Links for Keyword: Autism

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Jessica Wright Sequencing can identify mutations linked to autism even before a child’s birth—especially in cases where doctors suspect problems, two new studies suggest. In the studies, scientists sequenced fetal DNA only when ultrasounds revealed atypical development of limbs or other organs, and they gave families only the results that seemed to explain those problems But there is a real risk that others might use the technique to test for mutations in any fetus—and to relay all the results to parents—without proper oversight, says Ronald Wapner, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Columbia Institute for Genomic Medicine, who led one of the studies. “Not everybody should be doing this; it should be in the hands of people that have expertise,” he says. Other types of analyses already detect mutations in a fetus: Some detect large DNA segments that are swapped between chromosomes, and others can pick up on missing or duplicated copies of DNA fragments. The new studies are among the first to scan for mutations across the fetal exome—essentially, the collection of genes in a genome. The field is fraught with ethical questions, including whether parents might choose to terminate a pregnancy based on the results. But the researchers note that most of the mutations they found pose serious health risks, which could be treated at birth or in utero. © 1986 - 2019 The Scientist

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 26168 - Posted: 04.24.2019

By Perri Klass, M.D. Every pediatrician knows that it’s important to diagnose autism when a child is as young as possible, because when younger children get help and intensive therapy, their developmental outcomes improve, as measured in everything from improved language, cognition and social skills to normalized brain activity. “The signs and symptoms for most children are there between 12 and 24 months,” said Dr. Paul S. Carbone, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah and a co-author of “Autism Spectrum Disorder: What Every Parent Needs to Know,” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. “If we can get them in for evaluation by then, the therapies are available as young as those ages, you can easily start by 2,” he said. “We’d like to give kids the benefit of getting started early.” That means taking parents seriously when they bring up concerns about what they regard as strange behaviors and interactions on the part of babies and toddlers, and it also means that we try to screen all our patients, often with a checklist for parents to complete, like the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, or M-CHAT. Children whose scores indicate a concern are then supposed to be referred on for a full developmental assessment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website lists developmental milestones to look for; missing them may be an early sign of autism. So we all know this is important. We also know that we are not, collectively, doing a very good job of screening all children, that the questionnaires often over-identify children who don’t actually need full assessments, and that the referral process can be plagued with long waits (and when a young child has to wait months for the assessment, that works against the benefit of early diagnosis). Children in minority groups are diagnosed at an older average age than white children, and therefore get therapy later, contributing to increased disparities. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26160 - Posted: 04.22.2019

By Tiffany Hsu Amazon has removed the online listings for two books that claim to contain cures for autism, a move that follows recent efforts by several social media sites to limit the availability of anti-vaccination and other pseudoscientific material. The books, “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” and “Fight Autism and Win,” which had previously been listed for sale in Amazon’s marketplace, were not available on Wednesday. The company confirmed that the listings had been removed, but declined to discuss why or whether similar books would be taken down in the future. Several such books were still listed on Wednesday. In an article published this week, Wired magazine noted that Amazon is crowded with titles promoting unproven treatments for autism that include “sex, yoga, camel milk, electroconvulsive therapy and veganism.” There is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, but there are medications that can help address associated symptoms like high energy levels and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency has found that as many as a third of parents with an autistic child have tried treatments that most pediatricians do not recommend, and that up to 10 percent may be using potentially dangerous tactics. The books that were listed on Amazon were both written more than five years ago and have together generated more than 600 customer reviews. “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” recommends that autistic children drink and bathe in chlorine dioxide, a compound often referred to as “Miracle Mineral Solution.” In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration described it as “a potent bleach used for stripping textiles and industrial water treatment” that “can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.” Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, wrote an open letter this month to Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, chiding the company about the failure of its algorithms to “distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 26033 - Posted: 03.14.2019

