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Pets Increase Social Behaviors in Children with Autism

Researchers Identify Red Flag for Autism in Infants

Gene Abnormalities in Autism Identified: UC San Diego Researchers

Study Compares Traits of Autism and Schizophrenia: UT Dallas

Brain Differences Seen at 6 Months in Infants Who Develop Autism: Washington University

Toolkit Makes Bedtime Less Stressful for Children With Autism: Vanderbilt University

Special Needs Digest

 

environmental effects on autism

 


 

 

 

Lipid Levels during Prenatal Brain Development Impact Autism

 

Exposure to environmental chemicals known to affect these levels

TORONTO, April 8, 2014—In a groundbreaking York University study, researchers have found that abnormal levels of lipid molecules in the brain can affect the interaction between two key neural pathways in early prenatal brain development, which can trigger autism. And, environmental causes such as exposure to chemicals in some cosmetics and common over-the-counter medication can affect the levels of these lipids, according to the researchers.

“We have found that the abnormal level of a lipid molecule called Prostaglandin E2 in the brain can affect the function of Wnt proteins. It is important because this can change the course of early embryonic development,” explains Professor Dorota Crawford in the Faculty of Health and a member of the York Autism Alliance Research Group.
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Social Feedback Loop Aids Language Development

March 19, 2014—Verbal interactions between parents and children create a social feedback loop important for language development, according to research forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. That loop appears to be experienced less frequently and is diminished in strength in interactions with autistic children.
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Study Suggests Potential Association between Soy Formula and Seizures in Children with Autism

MADISON, WI; March 13, 2014—A University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher has detected a higher rate of seizures among children with autism who were fed infant formula containing soy protein rather than milk protein. The study found excess seizures among girls and in the total sample of 1,949 children. The soy-seizure link reached borderline significance among boys, who comprised 87 percent of the children described in the database under study.
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Gene That Influences Receptive Joint Attention in Chimpanzees Gives Insight into Autism

February 4, 2014—Following another's gaze or looking in the direction someone is pointing, two examples of receptive joint attention, is significantly heritable according to new study results from researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University. Determining such communicative cues are significantly heritable means variation in this ability has a genetic basis, which led the researchers to the vasopressin receptor gene, known for its role in social bonding.
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Speech Disrupts Facial Attention in 6-Month-Olds Who Later Develop Autism

 

Reports new study in Biological Psychiatry

Philadelphia, PA, February 4, 2014—From birth, infants naturally show a preference for human contact and interaction, including faces and voices. These basic predispositions to social stimuli are altered in individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A new study published in Biological Psychiatry this week, from researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine, now reports that 6-month-old infants later diagnosed with autism divert their gaze from facial features when that face is speaking.
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Making the Brain Social

 

Failure to eliminate links between neurons produces autistic-like mice

February 2, 2014—In many people with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, different parts of the brain don't talk to each other very well. Scientists have now identified, for the first time, a way in which this decreased functional connectivity can come about. In a study published online today in Nature Neuroscience, scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, Italy, and collaborators at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), in Rovereto, and La Sapienza University in Rome, demonstrate that it can be caused by cells called microglia failing to trim connections between neurons.
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Study Reveals Senses of Sight and Sound Separated in Children with Autism

January 14, 2014—Like watching a foreign movie that was badly dubbed, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have trouble integrating simultaneous information from their eyes and their ears, according to a Vanderbilt study published today in The Journal of Neuroscience.
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Hospital-Diagnosed Maternal Infections Linked to Increased Autism Risk

December 23, 2013—Hospital-diagnosed maternal bacterial infections during pregnancy were associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders in children, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published Dec. 23 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
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Probiotic Therapy Alleviates Some Autism-like Behaviors in Mice

December 5, 2013—Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is diagnosed when individuals exhibit characteristic behaviors that include repetitive actions, decreased social interactions, and impaired communication. Curiously, many individuals with ASD also suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) issues, such as abdominal cramps and constipation.
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Video Could Transform How Schools Serve Teens with Autism

