Research News

Scroll through recent research or click the category icon to the right of each title for similar research summaries. If you would like more background context on a particular piece of research, please click the link next to the “Reading Room Guide,” the small character at the bottom-left of each research story. He will transport you to the appropriate page in Autism Reading Room. You can access original publication sources and other popular media articles by clicking the news buttons at the bottom-right of each summary.

Scientists Piece Together Chemical Imbalances in ASD

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on December 11, 2014
serotonin and melatonin_5

 

Background: The chemicals serotonin and melatonin transmit important signals between brain cells. Serotonin helps to regulate mood, but it also converts into melatonin, an important regulator of sleep cycles. Previous studies have found separately that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have elevated levels of serotonin and diminished levels of melatonin. That chemical imbalance is a suspected contributor to the behavioral and sleep issues observed in people with ASD.

 

What’s new: On November 11, 2014, the journal Translational Psychiatry published a study examining both chemicals—as well as N-acetylserotonin (NAS), the chemical serotonin becomes in the process of converting to melatonin. The researchers monitored levels of serotonin, NAS, and melatonin in the blood, platelets, and plasma, respectively, of 278 patients with ASD. When compared to 506 relatives unaffected by the disorder—as well as a control group of 416 people matched by age and sex—the group with ASD experienced significant disruption in the conversion of serotonin to NAS to melatonin. This disturbance was evidenced by high levels of serotonin and NAS and low levels of melatonin—with effects appearing most prominently in individuals with ASD and, to a lesser extent, in their blood relatives.

 

Why it’s important: This study sheds light on the relationship between serotonin, melatonin, and the intermediate chemical NAS as they relate to ASD. Future research can refine tests for disruptions in the level of these chemicals as biomarkers for the disorder. In addition, this study supports the possibility of melatonin as a therapeutic sleep aid for affected patients.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Group Classes for Parents Yield Gains for Children

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on November 25, 2014
PRT_2

 

Background: Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) is a child-led, play-based intervention intended to address target—or “pivotal”—areas of a child’s development, including motivation and initiation of social interactions. By focusing on these areas, PRT aims to induce broad social, behavioral, and communicative improvements in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

 

What’s new: On October 27, 2014, the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry published the first-ever randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of PRT when administered by parents undergoing group training to deliver the intervention. A total of 53 children with ASD—aged two to six—participated in the study. Over the course of twelve weeks, parents of 27 children underwent group training to administer PRT in their homes, while the parents of the remaining 26 learned general information about ASD. Laboratory observations showed significant improvement in the number of utterances—such as saying “ball” to receive a ball—by children whose parents underwent PRT training.

 

Why it’s important: This study suggests that parents can become effective administrators of PRT after undergoing group classes—an efficient medium for disseminating information to a large number of affected families. Future studies could better examine PRT impact on social skills and determine the ideal balance of clinical interventions and at-home therapy.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Researchers Search for Autism Blood Test

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on November 15, 2014
blood test

 

Background: Studies have shown that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience better outcomes the earlier they receive a diagnosis. Using currently available assessments—which include evaluations of language, behavior, and intellectual abilities—clinicians diagnose children with ASD at the average age of four.

 

What’s new: On November 7, 2014, the open-access journal PLoS One featured a study exploring techniques to find markers for ASD in the blood of affected individuals. The researchers compared the blood plasma of 39 children with ASD to that of 22 typically developing peers and found 179 features differentiating their blood. Using five different laboratory tests, the scientists tested for those same features in the blood of another set of children—13 with ASD and 8 with typical development—and were able to accurately classify them more than 80 percent of the time.

 

Why it’s important: This study moves the field closer to having a blood test for ASD, which would allow for earlier diagnosis and intervention. Future studies could refine which combination of biomarkers and which laboratory tests result in the most accurate diagnosis.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Updated Catalog of Autism Genes Unveiled

By Sharmila Banerjee-Basu, PhD on November 4, 2014
new risk genes

 

Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder  (ASD) is a genetically heterogeneous condition in which hundreds of genes have been associated with the disorder. Large consortiums of scientists are working together to better define the genetic underpinnings of autism. An unmet challenge in the field is how to connect the genetic profile to clinical features of ASD—a necessary first step for targeted treatment.

