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Ewen Callaway A rare, hereditary form of autism has been found — and it may be treatable with protein supplements. Genome sequencing of six children with autism has revealed mutations in a gene that stops several essential amino acids being depleted. Mice lacking this gene developed neurological problems related to autism that were reversed by dietary changes, a paper published today in Science shows1. “This might represent the first treatable form of autism,” says Joseph Gleeson, a child neurologist at the University of California, San Diego, who led the study. “That is both heartening to families with autism, and also I think revealing of the underlying mechanisms of autism.” He emphasizes, however, that the mutations are likely to account for only a very small proportion of autism cases. “We don’t anticipate this is going to have implications for patients in general with autism,” says Gleeson. And there is as yet no proof that dietary supplements will help the six children, whose mutations the researchers identified by sequencing the exome — the part of the genome that codes for proteins. The children came from three families with Middle Eastern ancestry; in each case the parents were first cousins. Studying such families makes the hunt for the rare recessive mutations underlying some forms of autism simpler than it would be among the general population, Gleeson says, because the odds are higher that children will be born with two copies of the recessive mutation. © 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: 17224 - Posted: 09.07.2012

Steve Connor Babies of older fathers are more likely to carry genetic mutations than those of younger fathers. And the mutations could lead to illnesses such as autism and schizophrenia in later life, a landmark study has shown. Scientists have, for the first time, counted the number of new mutations linked with a father's age at the time of conception and have concluded that older men are significantly more likely to have children with potentially harmful genetic changes. The results could explain previous studies showing that certain mental and developmental illnesses with strong genetic components tend to be more common among people whose fathers were older at the time of conception. Although the age of a child's mother has been linked with problems associated with chromosomal defects, such as Down's syndrome, there has been scant information about the contribution made by older fathers to the future health of their offspring. "These observations shed light on the importance of the father's age on the risk of diseases such as schizophrenia and autism," the researchers say in their study published in the journal Nature. The scientists found that a new-born baby's genome contains around 60 new small-scale mutations compared with its parents and that the actual number of new mutations carried by each child was strongly dependent on the age of the father, rather than the mother, at the time of conception. The researchers, led by Augustine Kong and Kari Stefansson of deCode Genetics in Reykjavik, calculated that a 20-year-old father transmits about 25 new mutations to his child while a 40-year-old man will pass on 65. © independent.co.uk

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 17196 - Posted: 08.25.2012

Posted by Kathleen Raven Families with autistic children must navigate a condition where questions outnumber the answers, and therapies remain sparse and largely ineffective. A clinical trial being conducted by the Sutter Neuroscience Institute in Sacramento, California to address this situation began recruiting participants today for a highly experimental stem cell therapy for autism. The institute plans to find 30 autistic children between ages 2 and 7 with cord blood banked at the privately-run Cord Blood Registry, located about 100 miles west of the institute. Already one other clinical trial, with 37 total participants between ages 3 and 12 years old, has been completed in China. The researchers affiliated with Beike Biotechnology in Shenzhen, the firm that sponsored the study, have not yet published any papers from that the trial, which used stem cells from donated cord blood. Mexican researchers are currently recruiting kids for yet another type of autism stem cell trial that will harvest cells from the participant’s fat tissue. But for each of these officially registered trials, many more undocumented stem cell therapy treatments take place for clients who are willing to pay enough. “Our research is important because many people are going to foreign countries and spending a lot of money on therapy that may not be valid,” says Michael Chez, a pediatric neurologist and lead investigator of the study at Sutter. © 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: 17185 - Posted: 08.22.2012

by Michael Slezak A lack of anti-Müllerian hormone in boys with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) may lead to a greater number of symptoms. Michael Pankhurst and Ian McLennan from the University of Otago in New Zealand say hormones like anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) that control the speed at which the body and brain develop might play a central role in the way that ASD progresses through childhood. The pair analysed the level of AMH in 82 boys with ASD. The lower the level of AMH in their blood, the greater the number of autistic traits they displayed. In an earlier study, McLennan and his colleagues found that an increased level of AMH was associated with slower overall growth and development in boys. Together, he thinks the two studies suggest that a lack of AMH could cause the brain to develop too quickly, leading to an increased number of symptoms in boys with ASD. "Rapid development is associated with a greater frequency of developmental disorders," says McLennan. A complex system that develops quickly is more likely to contain errors than one that develops more slowly, he explains. Surprisingly, there was no difference between the average level of anti-Müllerian hormone in the children with ASD and 16 boys without autism. McLennan says this shows that the hormone doesn't cause ASD, but may increase the number of symptoms in people who have the condition. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 17167 - Posted: 08.15.2012

