mothers for CRP for this reason alone; however, exercising precautionary measures to prevent infections during pregnancy may be of considerable value.”

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17708 - Posted: 01.26.2013

By Laura Sanders Electrodes implanted deep in the brain of a boy with severe autism have enabled him to live a more normal life. The treatment reduced his destructive behavior and allowed the formerly nonverbal boy to speak a few words, scientists report online January 21 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. The results are the first to use brain stimulation to alleviate symptoms of autism. Scientists caution that interpreting the results broadly is impossible without larger, systematic studies, but even so neurosurgeon Ali Rezai of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus calls the boys’ gains “intriguing and promising.” Researchers have become increasingly interested in deep brain stimulation, a technique in which surgically implanted electrodes act as brain pacemakers. For the last two decades, deep brain stimulation has found use treating movement disorders such as the tremors that accompany Parkinson’s disease (SN: 4/11/09, p.11). More recently, scientists have begun experimenting with the technique to treat behavioral and mental problems, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and severe anxiety. The boy in the study, who was 13 at the time of his experimental surgery, suffered from severe autism symptoms: He couldn’t talk or make eye contact, woke up screaming repeatedly during the night, and habitually injured himself so badly that His parents restrained him almost constantly to protect him. Multiple rounds of psychiatric drugs failed to stave off his worsening symptoms. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17707 - Posted: 01.26.2013

Some children who are accurately diagnosed in early childhood with autism lose the symptoms and the diagnosis as they grow older, a study supported by the National Institutes of Health has confirmed. The research team made the finding by carefully documenting a prior diagnosis of autism in a small group of school-age children and young adults with no current symptoms of the disorder. The report is the first of a series that will probe more deeply into the nature of the change in these children’s status. Having been diagnosed at one time with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), these young people now appear to be on par with typically developing peers. The study team is continuing to analyze data on changes in brain function in these children and whether they have subtle residual social deficits. The team is also reviewing records on the types of interventions the children received, and to what extent they may have played a role in the transition. "Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. "For an individual child, the outcome may be knowable only with time and after some years of intervention. Subsequent reports from this study should tell us more about the nature of autism and the role of therapy and other factors in the long term outcome for these children." The study, led by Deborah Fein, Ph.D., at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, recruited 34 optimal outcome children, who had received a diagnosis of autism in early life and were now reportedly functioning no differently than their mainstream peers. For comparison, the 34 children were matched by age, sex, and nonverbal IQ with 44 children with high-functioning autism, and 34 typically developing peers. Participants ranged in age from 8 to 21 years old.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17687 - Posted: 01.17.2013

By BENEDICT CAREY Doctors have long believed that disabling autistic disorders last a lifetime, but a new study has found that some children who exhibit signature symptoms of the disorder recover completely. The study, posted online on Wednesday by the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, is the largest to date of such extraordinary cases and is likely to alter the way that scientists and parents think and talk about autism, experts said. Researchers on Wednesday cautioned against false hope. The findings suggest that the so-called autism spectrum contains a small but significant group who make big improvements in behavioral therapy for unknown, perhaps biological reasons, but that most children show much smaller gains. Doctors have no way to predict which children will do well. Researchers have long known that between 1 and 20 percent of children given an autism diagnosis no longer qualify for one a few years or more later. They have suspected that in most cases the diagnosis was mistaken; the rate of autism diagnosis has ballooned over the past two decades, and some research suggests that it has been loosely applied. The new study should put some of that skepticism to rest. “This is the first solid science to address this question of possible recovery, and I think it has big implications,” said Sally Ozonoff of the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the research. “I know many of us as would rather have had our tooth pulled than use the word ‘recover,’ it was so unscientific. Now we can use it, though I think we need to stress that it’s rare.” © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17686 - Posted: 01.17.2013

By AMY HARMON Amid reports from neighbors and classmates that the gunman in the shooting rampage in, Newtown, Conn., had an autism variant known as Asperger syndrome, adults with the condition and parents of children with the diagnosis are fighting what they fear may be a growing impression that it is associated with premeditated violence. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders, who are often bullied in school and in the workplace, frequently do suffer from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. A divorce mediator who met with the parents of Adam Lanza, the gunman, during their divorce told The Associated Press that the couple had said that their son’s condition had been diagnosed as Asperger syndrome. But experts say there is no evidence that they are more likely than any other group to commit violent crimes. “Aggression in autism spectrum disorders is almost never directed to people outside the family or immediate caregivers, is almost never planned, and almost never involves weapons,” said Dr. Catherine Lord, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian hospital. “Each of these aspects of the current case is more common in other populations than autism.” Dr. Lord said that in an unpublished review of data tracking several hundred adults with autism over at least the past five years, she and fellow researchers had found no use of weapons. Among more than 1,000 older children and adolescents in that study, only 2 percent were reported by parents to have used an implement aggressively toward a nonfamily member — fewer than in a control group. That finding was repeated in another set of data that she analyzed over the weekend at the request of The New York Times. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17617 - Posted: 12.19.2012