 

What’s new: Two research groups report an updated list of ASD risk genes based on statistical analysis that quantifies the genes’ role in the October 29, 2014, online issue of Nature. Both groups utilize exome sequencing—where scientists read only the protein coding part of the genome—to sequence the DNA of individuals with ASD and controls. The larger study, led by an International Consortium, sequenced 3,871 ASD cases and 9,937 controls. The other study analyzed more than 2,500 families with a single child affected by ASD from Simons Simplex Collection. Together, the studies reveal an updated list of ASD-associated genes, including several novel genes.

 

Why it’s important:  The new studies have advanced our understanding of autism by replicating earlier findings of excess, spontaneously arising genetic glitches—known as de novo mutations—in ASD individuals. Another key finding addresses the gender bias in autism: ASD females and ASD males with low IQ have a different genetic risk architecture than ASD males with high IQ. Finally, the risk genes belonging to individuals with severe ASD significantly overlap with risk genes identified in Schizophrenia and Intellectual disability.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Chemical in Broccoli Sprouts May Inform ASD Treatment

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on October 24, 2014
broccoli sprout_2

 

Background: No approved pharmacological treatment exists for the core symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which include impaired communication, difficulties with social interaction, and repetitive behaviors. However, some naturally occurring chemicals have been shown to address biochemical irregularities – such as oxidative stress – that are associated with ASD.

 

What’s new: On October 13, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a double-blind study investigating the potential of sulforaphane – a chemical present in vegetables like broccoli sprouts, kale, and bok choy – to ameliorate autism symptoms. The researchers gave sulforaphane supplements extracted from broccoli sprouts to 29 young men between the ages of 13 and 27 over a period of 18 weeks, and compared them to a group of 15 men receiving a placebo. After 18 weeks, the group receiving sulforaphane showed significant improvement in their scores on three different behavioral assessments administered by caregivers and physicians, while the control group experienced little change. The researchers then stopped treatment and continued to observe both groups for four additional weeks, noting that their scores returned to the baselines established before treatment began.

 

Why it’s important: While many clinical studies aim to control ASD-related behaviors directly, this study addressed the suspected underlying biochemical abnormalities instead. Future studies could delve deeper into the possible benefits of sulforaphane – for instance, whether it can provide early treatment for young children with ASD diagnoses or if it might prevent ASD when taken as a prenatal supplement.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

New Hypothesis of ASD as a Disorder of Prediction

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on October 17, 2014
prediction

 

Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by difficulties with social communication and tendencies to engage in restrictive, repetitive behaviors. While those traits have been widely recognized, research has yet to determine whether they share a common, underlying cause.

 

What’s New: On October 6, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study describing a new hypothesis: that ASD symptoms stem from an inability to predict what’s coming next. The researchers suggested that people with the disorder experience events “as if by magic”—with the cognitive systems for linking one happening in their environment to another somehow compromised. While their hypothesis doesn’t explain every aspect of the autism profile, the researchers asserted their belief that predictive impairment underlay two of the most salient and seemingly disparate traits: difficulties with social communication and tendencies to engage in restrictive, repetitive behaviors.  For example, the same predictive impairment that inspires an individual to line up objects for comfort could also be at play when that individual experiences difficulty understanding intention of others. Finally, a reduction in motor anticipation could lead to atypical gesture and posture often observed in ASD children.

 

Why it’s important: This study provides a theoretical framework to explain various features of ASD. With this approach, researchers might be able to identify structures in the brain with differences ascribed to impaired predictive abilities.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

ASD Subgroup Linked to Brain Volume

By Shana R. Spindler, PhD on October 7, 2014
subgroup

 

Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) features a diverse set of social and behavioral deficits, language abilities, and skill sets. Identifying unique subgroups in the ASD population is a major goal within the autism research community. Given that individuals within a subgroup may share causal risk factors, a subgroup diagnosis could enable targeted therapy options.

 

What’s new: Researchers in the United Kingdom have identified a subgroup of ASD based on language delay in childhood. The team used a technique called voxel-based morphometry to measure brain volumes in 80 adult men with ASD. Of the participants, 38 experienced childhood language delay with 42 reporting normal language development. Individuals with delayed language had an overall larger volume of brain grey matter than those with typical language histories. When the team measured specific brain areas, they found several clusters of decreased volume in those with language delay.