By Frank Bruni How many studies do you have to throw at the vaccine hysterics before they quit? How much of a scientific consensus, how many unimpeachable experts and how exquisitely rational an argument must you present? That’s a trick question, of course. There’s no magic number. There’s no number, period. And that’s because the anti-vaccine crowd (or anti-vaxxers) aren’t trafficking in anything as concrete, mundane and quaint as facts. They’re not really engaged in a debate about medicine. They’re immersed in a world of conspiracies, in the dark shadows where no data can be trusted, nothing is what it seems and those who buy the party line are pitiable sheep. And, boy, are they living at the right time, when so much information and misinformation swirl by so quickly that it’s easy to confuse the two and even easier to grab hold and convince yourself of whatever it is you prefer to believe. With Google searches, you find the ostensible proof you seek. On social media, you bask in all the affirmation you could possibly want. The parents who are worried or sure about grave risks from vaccines reflect a broader horror that has flickered or flared in everything from the birther movement to “Pizzagate,” that nonsense about children as Democratic sex slaves in the imagined basement of a Washington pizza joint. Their recklessness and the attendant re-emergence of measles aren’t just a public health crisis. They’re a public sanity one, emblematic of too many people’s willful disregard of evidence, proud suspicion of expertise and estrangement from reason. Again and again, until blue in the face, medical authorities have debunked the renegade assertion that there’s a link between the M.M.R. vaccine, so named because it inoculates against measles, mumps and rubella, and autism. On Tuesday, a group of Danish researchers who looked at more than 650,000 children over 10 years announced that they had found no such association. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26025 - Posted: 03.11.2019

Rob Stein There's strong new evidence that a common childhood vaccine is safe. A large study released Monday finds no evidence that the vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella increases the risk of autism. The study of children born in Denmark is one of the largest ever of the MMR vaccine. "The study strongly supports that MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism," the authors write in the Annals of Internal Medicine. "We believe our results offer reassurance and provide reliable data." The study's first author, epidemiologist Anders Hviid of the Staten Serum Institute in Copenhagen, added in an email: "MMR does not cause autism." In the study, researchers analyzed data collected from all children born in Denmark to Danish-born mothers between 1999 and 2010. Among the 657,461 children included in the analysis, 6,517 were diagnosed with autism over the next decade. But there was no overall increased risk for the developmental disorder among those who received the MMR vaccine when compared with those who had not gotten the vaccine, the researchers found. The researchers also found no increased risk among subgroups of children who might be unusually susceptible to autism, such as those with a brother or sister with the disorder. © 2019 npr

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26009 - Posted: 03.06.2019

By Daisy Yuhas, Spectrum Steve Slavin was 48 years old when a visit to a psychologist’s office sent him down an unexpected path. At the time, he was a father of two with a career in the music industry, composing scores for advertisements and chart toppers. But he was having a difficult year. He had fewer clients than usual, his mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and he was battling anxiety and depression, leading him to shutter his recording studio. Slavin’s anxiety—which often manifested as negative thoughts and routines characteristic of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)—was nothing new. As a child, he had often felt compelled to swallow an even number of times before entering a room, or to swallow and count—one foot in the air—to four, six or eight before stepping on a paving stone. As an adult, he frequently became distressed in crowds, and he washed his hands over and over to avoid being contaminated by other people’s germs or personalities. His depression, too, was familiar—and had caused him to withdraw from friends and colleagues. This time, as Slavin’s depression and anxiety worsened, his doctor referred him to a psychologist. “I had had an appointment booked for weeks and weeks and months,” he recalls. But about 10 minutes into his first session, the psychologist suddenly changed course: Instead of continuing to ask him about his childhood or existing mental-health issues, she wanted to know whether anyone had ever talked to him about autism.

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 25996 - Posted: 03.01.2019

Sarah DeWeerdt An analysis of four mouse models negates certain assumptions underlying the “signaling imbalance theory,” a popular hypothesis about autism’s origins in the brain. The findings suggest that the imbalance is a compensatory response to other problems in the brain, rather than the underlying cause of autism. The signaling imbalance theory holds that the brains of autistic people have too much excitatory brain activity and not enough inhibitory signals to counteract it. This imbalance then causes neurons to fire too often, the theory goes, and contributes to motor problems, sensory hypersensitivity and other autism traits. This hypothesis, first suggested in 2003, is so popular that it is often cited as fact. The new study questions its underlying assumptions, however. The researchers did find a skewed signaling balance but not the unusually high rate of neuronal firing, or “spikes.” “It’s not as straightforward as the classic hypothesis is worded,” says study leader Dan Feldman, professor of neurobiology at the University of California, Berkeley. “The [signals] are changing in a way that stabilizes brain function rather than creates excess spikes.” Feldman’s team found this pattern in four popular models of autism: mice lacking the genes CNTNAP2 or FMR1, or missing one copy of TSC2 or a region of chromosome 16 called 16p11.2. © 1986 - 2019 The Scientist

