Links for Keyword: Autism

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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

Sara Reardon Mothers with high levels of the pesticide DDT in their blood during pregnancy are more likely to bear children who develop autism, according to a study of blood samples from more than one million pregnant women in Finland. The World Health Organization estimates that globally, one in 160 children has autism. Any case of autism is likely due to a number of factors, including genetics and other environmental exposures. Although the authors stress that the findings do not prove that autism is caused by DDT — whose use has been banned in many countries for decades over concerns about its effects on wildlife— it is the first such association using a direct measure of exposure to the pesticide. Researchers who investigate links between environment and disease say that further studies are needed to determine the mechanism, if any, by which DDT exposure could trigger autism. The study, published on 16 August in the American Journal of Psychiatry1, also examined mothers’ exposure to another set of chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and found no association between these substances and autism. That finding deepens questions about whether or how DDT might be linked to autism. © 2018 Springer Nature Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25346 - Posted: 08.17.2018

by Lindsey Bever New research has shown that a common childhood vaccination given to pregnant women does not put their children at any increased risk of autism. A Kaiser Permanente study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics found no association between the prenatal Tdap (for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, also known as whooping cough) vaccine and autism spectrum disorder when looking at tens of thousands of children in the hospital system. It is the latest in a long line of studies showing that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Despite the abundant scientific evidence, a persistent conspiracy theory has misled some parents into fearing vaccines. “If any woman had any hesitancy, she can be reassured,” Tracy Becerra-Culqui, lead author and postdoctoral research fellow with Kaiser Permanente Southern California's department of research and evaluation, told The Washington Post. When not vaccinated, she said, “the risk of getting whooping cough is greater than any perceived risk of harm to the baby, so it should be a no-brainer to accept the vaccine.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives encourage expectant mothers to get the Tdap vaccine in the third trimester of pregnancy to protect babies from bacterial infections that can be fatal for infants. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

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: 25332 - Posted: 08.15.2018

By Jessica Wright, Boosting levels of the chemical messenger serotonin makes mice that model autism more social, according to a study published in Nature. The study suggests the approach may do the same in people with autism. It also offers an explanation for why antidepressants do not ease autism traits: They may increase serotonin levels too slowly to be effective. The researchers used a technique that rapidly increases serotonin levels in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region that mediates social reward. “Somehow, the release of serotonin in the nucleus accumbens really plays an important role in enhancing sociability,” says lead researcher Robert Malenka, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University in California. “The simple hypothesis is it makes the social interaction more reinforcing.” Decades of research have suggested a connection between serotonin and autism. About 10 years ago, this led researchers to test antidepressants, which increase serotonin levels by blocking its reabsorption into neurons, as a treatment for autism. However, in several trials, antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac) proved ineffective at easing the condition’s features. The new study suggests that a drug that rapidly activates serotonin receptors would be a more effective way of treating the condition. © 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: 25323 - Posted: 08.13.2018

Maria Temming Google Glass may have failed as a high-tech fashion trend, but it’s showing promise as a tool to help children with autism better navigate social situations. A new smartphone app that pairs with a Google Glass headset uses facial recognition software to give the wearer real-time updates on which emotions people are expressing. In a pilot trial, described online August 2 in npj Digital Medicine, 14 children with autism spectrum disorder used this program at home for an average of just over 10 weeks. After treatment, the kids showed improved social skills, including increased eye contact and ability to decode facial expressions. After her 9-year-old son, Alex, participated in the study, Donji Cullenbine described the Google Glass therapy as “remarkable.” She noticed within a few weeks that Alex was meeting her eyes more often — a behavior change that’s stuck since treatment ended, she says. And Alex enjoyed using the Google Glass app. Cullenbine recalls her son telling her excitedly, “Mommy, I can read minds.” Unlike most children, who naturally learn to read facial expressions by interacting with family and friends, children with autism often have to hone these skills through behavioral therapy. That typically involves a therapist leading the child through structured activities, like exercises with flash cards that depict faces wearing different expressions. But therapists are so few and far between that a child diagnosed with autism can spend 18 months on a waiting list before starting treatment. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 25283 - Posted: 08.02.2018