 

Why it’s important: Last year, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition (DSM-5) grouped anyone along the autism spectrum into a single diagnosis of ASD. This study highlights the need to assess individual traits within individuals on the spectrum as we work towards understanding the underlying biology of ASD subgroups.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

ASD Diagnosis Increased with Additive Risk Factors

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on September 23, 2014
additive_risk

 

Background: Some researchers hypothesize that autism stems from a single causal event that initiates a cascade of cognitive and developmental delays. In contrast, others hypothesize that autism is the cumulative result of several co-existent risk factors. Studies have shown that disparities in social attention in children as young as 10 months old can predict whether those children later receive an ASD diagnosis, especially if they have an older sibling with ASD. Separate research has evaluated non-social attention—for example, how quickly a child can shift focus from one stimulus to another—and found differences in children as young as 6 months old, depending on their level of risk for developing ASD. By utilizing social and non-social attention tasks, researchers hope to learn about autism’s initial causes.

 

What’s new: The July 2014 issue of Developmental Science included a study assessing both social and non-social attention in children at 13 months of age. Using data from previous studies evaluating the two factors separately, the researchers combined data collected from a total of 145 children who had either undergone a task to follow the gaze of a person shown on a screen or the task to shift focus from one stimulus shown on a screen to another. They found that disparities in social and non-social attention had cumulative effects in predicting an ASD diagnosis—that is, infants who followed the gaze of the person on the screen for short periods of time and who also took long periods of time to shift from one task to another had a higher chance of developing ASD than those who scored better on each task.

 

Why it’s important: This is the first study to formally test the relationship between multiple factors (i.e. social and non-social attention) as they relate to the development of ASD. This research paves the way for future studies to more conclusively determine whether ASD develops due to cumulative risk, as this study suggests, or from a single causal factor.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Too Many Neurons Partnered Up in Autism

By Ishita Das, PhD on September 19, 2014
autophagy

 

Background: Soon after birth, the brain eliminates a large number of neural connections—a process called pruning. Researchers believe this fine-tuning affects connections that are weaker or in excess. Pruning proceeds alongside the earliest phases of learning. It likely helps the brain develop the sophisticated circuitry needed to respond to the environment. Researchers are investigating if pruning abnormalities underlie Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

 

What’s new: A new study suggests that children and adolescents with ASD fail to eliminate excess neural connections after birth. New York researchers report that neurons in the brain’s temporal lobe contain more tree-like protrusions, known as spines, in adolescents with ASD compared to controls. This difference is discernable in brain samples from children with ASD as well. These spines receive input from other neurons. The temporal lobe is associated with language and speech perception, auditory and visual processing, and has been implicated in ASD etiology.

 

Using a mouse model, the group found that knocking out a pathway responsible for degrading parts of the cell reduced spine pruning and led to a significant increase in spine density in adolescent mice. Furthermore, using additional mouse models, the team connected spine density changes to deficiencies in social behavior and social interaction in the mice. Treatment with a drug, rapamycin, alleviated many of the social deficiencies seen in an ASD mouse model.

 

Why it’s important: This is the first study to show that a specific biological pathway is important for spine pruning, which this study implicates in ASD. Connecting these physical changes in the brain with behavioral features in mice is a major accomplishment in behavioral neuroscience.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Very Early Therapy Eases ASD Symptoms, Study Suggests

By Shana R. Spindler, PhD on September 16, 2014
infant

 

Background: While many children with autism are diagnosed during their late toddler and preschool years, there is an ongoing attempt to identify very early signals, such as lack of eye contact, even during infancy. Newer studies are now focusing on treatment for infants suspected of having autism or being at increased risk for the disorder.

 

What's new: Researchers at the University of California, Davis, MIND Institute report a promising behavioral therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), called Infant Start. Based on the Early Start Denver Model, Infant Start is a parent-led behavioral intervention that emphasizes parent-child social interactions from infancy.