By Deborah Kotz, Globe Staff Unconfirmed news reports after the Connecticut school shooting that gunman Adam Lanza had been diagnosed with a milder form of autism prompted strongly-worded statements from autism advocacy groups that the developmental disorder was not associated with “planned violence.” Psychologists who treat people with autism point out that pre-meditated violence toward others isn’t one of the traits associated with the disorder in the psychiatric diagnostic manual. While some individuals may thrash out violently when feeling emotionally overwhelmed -- usually those at the extreme end of the autism spectrum -- there’s no evidence linking the condition to the type of forethought required to pack guns into a car, shoot through the entrance of a locked school, and methodically gun down tiny strangers in pigtails and baseball caps. “Autism is related to different ways of processing information in the brain, but not in those areas related to violence,” said Dr. Donnah Nickerson-Reti, a neurodevelopmental psychiatrist with a private practice in Boston. Generally, people on the autism spectrum tend to be driven by rules and logic, making them highly cognizant of laws that shouldn’t be broken and taking extreme efforts not to break them, she said. “Can autistic individuals get flooded emotionally and act irrationally?” said Nickerson-Reti. “Of course they can, like everyone else, but that’s not a defining characteristic.” © 2012 NY Times Co.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17616 - Posted: 12.19.2012

by Greg Miller A drug used for decades to treat high blood pressure and other conditions has shown promise in a small clinical trial for autism. The drug, bumetanide, reduced the overall severity of behavioral symptoms after 3 months of daily treatment. The researchers say that many parents of children who received the drug reported that their children were more "present" and engaged in social interactions after taking it. The new findings are among several recent signs that treatments to address the social deficits at the core of autism may be on the horizon. Several lines of evidence suggest that autism interferes with the neurotransmitter GABA, which typically puts a damper on neural activity. Bumetanide may enhance the inhibitory effects of GABA, and the drug has been used safely as a diuretic to treat a wide range of heart, lung, and kidney conditions. In the new study, researchers led by Yehezkel Ben-Ari at the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology in Marseille, France, recruited 60 autistic children between the ages of 3 and 11 and randomly assigned them to receive either a daily pill of bumetanide or a placebo. (Neither the children's parents nor the researchers who assessed the children knew who received the actual drug.) As a group, those who got bumetanide improved by 5.6 points on a 60-point scale that's often used to assess behaviors related to autism, the researchers report today in Translational Psychiatry. That was enough to nudge the group average just under the cutoff for severe autism and into the mild to medium category. The study did not look directly at whether the drug improved all symptoms equally or some more than others. "We have some indications that the symptoms particularly ameliorated with bumetanide are the genuine core symptoms of autism, namely communication and social interactions," Ben-Ari says. More work will be needed to verify that impression. Ben-Ari says his team is now preparing for a larger, multicenter trial in Europe. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17592 - Posted: 12.11.2012

by Greg Miller On Saturday, the board of trustees of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) voted to approve the final text of the DSM-5, the next revision to the leading manual for diagnosing mental illness. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which originated in 1952, will be released next May at the APA's annual meeting in San Francisco. The revision process leading to DSM-5 began in 1999, and APA says it consulted more than 1500 experts in 39 countries in updating the criteria for diagnosing hundreds of psychiatric conditions. It has been a bumpy ride. Controversy has dogged the revision process for years. Even before the first draft of proposed changes was released in 2010, critics alleged that too much of the deliberation was conducted in secret and that too many of those involved had ties to drug companies that stood to benefit from changes to diagnostic criteria—APA has repeatedly rejected these charges. And many of the diagnostic proposals have elicited a strong reaction. A proposal to combine several autism-related disorders into a single diagnosis raised concerns among some critics that it would radically alter who gets diagnosed with those disorders and angered advocates for Asperger syndrome, a milder form of autism that would be eliminated in the new scheme. A new childhood condition called disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, characterized by irritability and violent outbursts, was intended to stem the perceived overdiagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder, but critics have argued that the diagnosis lacks scientific validity. Yet another controversial proposal, to remove language that excludes people who've recently experienced the loss of a loved one from being diagnosed with major depression, elicited complaints that it would lead to the medicalization of normal grief. These changes will stand, APA said in a press release. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17569 - Posted: 12.04.2012