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 8: General Principles of Sensory Processing, Touch, and Pain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 25992 - Posted: 02.28.2019

Rachel Zamzow Patterns of brain activity in people with autism are unusually consistent over seconds—and even years, two new studies suggest. One study shows that patterns of connectivity remain stable in autistic adolescents, whereas they tend to change and specialize in controls. The other study found that connections remain fixed longer in people with autism than in controls. Both focused on so-called “functional connectivity,” the extent to which the activity of pairs of brain areas is synchronized. Together, the studies may help untangle seemingly contradictory findings on connectivity in autism: reports of both underconnectivity and overconnectivity in the brain. “Maybe the primary abnormality isn’t just that things are too weakly or strongly connected, that it has more to do with the timing of brain connections,” says Jeff Anderson, professor of radiology at the University of Utah, who led the second study. The studies also highlight the importance of measuring brain activity over varying time periods and at different ages. Researchers who home in on a single age may overlook differences that appear over time, says Mirella Dapretto, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lead researcher on the adolescent study. “You miss some of the bigger picture.” Studying brain activity over time provides a rare window into the development of connectivity. © 1986 - 2019 The Scientist

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 25879 - Posted: 01.19.2019

Laura Sanders Young nerve cells derived from people with autism are precocious, growing bigger and developing sooner than cells taken from people without autism, a new study shows. The results, described January 7 in Nature Neuroscience, hint that in some cases nerve cells veer off course early in brain development to ultimately cause the disorder. As a proxy of brain growth, researchers led by Simon Schafer of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., transformed skin cells from people with and without autism into stem cells that then developed into nerve cells in the lab. Along the way, the scientists monitored the cells’ growth and the behavior of their genes. Compared with cells derived from five people without autism, cells from eight people with autism grew bigger, with longer and more elaborate branches, the researchers found. Three-dimensional balls called organoids made of the autism-derived cells were bulkier, too. In addition to this physical development, a group of genes important for brain development switched on sooner. Trouble in the autism-derived cells, however, actually began a bit earlier, just as the cells were on the cusp of becoming nerve cells. At the neural stem cell stage, certain spots of these cells’ chromatin — tightly packed genetic material — were more open and accessible than they should have been, an unfolding that can lead to abnormally active genes. The results show that open chromatin “can have major effects on neuronal development,” says neuroscientist David Amaral of the University of California, Davis. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 25856 - Posted: 01.11.2019

By Lina Zeldovich, It was 1924 when the 12-year-old boy was brought to the Moscow clinic for an evaluation. By all accounts, he was different from his peers. Other people did not interest him much, and he preferred the company of adults to that of children his own age. He never played with toys: He had taught himself to read by age 5 and spent his days reading everything he could instead. Thin and slouching, the boy moved slowly and awkwardly. He also suffered from anxiety and frequent stomachaches. At the clinic, a gifted young doctor, Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva, saw the boy. Caring and attentive, she observed him with a keen eye, noting that he was “highly intelligent” and liked to engage in philosophical discussions. By way of a diagnosis, she described him as “an introverted type, with an autistic proclivity into himself.” ‘Autistic’ was a relatively new adjective in psychiatry at the time. About a decade earlier, Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler had coined the term to describe the social withdrawal and detachment from reality often seen in children with schizophrenia. Sukhareva’s characterization came nearly two decades before Austrian doctors Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger published what have long been considered to be the first clinical accounts of autism. At first, Sukhareva used ‘autistic’ in the same way Bleuler did—but as she started to see other children with this trait, she decided to try to characterize it more fully. Over the course of the following year, she identified five more boys with what she described as “autistic tendencies.” All five also showed a preference for their own inner world, yet each had his own peculiarities or talents. One was an extraordinarily gifted violinist but struggled socially; another had an exceptional memory for numbers but could not recognize faces; yet another had imaginary friends who lived in the fireplace. None were popular with other children, she noted, and some saw peer interaction as useless: “They are too loud,” one boy said. “They hinder my thinking.” © 2018 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 25668 - Posted: 11.12.2018