October 17, 2013—Video-based teaching helps teens with autism learn important social skills, and the method eventually could be used widely by schools with limited resources, a Michigan State University researcher says.
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Study Provides Clues about Imitation or "Empathy Impairments" in Autistic Children

 

Researchers ferret out function of autism gene

Findings in bacteria, yeast, mice show how flawed transport gene contributes to the condition

September 30, 2013—Researchers say it's clear that some cases of autism are hereditary, but have struggled to draw direct links between the condition and particular genes. Now a team at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has devised a process for connecting a suspect gene to its function in autism.
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Researchers Discover a Potential Cause of Autism

 

Key enzymes are found to have a 'profound effect' across dozens of genes linked to autism, the insight could help illuminate environmental factors behind autism spectrum disorder and contribute to a unified theory of how the disorder develops

CHAPEL HILL, NC; August 28, 2013—Problems with a key group of enzymes called topoisomerases can have profound effects on the genetic machinery behind brain development and potentially lead to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to research announced today in the journal Nature. Scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have described a finding that represents a significant advance in the hunt for environmental factors behind autism and lends new insights into the disorder's genetic causes.
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Autistic Children Can Outgrow Difficulty Understanding Visual Cues and Sounds

BRONX, NY; August 28, 2013—Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have shown that high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children appear to outgrow a critical social communication disability. Younger children with ASD have trouble integrating the auditory and visual cues associated with speech, but the researchers found that the problem clears up in adolescence. The study was published today in the online edition of the journal Cerebral Cortex.
(Full story with video . . . )

Autistic Kids Who Best Peers at Math Show Different Brain Organization

STANFORD, CA; August 16, 2013—Children with autism and average IQs consistently demonstrated superior math skills compared with nonautistic children in the same IQ range, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

"There appears to be a unique pattern of brain organization that underlies superior problem-solving abilities in children with autism," said Vinod Menon, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a member of the Child Health Research Institute at Packard Children's.

The autistic children's enhanced math abilities were tied to patterns of activation in a particular area of their brains—an area normally associated with recognizing faces and visual objects.
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Making the Brain Attend to Faces in Autism

 

A new study in Biological Psychiatry explores the influence of oxytocin

Philadelphia, PA; August 15, 2013Difficulty in registering and responding to the facial expressions of other people is a hallmark of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Relatedly, functional imaging studies have shown that individuals with ASD display altered brain activations when processing facial images.

The hormone oxytocin plays a vital role in the social interactions of both animals and humans. In fact, multiple studies conducted with healthy volunteers have provided evidence for beneficial effects of oxytocin in terms of increased trust, improved emotion recognition, and preference for social stimuli. This combination of scientific work led German researchers to hypothesize about the influence of oxytocin in ASD. 
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Elevated Gluten Antibodies Found in Children with Autism

 

But No Link to Celiac Disease

NEW YORK; June 20, 2013—Researchers have found elevated antibodies to gluten proteins of wheat in children with autism in comparison to those without autism. The results also indicated an association between the elevated antibodies and the presence of gastrointestinal symptoms in the affected children. They did not find any connection, however, between the elevated antibodies and celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder known to be triggered by gluten. The results were e-published in the journal PLOS ONE.
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New Research Suggests Possible Direction  for Treatment of Autism

WASHINGTON; May 17, 2013—In the first successful experiment with humans using a treatment known as sensory-motor or environmental enrichment, researchers documented marked improvement in young autistic boys when compared to boys treated with traditional behavioral therapies, according to research published by APA.

The rationale for the new treatment is rooted in the fact that autistic children typically have sensory problems, the most common involving smell and touch sensitivity. Building on decades of work in animals documenting the profound effects of environmental enrichment on behavioral and neurological outcomes, the authors of the study predicted that similar enrichment in autistic children would have beneficial effects.
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Epigenetic Changes Shed Light on Biological Mechanism of Autism

April 23-2013Scientists from King's College London have identified patterns of epigenetic changes involved in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by studying genetically identical twins who differ in autism traits. The study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, is the largest of its kind and may shed light on the biological mechanism by which environmental influences regulate the activity of certain genes and in turn contribute to the development of ASD and related behaviour traits.
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