By Ceylan Yeginsu LONDON — Dim the lights. Silence the piped-in music. Turn down the checkout beeps. For an hour on Saturdays, a British supermarket chain is introducing a weekly “quieter hour” aimed at helping people with autism have a better shopping experience by easing sensory overload. The move by the supermarket, Morrisons, which begins on Saturday and runs from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., has been welcomed by the National Autistic Society, which says that even small changes can make a big difference in the lives of people with autism and their families. “Around 700,000 people are on the autism spectrum in the U.K.,” Tom Purser, of the National Autistic Society, said in an email. “This means they see, hear and feel the world differently to other people, often in a more intense way, which can make shopping a real struggle.” Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people communicate and relate to others and how they experience the world around them. More than 60 percent of people with autism avoid shops, and 79 percent say they feel socially isolated, according to figures published by the society. Morrisons’s effort is part of the National Autistic Society’s “Too Much Information” campaign: Last year, more than 5,000 retailers across Britain participated in “Autism Hour.” The society hopes to expand the initiative. Morrisons, the fourth-largest supermarket chain in Britain, said in a statement on its website, “Listening to customers, we found that one in five had a friend or family member with autism and many liked the idea of being able to shop in more comfort at 9-10 a.m. on a Saturday.” In the statement, Angela Gray, part of a community group that builds ties with the supermarket, is quoted as saying: “I was involved in the initial trial as my son is autistic, and we found that these changes made a real difference. The trial showed there is a need for a quieter shopping experience for some customers.” © 2018 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: 25230 - Posted: 07.20.2018

By Vikram K. Jaswal and Nameera Akhtar One of the most widely held beliefs about autistic people — that they are not interested in other people — is almost certainly wrong. Our understanding of autism has changed quite a bit over the past century, but this particular belief has been remarkably persistent. Seventy-five years ago, the first published account of autism described its subjects as “happiest when left alone” and “impervious to people.” Even now, a National Institutes of Health fact sheet suggests that autistic people are “indifferent to social engagement,” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that some “might not be interested in other people at all.” There is no question that autistic people can seem as though they are not interested in others. They may not make eye contact or they may repeat lines from movies that don’t seem relevant in the moment. They may flap their hands or rock their bodies in ways that other people find off-putting. But just because someone appears socially uninterested does not mean that he or she is. As we point out in a paper published last month in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, many autistic people say they are very interested in, and in some cases desperate for, social connection. They experience loneliness, say they want friends and even prefer two-player games to one-player games. As the autistic author Naoki Higashida writes, “I can’t believe that anyone born as a human being really wants to be left all on their own, not really,” adding, “The truth is, we’d love to be with other people.” So why do autistic people act in ways that make it appear they want to be left alone? Autism is a neurological condition that affects how people perceive, think and move. Autistic people say that some of their apparently unsociable behaviors result from these neurological characteristics. Paradoxically, they may behave in these ways when they are trying to engage with other people. © 2018 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: 25209 - Posted: 07.16.2018

Tina Hesman Saey MADISON, Wis. — Giving children with autism a healthier mix of gut bacteria as a way to improve behavioral symptoms continued to work even two years after treatment ended. The finding may solidify the connection between tummy troubles and autism, and provide more evidence that the gut microbiome — the collection of bacteria and other microbes that live in the intestines — can influence behavior. “It’s a long way from saying there’s a cure for autism,” says Michael Hylin, a neuroscientist at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale who was not involved in the work. “But I think it’s a promising approach. It’s one that’s worthwhile.” Children with autism spectrum disorders often have gastrointestinal problems. In previous studies, environmental engineer Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown of Arizona State University in Tempe and colleagues discovered that children with autism had fewer types of bacteria living in their guts than typically developing children did. And many of the kids were missing Prevotella bacteria, which may help regulate immune system actions. The researchers wondered whether altering the children’s cocktail of gut microbes to get a more diverse and healthier mix might help fix both the digestive issues and the behavioral symptoms associated with autism. In a small study of 18 children and teenagers with autism, the scientists gave kids fecal transplants from healthy donors over eight weeks. During and two months after the treatment, the kids had fewer gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and indigestion than before the therapy. Autism symptoms, such as hyperactivity, repetitive actions and irritability, also improved and seemed to be getting even better at the end of the trial than immediately after treatment ended, the team reported last year in Microbiome. But no one knew whether the improvements would last. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018.

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: 25202 - Posted: 07.13.2018

By Rachel Zamzow, The brains of children with autism fold differently than those of their typical peers, two new studies suggest. But whether they are unusually smooth or convoluted depends on location and age. Certain regions of the brain’s outer layer, the cerebral cortex, are more intricately folded in school-age children and adolescents with autism than they are in controls, according to one of the studies. In young people, this folding difference may be the most obvious structural feature of the autism brain, says Ralph-Axel Müller, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, who led the study. Their brains don’t tend to show overall differences in brain volume or surface area, for example. “It seems like [brain folding] is actually a rather sensitive anatomical metric,” he says. By contrast, preschoolers with autism do not show exaggerated folding unless they have enlarged brains, according to a second study. And one brain region is atypically smooth in preschoolers with autism. Together, the studies add to evidence that folding follows a different developmental path in autism brains than in controls. “That is fascinating,” says Greg Wallace, assistant professor of speech, language and hearing sciences at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in either study. “Having autism is going to affect developmental trajectories of all kinds of things, including cortical structure,” he says. © 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: 25190 - Posted: 07.10.2018