By Alycia Halladay Click-worthy health and science headlines are an essential currency in today’s media world. When they pertain to autism, they might include phrases like “groundbreaking trial,” “offer hope” or “game-changer.” But for people with autism and their families, these headlines and the research news stories they highlight often bring false hope, confusion—or worse. There is something about autism, a disorder that remains widely misunderstood, that seems to encourage the promulgation of news coverage about potential “breakthroughs” and unorthodox treatment approaches. A nearly constant stream of headlines touts promising new findings that supposedly help explain the origins of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), improve our understanding of its key features or reveal novel ways to treat the symptoms. This attention is a mixed blessing. It can encourage talented scientists to design research to better understand autism. It also generates support for advocacy efforts and research funding, and I have seen it motivate people to participate in research studies. However, there is a dark side to this almost insatiable interest in autism science news: it has created an environment that encourages media hype of early, preliminary findings, with headlines that are tantalizing but not always accurate. The hype machine also too often promotes mediocre or even bad science, which ultimately puts people with autism at risk. © 2018 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 25635 - Posted: 11.02.2018

By George Musser, The forest is still—until, out of the corner of my eye, I notice a butterfly flutter into view. At first it is barely perceptible, but as I watch the butterfly more intently, the trees around it darken and the insect grows brighter. The more I marvel at it, the more marvelous it becomes, making it impossible for me to look away. Before long the entire forest recedes, and the butterfly explodes into a red starburst, like a fireworks display. Everything goes dark. Then, dozens of white dots swarm around me. On my left, they are just dots. On my right, they leave long trails of spaghetti-like light. The contrast makes me acutely conscious that the present is never experienced as a mathematical instant; it has some duration, and the perception of that can vary with context. The sensation evaporates as soon as I take off my headset. This immersive virtual-reality (VR) experience was a preliminary look at Beholder, an art installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in September that sought to recreate how autistic people perceive the world. It is now on display at the gallery that commissioned it, Birmingham Open Media. The project’s creator, Matt Clark, has a severely autistic 15-year-old son, Oliver. “He can’t talk; his behaviors are extremely challenging,” says Clark, creative director of United Visual Artists, an art and design group based in London. Clark built Beholder so he and others could see the world through his son’s eyes. He collaborated with artists who either are on the spectrum or have family members who are. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 25621 - Posted: 10.27.2018

By Elizabeth Pennisi One of biology’s enduring mysteries is how some animals—from humans to honey bees—became so social. Now, a study suggests that, in the inconspicuous sweat bee, changes to the expression of a single gene could determine which bees are solitary and which are social. The gene, which has previously been linked to autism in humans, has also been connected to social behavior in animals like mice and locusts. The new discovery puts scientists one step closer toward demonstrating a common evolutionary basis for social behavior. “People have been taking about the genetics of sociality for years,” says Bernard Crespi, an evolutionary biologist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, who was not involved with the work. “Finding this gene is a real watershed for the field.” Sweat bees don’t have the same massive colonies as honey bees, whose hundreds of workers care for and protect a single egg-laying queen. But the tiny, gentle bees have some interesting social arrangements: In some groups and species, workers help a reproducing queen, as honey bees do; in other groups, sweat bee females tend their own broods. This difference has led scientists to think sweat bees may hold the key to understanding how more complex insect societies began to evolve. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 25592 - Posted: 10.18.2018

