Hear what you missed if you were unable to attend the Seaver Autism Conference on September 25th! Dr. David Skuse discusses “where are all the girls with autism”, summarizing evidence that some girls with high verbal IQ and autism might be missed, suggesting genes associated with high IQ may be protective against a diagnosis until adolescence. Also, ASF grantee Dr. Jennifer Foss-Feig describes how biomarkers can be used to improve personalized medicine. Finally, a summary and review of the new air pollution systematic review and meta analysis. Limited evidence does not equal none, and air pollution is a real problem. Here is a link to the paper: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0161851. All in 12 minutes.
Cognitive ability, measured by intellectual quotient or IQ, has been thought to predict response to intervention, social abilities, adaptive behavior and long term outcome. Numerous studies have shown that it can influence what is labeled as a good outcome. However, two studies this week point out how those across the spectrum in cognitive ability still benefit from early intervention and make friends on the playground. In both studies, there were factors that were more important for outcome than IQ. So it may be an important factor in outcome, but not the only factor.
This week I am in Minneapolis at an incredibly important meeting of Medical Examiners to pitch them the importance of collecting brain tissue for Autism BrainNet. While I was here I noticed a new study on the blogs that is important for families to hear about. It focused on a known environmental exposure in established genetic groups. The authors of the study, led by Dr. Sara Webb at University of Washington, showed that an environmental exposure can modify symptoms in genetically susceptible narrow subgroups. This is the sort of research that will better describe how environmental exposures are affecting autism risk. Thank you to Dr. Sara Webb for your perspectives and interpretation of the data!
This week, two important studies came out on different topics in autism research. In the first study, an exposure which has been around for decades, PCB’s, a toxic industrial chemical which has been banned from manufacture or use for the past few decades, was linked to autism. This dispels the myth that only exposures that have been introduced since the observance in the rise in diagnoses are relevant for study. First author Kristen Lyall gives her perspective. Here is a website on how to avoid PCBs even though they have been banned.
Second, screening for autism in pediatricians offices has always been challenging. Patients get 10 minutes at most with their doctor, these doctors have to fit in an hours worth of assessments in this time. So how can you get them to conduct a screening for autism and add in extra questions? Kennedy Krieger Institute published on a way that seems to work without sacrificing quality. Hear more about both on this week’s podcast.
This week, ASF intern Priyanka Shah provides an 8 minute tutorial on the reading and interpretation of scientific literature. It’s worth the listen. It goes over what to pull from an abstract, what the different sections tell you about the study, where to get the paper if you can’t find it, and what are the most important parts. Here are some additional resources:
On request, ASF summer intern Evan Suzman produced this week’s podcast on new technology and how it is being used for good in people with autism. He looks at Google Glass, wearable biomonitoring devices and a video game that can help teach social skills. These new technologies can complement those like the iPad which are already in wide use. This was a topic that many listeners wanted to hear more about. Some of the technology is still experimental, but promising.
In this week’s podcast we explore autism and autism-esque symptoms in family members, particularly siblings. Siblings can show mild features, called the broader autism phenotype, all the way to an increased risk of mental illness including emotional and behavioral problems, ADHD and tic disorder. This week we revisit the study of a large number of siblings in Finland and a new project looking at milder impairments in a smaller number of siblings with an older brother or sister with autism. Also – as a special treat, highlights from the DUP15 meeting in Maryland this past week.
You asked – our summer intern Priyanka Shah delivered! This week’s podcast is one on a topic suggested by listeners. She describes the risk factors and treatments for aggressive behaviors in autism. Priyanka looked at research and listened to clinicians who have experience treating aggressive behaviors in autism. In this podcast, description of Functional Behavioral Analysis plus pharmacological treatments are provided.
Here are some additional resources:
Last week, the Autism Society (www.autism-society.org) held it’s 48th annual meeting in it’s 50th year of existence. In addition to hearing an update on how people with autism and their families have benefited from autism research over the past decade, participants contributed to panels on experiences of adults, behavioral techniques, technology, the the history of autism. On this week’s podcast, hear about two of the sessions – how to teach social interaction on the iPad and how to be an effective advocate.
This week’s podcast summarizes a new neural stem cell study and a recent review article on IGF-1 treatment in developmental disorders. IGF stands for Insulin Growth Factor and is essential for generation of new neurons, and shaping and health of existing neurons. Patients with autism spectrum disorder are already starting to be treated with IGF-1, and now there is even more evidence validating it as a target. If you are interested in participating in a research trial at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine using IGF-1, call the Seaver Center at 212-241-0961.