 

Symptomatic infants between seven and 15 months of age, and their parents, participated in a 12-week, low-intensity pilot program. During weekly sessions, highly trained therapists coached parents in individualized behavioral therapies, which parents continued in the home environment. By 18 months, the children who participated in Infant Start had significantly fewer autism symptoms than the children of families who chose not to enroll in the pilot study.

 

Why it's important: This study supports the idea that early treatment for autism may alleviate some of the core symptoms associated with the disorder, as seen in previous studies on toddler-age children.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Possible Autism Biomarker in Tiny Regulators

By Shana R. Spindler, PhD on September 10, 2014
miRNA

 

Background: Several studies have shown that early intervention helps children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) improve critical social and language skills. Unfortunately, doctors still lack a non-behavioral clinical test to find out if a child has or will develop ASD. Diagnosis is therefore delayed until the child reveals social or language deficits, usually by two to four years of age. Researchers are now searching for autism biomarkers, an objective measurement that can predict the likelihood that a child has autism, even before behavioral symptoms used for diagnosis appear.

 

What’s new: A group of Japanese researchers report in Molecular Autism that a new class of small gene regulators, called microRNAs (miRNAs), may help predict ASD. The team of scientists found that individuals with autism had higher levels of eight specific miRNAs in serum samples compared to control individuals. In contrast, five miRNAs showed lower levels in those with autism. MicroRNAs are like little zip ties that bind gene products to control the cell from making certain proteins. The researchers identified several proteins involved in neuron biology among the protein targets affected by the miRNAs in this study.

 

Why it’s important: To date, the medical community lacks a biomarker of any type for autism. This is the first study to show that specific miRNAs are found at different levels in the serum of those with autism versus controls. Serum collection is a relatively safe and noninvasive procedure. These results suggest that the measurement of serum miRNAs may serve as a biomarker for autism, but additional studies are needed to confirm this finding.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Virtual Reality May Ease Fears in Autistic Youth

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on August 25, 2014

VRE

 

Background: Anxiety is one of the most common conditions to occur alongside Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children and adolescents with the disorder. The condition can manifest in the form of specific phobias, such as fear of riding in cars or fear of birds. These phobias can interfere with daily life and exacerbate the core symptoms of ASD.

 

What’s New: On July 2, 2014, the digital journal PLOS ONE published a paper evaluating an emerging technique to address anxiety in young people with ASD. For the study, nine boys aged 7 to 13 underwent cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—an existing treatment approach shown to reduce anxiety associated with ASD—together with five sessions in a proprietary virtual reality environment (VRE). Anxiety questionnaires administered periodically in the 16 months following the treatment revealed that eight of the nine participants were newly able to tackle their specific phobias, and four overcame them completely.

 

Why it’s important: This study lends support to previous findings that CBT can be effective in reducing anxiety in young people with ASD. Importantly, a combination therapy of CBT and VRE could be more effective than a single therapy. Future research using a control group could validate CBT in conjunction with VRE as an effective therapy to address specific phobias.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Making Connections: Target Practice

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on August 13, 2014
neuron birth order_2

 

Background: An adult’s brain contains billions of nerve cells, called neurons, intricately connected to carry the signals controlling our senses and behaviors. During embryonic development, the nervous system begins to take shape around the fifth week of clinical gestation. Very little research has demonstrated how neurons of this early nervous system establish proper connections in the healthy brain – and how mistakes may lead to neurological disorders.

 

What’s New: On July 31, 2014, a study exploring the birth order of nerve cells appeared in the journal Cell Reports online ahead of print. The researchers focused on the cells connecting the eyes to the brain—called retinal ganglion cells (RGCs)—in mice. They found that early-born RGCs  sampled many sites before establishing their final connection with other brain cells. By contrast, later-born RGCs were selective from the start in establishing neurological connections.

 

Why it’s important: This study suggests that the order in which brain cells form is important to how neurons establish proper neurological configuration. Future studies could determine whether the neurological dysfunction observed in disorders like autism are linked to differences in brain cells’ birth order.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Study Finds Promise for Steroids in Regressive Autism

By Shana R. Spindler, PhD on July 31, 2014
corticosteroid

 

Background: About a third of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience a period of normal early development followed by loss of previously acquired language and social skills. While no evidence-based treatments exist for this type of regressive autism (R-ASD), some doctors have reported that corticosteroid use improves language and behavior scores. Corticosteroids are chemicals that mimic hormones naturally produced by the body. They act by suppressing inflammation and the immune system.