Laura Sanders WASHINGTON — As the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder increases, so too has research on the complex and poorly understood disorder. With powerful genetic tools, advanced brain-imaging methods and large groups of children to study, the field is poised to make big contributions in understanding — and potentially treating — autism. Neuroscientist Kevin Pelphrey, who is formerly of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., but has recently moved to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, studies autism’s beginnings. He described some of his findings about the link between brain development and the disorder on October 15 at a meeting of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Here are some of the key points Pelphrey made on how autism may get its start in the developing brain, how the disorder is different between boys and girls, and how large, long-term studies of children with autism might yield clues about the condition. What causes autism spectrum disorder? For most cases, no one knows. There’s likely no single cause — environmental and genetic risk factors work in combination. In some children, rare mutations in key genes have been linked to the disorder. More commonly, many genetic changes, each with a small influence on overall risk, may increase a child’s likelihood of developing the disorder. With the number of autism diagnoses growing, partly due to better detection, researchers are looking at potential factors beyond genetics, such as parents’ age, premature birth and maternal obesity. When does the disorder begin? |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 20

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 25584 - Posted: 10.17.2018

By Jessica Wright Among the many things a woman is supposed to avoid when pregnant are antidepressants, particularly a subtype of the drugs that some studies have linked to an increased risk of autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Yet the evidence linking antidepressants to autism is thin. And untreated depression is dangerous for a mother and her child. Here we explain what scientists know about the link between antidepressants and autism. Does taking antidepressants during pregnancy increase the odds that your child will have autism? Maybe, but even if so, the risk is small. Several studies have looked at the health records of thousands of women for any boost in autism rates among the children of those who took antidepressants while pregnant. Some of these studies found up to a doubling of the odds of the women having a child with autism. However, because the initial risk of autism is small, this increase still adds up to a low absolute risk. More important, women who take antidepressants may have other traits that are responsible for the increased rates of autism in their children. Many studies that control for these traits conclude that there is no risk from the antidepressants themselves. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25580 - Posted: 10.16.2018

Ashley P. Taylor Researchers have long believed that autism spectrum disorder is caused by some sort of imbalance between excitation and inhibition in the brain. In particular, studies have suggested that something is unusual about signaling controlled by the inhibitory neurotransmitter, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), whether it be lower levels of GABA or the receptor it binds to. But a study published last week (October 3) in Science Translational Medicine, which zeroed in on GABA receptor levels, finds no evidence that their abundance is any different between people with autism and people without. “We were unable to identify that individuals with autism had differences in GABAA receptor binding,” says Declan Murphy, a psychiatrist who studies brain development and neuropsychiatric disorders at King’s College London, who co-led the work with the Karolinska Institute’s Jacqueline Borg. “That’s important because it had previously been reported that they do have abnormalities in GABAA receptor binding, number one, and number two, it’s important because GABAA is a target of a number of pharmaceutical companies in terms of developing new treatments,” Murphy adds. GABAA is the most common form of the neurotransmitter in human brains, and since the early 2000s, reports have been piling up that associate deficits in the production of GABA or in GABA receptors to autism. For instance, studies in postmortem brains of people who had autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and of neurotypical subjects, led by Gene Blatt, a neuroscientist at the Hussman Institute for Autism in Baltimore, had found that people who had ASD had lower levels of the enzyme that makes GABA. Blatt’s investigations also found that people with ASD had lower GABAA receptor levels in the cingulate cortex and hippocampus. And an in vivo study by another group had detected reduced GABAA levels in the brains of children with ASD. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 25579 - Posted: 10.16.2018

Sukanya Charuchandra More and more children around the world are being born to obese mothers than ever before. In the United States, 23.4 percent of women are obese before they become pregnant—a number that represents a growing phenomenon. From 1994 to 2014, the rate of women who were obese prior to pregnancy in the country shot up 86 percent, according to a nationwide nutrition program registry. The increasingly common condition has been associated with children being born obese as well as showing a greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cognitive and behavioral difficulties, and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Incidentally, a growing numbers of children are being diagnosed with mental disorders, with up to one in five children in the US experiencing conditions that challenge their mental health in any single year. This summer alone, multiple studies have found that different facets of moms’ metabolic health and weight are linked with a greater risk for children being diagnosed with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and mild neurodevelopmental problems. In June, Thomas Buchanan of the University of Southern Carolina and his colleagues reported how expectant mothers’ diabetes—experienced by one in 16 pregnant women in the US—is tied to a baby’s chances developing autism. The researchers found a clear divide: Mothers with a diabetes diagnosis by their 26th week of pregnancy gave birth to children with a higher likelihood of being on the autism spectrum compared to mothers with no diabetes or who received a diagnosis after their 26th week. “There appeared to be not a technical dose-response relationship, but a relationship in severity, according to the severity and timing of the diabetes: the more severe and earlier, the more the risk of autism,” Buchanan tells The Scientist. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 25522 - Posted: 10.03.2018