By Lindsey Tanner, The Associated Press CHICAGO -- The now familiar term "Asperger's disorder" is being dropped. And abnormally bad and frequent temper tantrums will be given a scientific-sounding diagnosis called DMDD. But "dyslexia" and other learning disorders remain. The revisions come in the first major rewrite in nearly 20 years of the diagnostic guide used by the nation's psychiatrists. Changes were approved Saturday. Full details of all the revisions will come next May when the American Psychiatric Association's new diagnostic manual is published, but the impact will be huge, affecting millions of children and adults worldwide. The manual also is important for the insurance industry in deciding what treatment to pay for, and it helps schools decide how to allot special education. This diagnostic guide "defines what constellations of symptoms" doctors recognize as mental disorders, said Dr. Mark Olfson, a Columbia University psychiatry professor. More important, he said, it "shapes who will receive what treatment. Even seemingly subtle changes to the criteria can have substantial effects on patterns of care." Olfson was not involved in the revision process. The changes were approved Saturday in suburban Washington, D.C., by the psychiatric association's board of trustees. The aim is not to expand the number of people diagnosed with mental illness, but to ensure that affected children and adults are more accurately diagnosed so they can get the most appropriate treatment, said Dr. David Kupfer. He chaired the task force in charge of revising the manual and is a psychiatry professor at the University of Pittsburgh. © 2012 NBCNews.com

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17561 - Posted: 12.03.2012

By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News The possibility that autism is linked to traffic pollution has been raised by researchers in California. Their study of more than 500 children said those exposed to high levels of pollution were three times more likely to have autism than children who grew up with cleaner air. However, other researchers said traffic was a "very unlikely" and unconvincing explanation for autism. The findings were presented in the Archives of General Psychiatry journal. Data from the US Environmental Protection Agency were used to work out levels of pollution for addresses in California. This was used to compare exposure to pollution, in the womb and during the first year of life, in 279 children with autism and 245 without. The researchers from the University of Southern California said children in homes exposed to the most pollution "were three times as likely to have autism compared with children residing in homes with the lowest levels of exposure". BBC © 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 17545 - Posted: 11.27.2012

Dan Jones As diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder rise, the need for effective therapies has increased in urgency. Today, a paper in Nature describes two ways of reversing autism-like symptoms in a new mouse model of the condition1. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects up to 1 in 110 people. Although a few drugs have shown promise in mouse models, none is able to treat the core social deficits common to ASD in humans. A team of researchers led by Nahum Sonenberg of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, created a new model of mouse autism, and then reversed its symptoms. They began by genetically engineering mice so that they lacked the gene Eif4ebp2. The 4E-BP2 protein that this produces suppresses the translation of certain messenger RNAs, so knocking out Eif4ebp2 allows the proteins that these mRNAs produce to be synthesized at above normal levels. Mice lacking Eif4ebp2 exhibit many autism-like symptoms, including poor social interaction, altered communication and repetitive behaviours. Sonenberg and his co-workers found that one group of proteins that proliferates in the absence of Eif4ebp2 is the neuroligins (NLGNs), which sit in the membrane of neurons and help to create and maintain the connections, or synapses, between nerve cells. When the authors examined mouse brain slices, they discovered that overproduction of NLGNs results in synapses that are prone to overstimulation, establishing a ‘hyperconnectivity’ that many researchers believe underlies the symptoms of ASD. © 2012 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17526 - Posted: 11.24.2012

Flora Graham, deputy editor, newscientist.com These glowing shapes aren't the ears of a rave-happy Vulcan - they're slices from a mouse's brain. The slice on the right is from a mouse that lacks a gene called Arl13b - the same gene whose mutation causes Joubert syndrome in humans. This is a rare neurological condition that is linked with autism-spectrum disorders and brain structure malformations. Without Arl13b, the nerve cells known as interneurons can't find the right destination in the cerebral cortex during the brain's development. Since the interneurons don't end up in the right places, they can't be wired up properly later on. This causes the disrupted brain development, typical of Joubert syndrome, visible in the image on the right. The researchers hope that their findings will lead to better treatments for people who have the syndrome. "Ultimately, if you're going to come up with therapeutic solutions, it's important to understand the biology of the disease," says Eva Anton of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, who worked on the research, which was published in Developmental Cell last week. Journal reference: Developmental cell doi:10.1016/j.devcel.2012.09.019 © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17525 - Posted: 11.24.2012