By Marissa Fessenden Autistic children struggle with many obstacles, including learning to speak. And, experts have noted, if these children learn verbal skills by age five, they tend to become happier and higher-functioning adults than do their nonverbal peers. Thirty years ago, psychiatrists expected only half of all autistic children would gain speaking abilities. Recent studies, however, indicate that as many as 80 percent of children with autism can learn to talk. One such study in 2006 showed that toddlers who received intensive therapy aimed at developing foundational oral language skills made significant gains in their ability to communicate verbally. Now researchers have followed up with a number of those kids and found that most of them continued to reap the benefits of that therapy years after it had ended. Several early behaviors build a foundation for language. These abilities have also been linked to whether a child can anticipate another person's mental state and use that understanding to explain and predict behavior. Developing this "theory of mind" may be a central difficulty for children with autism. Kasari's team targeted two of the early behaviors in their work: The first is the ability to engage in symbolic play, in which one object represents another—a child pretending a doll is his parent, for instance. The second is joint attention, wherein a child divides focus between an object and another person. This behavior can be thought of as "sharing looks." For example, when a child points to show a playmate a toy train, she looks at the moving train and checks to see if her playmate is engaged. In the initial study, Connie Kasari of the University of California, Los Angeles, and her colleagues evaluated 58 children between three and four years old in a randomized controlled study. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17057 - Posted: 07.18.2012

By BENEDICT CAREY Clare True had autism and periodic seizures, but nothing prepared her family for Christmas Eve in 2006, when the 26-year-old went to bed after watching a movie and stopped breathing. “I got home from a party, went to check on her just after midnight, and she was — she was gone,” said her mother, Jane True. Paramedics tried to revive the young woman, then rushed her to the hospital, and somewhere in that firestorm of activity and grief, the Trues, Jane and her husband, Jim, considered donation. “I thought of it as a gift, her brain,” she said. “To my mind, the idea that scientists would be learning from her for years to come — how can you put a price on that?” Clare True’s was one of 150 specimens stored in a Harvard brain bank that was ruined because of a freezer failure, doctors acknowledged this month. The loss, while a setback for scientists studying disorders like Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia, especially mortified those working on autism, for it exposed what is emerging as the largest obstacle to progress: the shortage of high-quality autopsied brains from young people with a well-documented medical history. The malfunction reduced by a third Harvard’s frozen autism collection, the world’s largest. A bank maintained by the University of Maryland has 52, and there are smaller collections elsewhere. Altogether there are precious few, given escalating research demands. The loss at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center makes donations from parents like the Trues only more urgent. © 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: 16965 - Posted: 06.26.2012

By Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News online A simple brain trace can identify autism in children as young as two years old, scientists believe. A US team at Boston Children's Hospital say EEG traces, which record electrical brain activity using scalp electrodes, could offer a diagnostic test for this complex condition. EEG clearly distinguished children with autism from other peers in a trial involving nearly 1,000 children. Experts say more work is needed to confirm the BMC Medicine study results. Early detection There are more than 500,000 people with autism in the UK. Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that it is not a single condition and will affect individuals in different ways. Commonly, people with autism have trouble with social interaction and can appear locked in their own worlds. It can be a difficult condition to diagnose and can go undetected for years. The latest study found 33 specific EEG patterns that appeared to be linked to autism. BBC © 2012

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: 16964 - Posted: 06.26.2012

An intervention in which adults actively engaged the attention of preschool children with autism by pointing to toys and using other gestures to focus their attention results in a long term increase in language skills, according to researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health. At age 8, children with autism who received therapy centered on sharing attention and play when they were 3 or 4 years old had stronger vocabularies and more advanced language skills than did children who received standard therapy. All of the children in the study attended preschool for 30 hours each week. “Some studies have indicated that such pre-verbal interactions provide the foundation for building later language skills,” said Alice Kau, Ph.D., of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD.“This study confirms that intensive therapy to engage the attention of young children with autism helps them acquire language faster and build lasting language skills.” The study findings appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The 40 children who participated in the study were 8 and 9 years old. Five years earlier, they had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and received the intensive therapy program or standard intervention, as part of a separate study.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 16956 - Posted: 06.23.2012