By Hannah Furfaro, It was a sunny California afternoon in January 2015 when Dennis Wall received an unexpected gift: ‘smart glasses’ made by Google that had failed to live up to their hype in the press. An employee from the company pulled up to Wall’s lab at Stanford University in a sleek gray Tesla, popped open the sedan’s trunk and unloaded a brown cardboard box with long, dangling cords. It was a scene straight out of the television comedy “Silicon Valley,” which satirizes the absurdity of the tech world. Wall’s ambition for the Google Glass, however, is dead earnest: He aims to help people with autism interpret others’ emotions. Many people with autism have trouble understanding social cues and emotions, and this can greatly limit how they fare in the world. Wall developed an algorithm that relies on artificial intelligence. His plan was to incorporate the algorithm into the glasses, so that someone wearing the glasses would see a tiny emoticon that matches the expression on the face of another person. The algorithm was all set to go, and Wall had been waiting for the glasses to test his idea. “It was lifesaving for us because we were desperate to get started,” he recalls. © 2018 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 25166 - Posted: 07.02.2018

By Seth Mnookin In February 1981, a British psychiatrist named Lorna Wing published an academic paper highlighting a 1944 clinical account of “autistic psychopathy” by a recently deceased Austrian physician named Hans Asperger. It wasn’t an obvious piece of work to single out: As Wing acknowledged, Asperger’s study had received almost no attention from English-language researchers in the decades since publication. That was about to change. Wing argued that the disorder that Asperger had described was a unique syndrome, distinct from autism, and should be considered as one of “a wider group of conditions which have, in common, impairment of development of social interaction, communication and imagination.” Wing, whose daughter had been diagnosed with autism in the 1950s, understood from her own experience that this was a disorder with multiple gradations, which affected people across the full spectrum of intellectual abilities. But this was a radical notion: At the time, one of the dominant paradigms for understanding autism was that the condition was caused by “refrigerator mothers” — emotionally frigid women who were not warm enough to nurture developing children. It’s impossible to know why Wing chose to ground her report in Asperger’s rather flimsy research — his paper, after all, had referenced just four patients — rather than relying solely on her own, significantly more impressive work. (It is worth pointing out that then, as now, virtually all eponymous psychiatric conditions were named after men.) Whatever her motivation, Wing’s efforts were successful: “Asperger’s syndrome,” the term she proposed, soon entered the clinical vernacular. By the 1990s, it was recognized around the world as an accepted diagnosis — and autism was no longer viewed as a singular condition. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25140 - Posted: 06.26.2018

By Sarah DeWeerdt, The Research on Autism and Development (RAD) Laboratory is located in a Tetris-like maze of brown wooden buildings, not far from the main campus of the University of California, San Diego. The lab itself is a nondescript warren of small beige rooms. But everything else about it is extraordinary. The first clue is a T-shirt one of the lab’s young interns wears on this sunny day in April, featuring the RAD Lab’s motto: “We play mind games.” One of the newer recruits, 20-year-old Naseem Baramki-Azar, sports a “Super Mario Bros.” shirt. A half-dozen other lab members huddle around computer screens displaying none of the usual fare of charts or spreadsheets: Instead, they’re hard at work making cartoon moles pop out of molehills, or fat spaceships careen toward the top of a computer screen. The lab’s director, Jeanne Townsend, and associate director, Leanne Chukoskie, periodically poke their heads in to check on the progress. The two women, a generation apart, are a study in contrasts. Townsend is reserved, with dark-framed square glasses; Chukoskie is a fast-talker with a California blond ponytail. But they finish each other’s sentences when they talk about their quest: to develop video games that can help children with autism. The project has stretched the two neuroscientists in unfamiliar directions. “I find myself doing a lot of computer science these days,” Chukoskie says. They are also fledgling entrepreneurs. Last year, they launched a startup, BrainLeap Technologies, also based in San Diego. That step, Chukoskie says, filled her with a mix of unenthusiastic “eh” and dread-filled “ugh.” Despite their discomfort, these two scientists are part of a growing cadre braving video-game development in search of novel therapies for autism. © 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: 25132 - Posted: 06.23.2018

By Jessica Wright, Spectrum o Young people with autism have more psychiatric and medical conditions than do their typical peers or those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new study suggests. The early onset of these problems suggests they do not stem solely from a lifetime of poor healthcare, says lead researcher Lisa Croen, director of the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente, a managed healthcare provider based in California. “One possible explanation is that there’s something physiologic or genetic that’s underlying not only what falls into the definition of autism, but also physical health and, more broadly, mental health,” she says. Some of the problems in young people with autism, such as obesity, may be related to poor diet, medication use and limited physical activity, says Alice Kuo, associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study. Several studies have documented the co-occurrence of psychiatric and medical conditions in people with autism. Croen’s team published a similar analysis in 2015 of adults with autism aged 18 to 74. (The oldest control was 92.) © 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: 25100 - Posted: 06.18.2018