By Maggie Fox, NBC News Doctors trying to find some of the causes of autism put another piece into the puzzle on Monday: They found women who had flu while they were pregnant were twice as likely to have a child later diagnosed with autism. Those who had a fever lasting a week or longer -- perhaps caused by flu or maybe by something else -- were three times as likely to have an autistic child. The study of 96,000 children in Denmark raises as many questions as it answers. But it fits in with a growing body of evidence that suggests that, in at least some cases, something is going on with a mother’s immune system during pregnancy that affects the developing child’s brain. Autism seems to be a growing problem in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorder affects one in 88 children, including about one in 54 boys. The autism spectrum refers to a broad range of symptoms, from the relatively mild social awkwardness of Asperger’s syndrome to profound mental retardation, debilitating repetitive behaviors and an inability to communicate. Scientists agree that it’s not just a matter of better diagnosis; the numbers seem to be growing because more children are indeed developing autism. But no one is sure why. Genetics are a large factor -- if one twin has autism the other twin is very likely to -- but genes don’t explain it all. © 2012 NBCNews.com

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17478 - Posted: 11.12.2012

By Gary Stix Oliver Sacks, HBO and others have chronicled the life of autistic savant Temple Grandin. The unique patterns of thought produced by Grandin’s brain enabled her to design now-ubiquitous methods to treat cattle more humanely, and she has served as inspiration to others diagnosed with the condition. Until now, no one has tried to assess the actual brain physiology of the professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University. Grandin herself wanted to know more about the biological basis of her cognitive strengths and deficits. So she entered into a collaboration with the University of Utah, which performed a battery of imaging tests—MRI, DTI and fMRI—to determine brain volume, cortical thickness and the structure of the insulating white matter that surrounds the long, wire-like axons that connect one brain cell with another. Supplemented with neuropsychological testing, researchers compared these results with those from three other “neurotypical” female subjects of about the same age. It turns out that Grandin’s brain appears to be similar to that of other autistic savants. She has greater volume in the right hemisphere, which might account for her superior visuospatial abilities. She also has increased thickness of the entorhinal cortex, an area involved with memory As with others with autism, she has an overall larger brain size. And the enlarged amygdala and the smaller cortical thickness in the fusiform gyrus may relate to the deficits autistic individuals experience in dealing with emotion and reading faces. “There’s this idea in the savant literature that left hemisphere damage occurs during development and the right hemisphere compensates in some way,” says Jason Cooperrider, a graduate student at the University of Utah who presented the findings at the conference. “All of the savant skills are right hemisphere-dominant abilities, which would include Dr. Grandin’s exceptional visual and spatial ability which would be considered savant level.” © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17399 - Posted: 10.22.2012

By RONI CARYN RABIN When Patrick Murphy was 6, he became obsessed with vacuum cleaners. The boy, who has autism, used to slip out of his house near Buffalo without telling his parents, running to a nearby appliance store or into strangers’ homes to marvel at vacuum cleaners. Patrick is now 14, and his parents have double bolts on the doors in their home and brackets on their windows. Still, Patrick — who is now focused on dogs — manages to sneak out. Two weeks ago, he crept from the house after his mother went to bed. When his father came home, he alerted the police. They found Patrick running barefoot in his pajamas at 2 a.m., three miles from his home. “That was very scary,” said Patrick’s father, Brian Murphy, who has now added an alarm system to the house to keep his son safe. “He has broken through brackets, windows, picked locks, you name it. It’s absolutely the most stressful part of parenting a child with autism.” The behavior, called wandering or elopement, has led to numerous deaths in autistic children by drowning and in traffic accidents. Now a new study of more than 1,200 families with autistic children suggests wandering is alarmingly common. Nearly half of parents with an autistic child age 4 or older said their children had tried to leave a safe place at least once, the study reported. One in four said their children had disappeared long enough to cause concern. Many parents said their wandering children had narrowly escaped traffic accidents or had been in danger of drowning. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17341 - Posted: 10.08.2012