 
What’s new: From a large database of patients, researchers identified twenty children who had received steroid treatments to investigate if corticosteroids benefit children with R-ASD. Twenty four non-treated ASD children were used for comparison. Their study found that children with R-ASD who had received corticosteroids showed greater improvement in language and social skills than those who did not receive steroid treatment. The researchers also found that corticosteroids increased activity in an area of the brain known for auditory processing and the perception of emotions.

 

Why it’s important: While this study was a small retrospective (the researchers used data from previously acquired measurements), it indicates a need for a larger controlled study of corticosteroid treatment for R-ASD with appropriate controls. The most common adverse effects from corticosteroids in this study included weight gain and difficulty in managing the child’s behavior.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Common DNA Variations May Be Largest Factor in Autism

By Shana R. Spindler, Ph.D. on July 22, 2014
common variations

 

Background: The list of autism-associated genes has grown dramatically as researchers identify more and more genetic risk factors. But are these autism-linked genetic variations more often inherited from parents or formed de novo in the child?

 

What's new: Common, inherited variations in DNA may be the largest cause of autism, according to a new study published in Nature Genetics. According to the researchers, a little over 50 percent of autism cases are from a combination of widespread genetic variations, which alone do not lead to autism, passed from parents to a child. In contrast, new DNA mutations in the child only account for 2.6 percent of autism cases.

 

Why it's important: This study highlights the complexity of common genetic variations underlying autism.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Elevated Womb Hormone Levels Linked to ASD

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on July 21, 2014
Hormone

 

Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is usually detected in young children experiencing atypical development in the areas of communication, behavior, and social interaction. ASD is four times more common in boys than in girls. Researchers have long suspected that sex-related genetic factors may play a role in this disorder.

 

What’s new: On June 3, 2014, the journal Molecular Psychiatry published a study evaluating a possible link between ASD and the precursors to the male sex hormone testosterone in the amniotic fluid surrounding a developing fetus. The researchers analyzed amniotic fluid from mothers of boys born between 1993 and 1999 in a Danish cohort. In the samples from the 128 boys who later received an ASD diagnosis, the researchers found higher levels of male hormones–as well as a protein known to control hormone activity–than in the samples from the 217 controls.

 

Why it’s important: Using more than 19,000 amniotic fluid samples, scientists have shown a provocative link betweenelevated levels of steroid hormone and exposure in the womb to later development of ASD. However, further research is needed using different population samples to establish this link for any future clinical application.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Strong Evidence for a Genetic Link to Autism

By Sharmila Banerjee-Basu, Ph.D. on July 10, 2014
CHD8_6

 

Background: The genetic landscape of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is complex. Diverse types of DNA variation—from rare mutations with large effects to common variations with small effects—are thought to contribute to the development of the disorder. Many autism-associated mutations are known, but how each one contributes to autism is not well established.

 

What’s new: A new study published online in the scientific journal Cell shows convincing evidence that the gene CHD8 is linked to a subtype of autism. Researchers identified eight new CHD8 mutations in 3,730 individuals with developmental delay or ASD. In contrast, the team failed to find similar CHD8 mutations in 8,792 control individuals. Including ASD individuals carrying CHD8 mutations from previous studies, the researchers further examined detailed clinical characteristics in a total of 15 individuals with CHD8 mutations. In addition to ASD, CHD8 mutation carriers have many common features, including significantly increased head size, distinct facial features, gastrointestinal (GI) issues, and sleep problems.

 

Why it’s important: With rapid advances in genomic technologies, a field of study is emerging where sub-types of autism can be recognized based on mutations in specific genes. Importantly, 13 out of 15 individuals with CHD8 mutations in this study had a diagnosis of ASD, indicating a strong link between CHD8 disruption and ASD onset. One can hope that genetic testing may aid in the diagnosis and treatment decision making in autism in the near future.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Pesticide Exposure Linked to Increased Risk of Autism

By Shana R. Spindler, Ph.D. on June 26, 2014
pesticides_3

 

Background: Past studies have generated concerns regarding pesticide exposure during pregnancy and developmental delays in the child. But what role does pesticide exposure have, if any, in autism?