By ANDREW POLLACK Two of the front-runners in the race to develop drugs to treat mental retardation and autism are joining forces, hoping to save money and get to the market sooner. A deal, expected to be announced on Tuesday, will pool the resources of Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, and Seaside Therapeutics, a private 30-employee company based in Cambridge, Mass. “This deal will establish the biggest effort to date” in autism drugs, Luca Santarelli, head of neuroscience for Roche, said before the announcement. Financial terms are not being disclosed. There is rising excitement that drugs might be able to relieve some of the behavioral problems associated with autism and in particular a cause of autism and mental retardation known as fragile X syndrome. About 100,000 Americans have fragile X syndrome. Some parents of children being treated with new drugs in clinical trials have said they see positive changes in behavior. Becky Zorovic of Sharon, Mass., said that when she used to take her son Anders, who has fragile X, to the dentist, she would have to lie in the chair and hold him on top of her as he screamed. But after Anders starting taking Seaside’s drug, arbaclofen, in a clinical trial, she said, “He sat in the chair by himself and he opened his mouth and let the dentist polish his teeth and even scrape his teeth.” Anders has also has gone to birthday parties, which he once refused to do, she said. © 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: 16929 - Posted: 06.19.2012

By Karen Weintraub A freezer malfunction at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital has severely damaged one-third of the world’s largest collection of autism brain samples, potentially setting back research on the disorder by years, scientists say. An official at the renowned brain bank in Belmont discovered that the freezer had shut down in late May, without triggering two alarms. Inside, they found 150 thawed brains that had turned dark from decay; about a third of them were part of a collection of autism brains. “This was a priceless collection,’’ said Dr. Francine Benes, director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, where the brains were housed. “You can’t express its value in dollar amounts,’’ said Benes, who is leading one of two internal investigations into the freezer failure. The damage to these brains could slow autism research by a decade as the collection is restored, said Carlos Pardo, a neuropathologist and associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University. The collection, owned by the advocacy and research organization Autism Speaks, “yields very, very important information that allows us to have a better understanding of what autism is, as well as the contribution of environmental and immune factors,’’ said Pardo, whose 2004 study of brains stored in the bank was the first to find that autism involves the immune system. “The benefit has been great.’’ © 2012 NY Times Co.

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: 16894 - Posted: 06.11.2012

by Sara Reardon Low levels of antidepressants and other psychoactive drugs in water supplies can trigger the expression of genes associated with autism – in fish at least. The use of antidepressants has increased dramatically over the past 25 years, says Michael Thomas of Idaho State University in Pocatello. Around 80 per cent of each drug passes straight through the human body without being broken down, and so they are present in waste water. In most communities, water purification systems cannot filter out these pharmaceuticals. "They just fly right through," says Thomas, which means they ultimately find their way into the water supply. The concentration of these drugs in drinking water is very low – at most, they are present at levels 100 times lower than the prescription doses. But since the drugs are specifically designed to act on the nervous system, Thomas hypothesised that even a small dose could affect a developing fetus. Thomas's group created a cocktail of the anti-epileptic drug carbamazepine and two selective serotonin uptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, fluoxetine and venlafaxine, at this low concentration. They exposed fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) to the drugs for 18 days, then analysed the genes that were being expressed in the fishes' brains. Although the researchers had expected the drugs might activate genes involved in all kinds of neurological disorders, only 324 genes associated with autism in humans appeared to be significantly altered. Most of these genes are involved in early brain development and wiring. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

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: 16885 - Posted: 06.07.2012

By Nathan Seppa Spiking a fever in pregnancy may contribute to autism risk in the offspring. Researchers report that women who run a high temperature while pregnant — and don’t treat it — appear twice as likely to have a child with autism as women who don’t report any untreated fevers. Other studies have suggested a link between infectious diseases during gestation and a heightened risk of having a child with an autism spectrum disorder. But the new study didn’t find a specific connection between influenza and the behavioral disorders, the researchers report in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. “I think this is the largest and most careful study that’s been done on the topic of fever and influenza in autism development,” says Paul Patterson, a developmental neurobiologist at Caltech, who wasn’t part of this study. Researchers at the University of California, Davis identified 538 children with an autism spectrum disorder, 163 others with developmental delays and 421 who were developing without any apparent problems. The children’s mothers provided health information on their pregnancies. After accounting for differences in race, child’s age, insurance, smoking, mother’s education and residence at the time of birth, the scientists found that women who had suffered an uncontrolled fever during pregnancy were roughly twice as likely to have an autistic child as mothers with no untreated fevers. Fever in gestation was also associated with a more than doubled risk of developmental delays, report the researchers, who recently also linked autism risk with obesity in pregnancy (SN: 5/19/12, p. 16). © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 16854 - Posted: 05.31.2012