By Ingrid Wickelgren It’s 7 p.m. on a Friday and Rebecca "Becky" Audette is already in bed, tucked under a polka-dotted lavender comforter. Dark purple velour curtains with butterfly ties hang over the lavender walls of her bedroom. Purple has been Becky’s favorite color since she was a toddler, before she was diagnosed with autism at age 7. Now, the young woman functions at about the level of a 4-year-old. “Am I going to bed? I want to go to bed,” she insists. Becky lives with her mother, Pamela Peirce; brother, Jason Audette; and Jason’s wife in a gray-and-white colonial-style house that was Peirce’s childhood home in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. When Peirce was a child, her extended family owned five houses along this quarter-mile stretch of road, dirt back then. Peirce and her grown children are the last of the clan to occupy the street. It’s paved now, but the house still sports features of an earlier time: two-pronged electrical outlets, a VCR, inherited furniture. It also offers a hopeful vision of the future. Becky bears the markings of an invasive, high-tech treatment under her purple plaid pajamas: two linear scars, each about 3 inches long, over her clavicle, and two circular bulges protruding ever so slightly from her chest. Beneath these marks lies the power source for an implant that stimulates key parts of her brain. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 25454 - Posted: 09.15.2018

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent Hundreds of thousands of girls and women with autism are going undiagnosed due to it being viewed as a “male condition”, according to one of the UK’s leading neuroscientists. Prof Francesca Happé, director of the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London, warned that the failure to recognise autism in girls and women was taking a stark toll on their mental health. “We’ve overlooked autism in women and girls and I think there’s a real gender equality issue here,” she said. “I think we are missing large numbers and misdiagnosing them too.” Until recently, autism without intellectual impairments, sometimes called Asperger syndrome, was thought to predominantly affect boys and men, at a ratio of 10 to every one woman. However, there is growing evidence that the number of girls and women with the condition may have been vastly underestimated. Recent research, based on active screening rather than clinical or school records, found a ratio of 3:1. Happé and others believe this could fall further – potentially to as low as 2:1 – as diagnostic processes become better tailored to identifying autism in girls and women. Due to early assumptions about autism mostly affecting men, studies have often recruited male-only cohorts. Male participants in brain imaging studies on autism outnumber females by eight to one, and in earlier research the bias was even more pronounced. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 25453 - Posted: 09.15.2018

By Frankie Schembri For many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), recognizing and responding to eye contact, body language, and tone of voice is a major challenge. Improving those social skills can take lots of work—putting a strain on caregivers with limited time, resources, and money for therapy. Now, a study shows that just 30 days with an in-home robot that provides social feedback can dramatically improve a child’s interactions with others. Researchers have long known that robots—and games with automated feedback—can change the behavior of children with autism, at least in the short term. Such interactions have been shown to help children pick up on social cues, such as making sustained eye contact, that they might have missed from their caregivers. But translating these new skills into better person-to-person interactions may require longer and more intensive training, and few studies have been large enough—or long enough—to show significant, long-lasting improvements. So Brian Scassellati, a robotics expert and cognitive scientist at Yale University, put together an experiment that gave children a long-term relationship with their bots, one they could share with their families. His team provided 12 families with a tablet computer loaded with social games and a modified version of a commercially sold robot called Jibo, which was programmed to follow along with the games and provide feedback. “As a roboticist, that was one of the most frightening things in the world. Leaving the robots there and hoping they would do the things we’d programmed them to do,” Scassellati says. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 25368 - Posted: 08.23.2018