 

News Brief: Exposure to certain types of agricultural pesticides during or slightly before pregnancy may increase a woman’s risk of having a child with autism, according to a study published this month by University of California researchers.  The team of scientists followed 970 participants as part of the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE) Study. The researchers compared commercial pesticide application data with the addresses of study participants and found that those living near the application of organophosphates, a type of pesticide that affects how neurons function, were 60 percent more likely to have a child diagnosed with autism. Study participants living near the use of pyrethoid insecticides, a common type of insecticide that also affects insect nerve cells, showed increased risk for both autism and developmental delay.

 

Why it's important: It is important to recognize that this study shows correlation, not causation. The increased risk of autism in children whose mothers reside near pesticide application may or may not be due to the pesticides themselves, but other factors that are common in families who live near agricultural sites. Certainly, the study supports a closer examination of pesticide exposure and the ballooning rates of autism diagnosis.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Link Between Oxytocin And Serotonin May Inform Therapy

By Wayne Pereanu, PhD on June 25, 2014
oxytocin serotonin link_3

 

Background: Previous work has shown that some individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have altered levels of oxytocin and serotonin, chemical messengers in the brain that regulate human emotion and behavior. Recent work in animal models has suggested that oxytocin influences the amount of serotonin produced. While this work in animals is suggestive, there have been no comparable studies in humans.

 

What's New: In the June 2014 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report that oxytocin regulates the level of serotonin in the brains of neurotypical individuals. The researchers administered oxytocin through the nose in half of the participants (the other half got a placebo). The group then injected study participants with a tracer compound that allows researchers to infer levels of serotonin in the participants’ brains using PET, a type of specialized brain scan. The team found that oxytocin application induced a decrease in the amount of serotonin in four brain areas that are thought to be important for emotion-based behavior.

 

Why it's important: Drugs that alter levels of either oxytocin or serotonin are currently used to treat various ASD-associated symptoms. This study is the first to show that oxytocin levels can decrease the amount of serotonin in human brains. While this supports previous animal studies, it is an important and requisite step to show this in humans. Their findings suggest that treatment of oxytocin and serotonin levels should be coordinated.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Lifetime Financial Cost of Autism in Millions

By Shana R. Spindler, Ph.D. on June 10, 2014
financial cost

 

Background: The financial cost associated with autism therapy, lost time at work, and medical bills are significant. One study quantified this cost.

 

What's new: The lifetime cost of supporting someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) ranges from 1.4 to over 2 million dollars, according to a new study by United States and United Kingdom researchers. The team reviewed online research literature using keywords associated with autism and financial costs. Special education programs and parental productivity loss contributed the most to cost during childhood, while supported living accommodations and individual productivity loss contributed to high costs during adulthood.

 

Why it's important: The study highlights the critical need for cost-effective interventions and policies that take into account the financial impact of ASD on families.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :

Children with ASD Have Greater Visual Focus

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on June 6, 2014
visual focus

 

Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by atypical communication, social skills, and behaviors. While much research has focused on deficits in speech and social learning, few studies have focused on areas where children with ASD outperform their peers—namely, in the performance of many visual tasks requiring sustained attention.

 

What’s New: On March 7, 2014, the journal Scientific Reports published a study comparing the visual capabilities of autistic children and their typically developing peers. The researchers—who had previously shown that toddlers with ASD scored better on visual search tasks—measured pupil dilation in 34 children between the ages of one and three years as they viewed pictures and animations containing a distinct target. For example, the children were encouraged to locate a red apple in an image that also contained blue apples and other red shapes. Pupil dilation in the 17 children with ASD indicated that, while they searched similarly to their peers, their focus was much more intense.

 

Why it’s important: For the first time, pupillometry, a sensitive measure of task-based pupil responses, is used to evaluate superior visual performance in children with ASD compared to typically developing controls.The differences observed in the two groups indicate different activity levels of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine (LC-NE) system, part of the brain underlying the regulation of attention. This study lends support to the idea that individuals with ASD could perform better on tasks requiring undistracted focus compared to tasks requiring rapid shifts in attention.


Help me understand :
Source(s) :






Comments