By Morgen E. Peck Tracking eye movements lets scientists figure out what we pay attention to in a scene. When people blink during such experiments, those few milliseconds are usually discarded as junk data. A new study finds that blinking might reveal important information, too. It turns out that the more we blink, the less focused is our attention. In kids with autism, blink patterns appear to offer clues about how they engage with the world around them. During eye-tracking experiments with toddlers, Warren Jones, a pedia­trician at the Emory University School of Medicine, found that the children were strategic about when they blinked. While watching a recorded scene, the toddlers seemed to inhibit their blink­ing during the moments that sucked them in. “The timing of when we don’t blink seems to relate to how engaged we are with what we’re looking at,” Jones says. He now uses this discovery as a tool to study attention in autistic children. In a paper published last December in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Jones observed differences in the blinking patterns of autistic and develop­mentally normal children. Both groups watched a video that included moments of human emotion and sudden action. Developmentally normal children inhibited their blinking before emo­tional climaxes, as though they were following the narrative and predicting an outcome. Autistic children blinked right through those moments, sug­gesting they were not following the emotional arc of the story, but they responded sharply when an object suddenly moved. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 16848 - Posted: 05.29.2012

By Mariette DiChristina Early behavioral intervention has shown some promise as a way to help children with autism. But it’s difficult to see the hallmarks of autism before two years of age with today’s diagnostic criteria. Could we find other methods? Seeking to answer that question is Jed Elison at the California Institute of Technology, who is working with Ralph Adolphs at Caltech and Joe Piven at the University of North Carolina among other colleagues around the U.S. and Canada. Elison provided some preliminary findings at the Neuromagic 2012 conference held from May 7 to 10, 2012 on San Simón, the Island of Thought, near Vigo, Spain. Today’s criteria, from the psychiatric bible called the DSM-IV, include attributes of social impairments, communication deficits, and repetitive patterns of behavior and restricted interests (either in intensity or content). “There’s a biological reality,” said Elison, “that you can’t capture perfectly with a classification system like this.” Nevertheless, there’s “no question that the classification system serves a very important role in identifying kids who require specialized clinical services” Recognizing the condition early can help. “There’s some evidence that early intervention alleviates” some of the behavioral challenges for these children, he added. Elison and collaborative partners of the Infant Brain Imaging Study Network are recruiting families who have a child with autism and an infant sibling under six months of age. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 16800 - Posted: 05.16.2012

National Institutes of Health researchers have reversed behaviors in mice resembling two of the three core symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). An experimental compound, called GRN-529, increased social interactions and lessened repetitive self-grooming behavior in a strain of mice that normally display such autism-like behaviors, the researchers say. GRN-529 is a member of a class of agents that inhibit activity of a subtype of receptor protein on brain cells for the chemical messenger glutamate, which are being tested in patients with an autism-related syndrome. Although mouse brain findings often don't translate to humans, the fact that these compounds are already in clinical trials for an overlapping condition strengthens the case for relevance, according to the researchers. "Our findings suggest a strategy for developing a single treatment that could target multiple diagnostic symptoms," explained Jacqueline Crawley, Ph.D., of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). "Many cases of autism are caused by mutations in genes that control an ongoing process — the formation and maturation of synapses, the connections between neurons. If defects in these connections are not hard-wired, the core symptoms of autism may be treatable with medications." Crawley, Jill Silverman, Ph.D., and colleagues at NIMH and Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development, Groton, CT, report on their discovery April 25th, 2012 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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: 16715 - Posted: 04.26.2012

By Andrew M. Seaman NEW YORK — Doctors' belief that certain antidepressants can help to treat repetitive behaviors in kids with autism may be based on incomplete information, according to a new review of published and unpublished research. The drugs, which include popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are sometimes used to treat repetitive behaviors in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). "The main issue to emphasize is that SSRIs are perhaps not as effective at treating repetitive behaviors as previously thought. Further research will help confirm these findings in the long run," said Melisa Carrasco, the study's lead author, in an email. For their analysis, Carrasco, a researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and her colleagues examined PubMed and ClinicalTrials.gov for randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trials -- considered the gold standard in medical research -- supporting the use of SSRIs and similar antidepressants in children with autism. Their search yielded 15 trials. Five studies were excluded because they did not meet the researchers' criteria. Another five were listed as completed but never published. © 2012 msnbc.com

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 16695 - Posted: 04.24.2012

By AMY HARMON THE report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that one in 88 American children have an autism spectrum disorder has stoked a debate about why the condition’s prevalence continues to rise. The C.D.C. said it was possible that the increase could be entirely attributed to better detection by teachers and doctors, while holding out the possibility of unknown environmental factors. But the report, released last month, also appears to be serving as a lightning rod for those who question the legitimacy of a diagnosis whose estimated prevalence has nearly doubled since 2007. As one person commenting on The New York Times’s online article about it put it, parents “want an ‘out’ for why little Johnny is a little hard to control.” Or, as another skeptic posted on a different Web site, “Just like how all of a sudden everyone had A.D.H.D. in the ’90s, now everyone has autism.” The diagnosis criteria for autism spectrum disorders were broadened in the 1990s to encompass not just the most severely affected children, who might be intellectually disabled, nonverbal or prone to self-injury, but those with widely varying symptoms and intellectual abilities who shared a fundamental difficulty with social interaction. As a result, the makeup of the autism population has shifted: only about a third of those identified by the C.D.C. as autistic last month had an intellectual disability, compared with about half a decade ago. © 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: 16625 - Posted: 04.09.2012

Obesity during pregnancy may increase chances for having a child with autism, provocative new research suggests. It's among the first studies linking the two, and though it doesn't prove obesity causes autism, the authors say their results raise public health concerns because of the high level of obesity in this country. Study women who were obese during pregnancy were about 67 percent more likely than normal-weight women to have autistic children. They also faced double the risk of having children with other developmental delays. On average, women face a 1 in 88 chance of having a child with autism; the results suggest that obesity during pregnancy would increase that to a 1 in 53 chance, the authors said. The study was being released online Monday in Pediatrics. Since more than one-third of U.S. women of child-bearing age are obese, the results are potentially worrisome and add yet another incentive for maintaining a normal weight, said researcher Paula Krakowiak, a study co-author and scientist at UC Davis. Previous research has linked obesity during pregnancy with stillbirths, preterm births and some birth defects. More research is needed to confirm the results. But if mothers' obesity is truly related to autism, it would be only one of many contributing factors, said Dr. Daniel Coury, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He was not involved in the study. © 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 16624 - Posted: 04.09.2012

For children with autism, it's a confusing world. Trying to communicate with these kids can be a struggle as they often seem to be locked inside their own impenetrable worlds. Therapists who work with autistic children are constantly on the lookout for ways to get them to engage with others. Now, researchers at York University in Toronto are carrying out the first study of a play-based therapy program that has had some remarkable success in drawing some autistic children out of their solitary worlds and into a shared one. In this video, the CBC's Ioanna Roumeliotis offers a moving look inside floortime therapy ... and how it's given one Ontario family new hope for their son. © CBC 2012

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: 16618 - Posted: 04.07.2012

Researchers have turned up a new clue to the workings of a possible environmental factor in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs): fathers were four times more likely than mothers to transmit tiny, spontaneous mutations to their children with the disorders. Moreover, the number of such transmitted genetic glitches increased with paternal age. The discovery may help to explain earlier evidence linking autism risk to older fathers. The results are among several from a trio of new studies, supported in part by the National Institutes of Health, finding that such sequence changes in parts of genes that code for proteins play a significant role in ASDs. One of the studies determined that having such glitches boosts a child’s risk of developing autism five to 20 fold. Taken together, the three studies represent the largest effort of its kind, drawing upon samples from 549 families to maximize statistical power. They reveal sporadic mutations widely distributed across the genome, sometimes conferring risk and sometimes not. While the changes identified don’t account for most cases of illness, they are providing clues to the biology of what are likely multiple syndromes along the autism spectrum. All three teams sequenced the protein coding parts of genes in parents and an affected child – mostly in families with only one member touched by autism. One study also included comparisons with healthy siblings. Although these protein-coding areas represent only about 1.5 percent of the genome, they harbor 85 percent of disease-causing mutations. This strategy optimized the odds for detecting the few spontaneous errors in genetic transmission that confer autism risk from the “background noise” generated by the many more benign mutations.

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: 16610 - Posted: 04.05.2012