Gamma waves are brainwave activity at a certain speed and have been linked to consciousness and seem to help coordinate activity in different parts of the brain. They have also been associated with processing of information, including sensory information. This week, researchers at Oxford University led by Dr. David Menassa explore gamma waves in the brains of autistic adults who perform better on a visual processing task than those without a diagnosis. Gamma waves are controlled by the coordinated activity of neurons in the brain, which are regulated by inhibitory interneurons which make sure excitatory neurons aren’t taking over. In a study using brain tissue of people with autism, it was found by another study at Oxford that there are fewer of these inhibitory interneurons to control this activity. Dr. David Menassa provides his own interpretation of the data on this week’s podcast.
This week, two studies from the large CDC funded study called the Study to Explore Early Development were published that examines probability of having a child with autism after infertility treatments (first paper) and long or short times between pregnancies (second paper). These studies put to rest some of the questions moms have been interested in. First, it’s infertility not infertility treatments that is linked to autism, and second, spacing pregnancies too close together or too far apart is also associated with an increased probability of having a child with severe autism symptoms. This podcast explains what the studies mean and what parents should know. The references are here:
Sometimes parents get a bad rap for not having autism themselves, or not being in touch with the challenges of autistic adults. This week’s ASF Podcast highlights two new studies on the role parents play in science, research and understanding racial disparities. A group in the United Kingdom released the results of a survey across Europe which examined parent perceptions on early autism research (think infants and toddlers) and how researchers could better help families at this stage. Another study from researchers in Georgia and Connecticut revealed how important parents (and clinicians) can be in reducing the disparity in diagnosis between black and white children in the US. Finally, a call to unite over a common challenge: employment. If you have not done so already, please make your voice heard as a parent, autistic adult, employer or service provider on a survey gauging the needs of the entire autism community around employment. http://www.lernerlab.com/employmentsurvey.html
Here are the references used in this podcast:
While certainly not a new topic of interest, the number of research studies and publications on the sexuality of people with autism has exploded in the past year. Research shows more people with autism reporting they don’t conform to traditional sexual definitions. In addition to having to navigate the world of having autism, they also have to figure out how to deal with exclusion based on sexual orientation and coming out. They are a double disadvantaged community. Also, females with autism seem to be at particular risk of poor sexual experiences. This podcast reviews the research all leading to a reported need for better sexual education, and a promising intervention to help people with ASD. Publications cited are:
This week’s podcast focuses on two studies that help illustrate why studying individuals with a specific genetic mutation, or animal models with a particular genetic mutation, are so important. MSSM researchers focused on individuals with FOXP1 Syndrome, which has a high rate of autism and could be the focus of future treatments. In the meantime, researchers at UTSW, led by ASF fellow Christine Ochoa Escamilla, identified a particular brain chemical responsible for changes in brain activity following mutations of chromosome 16. About 1% of people with autism have mutations in this chromosome. Application of a chemical to counteract this chemical then led to improvements in brain activity, opening up the door to new drug targets that affect some of the more severely affected individuals with ASD.
Here are the references: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29088697
This week the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee or IACC, finalized next year’s strategic plan on autism research. This podcast explains what the IACC does, who serves on it, and also, what ideas they have for maximizing use of the research dollar for ASD. It’s a long document and every taxpayer in the US does contribute money towards autism research, so it’s worthwhile to hear what the US government, researchers, stakeholders, service providers and individuals with autism thinks should happen to that money. If you want to read the whole, thing, go for it. You can download it here.
This week a bunch of new studies came out that focused on changes in probability of having a child with autism after folic acid consumption during pregnancy. Moderate consumption folic acid and slightly elevated levels of plasma folate during pregnancy has now been shown in at least half a dozen scientific studies to reduce the chance of that child to be later diagnosed with autism. This is not a prevention effect, but a reduction in probability. There are enough studies on this question for a Chinese group to have organized them, put their data together, reanalyze them together and conclude that this is a real thing. If this was an effect seen after say, drinking battery acid, maybe it might require more consideration to recommend to the community. However, taking folic acid during pregnancy is something medical doctors are recommending pregnant women do anyway.
Want to learn more? Here are the studies:
Swedish Study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28978695
Denmark Study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28946926
About two weeks ago, the National Institute of Health announced part of the government’s commitment to autism research through the ACE projects, or Autism Centers for Excellence. Highly competitive and intensely scrutinized, these 5 year projects all investigates areas of autism aimed at helping people with ASD and their families. This week’s podcast summaries them, discusses how they interact and complement each other, and explains how they are going to affect the lives of people with autism.
This week’s podcast summarizes recent evidence on why there is good and bad in treating autism with medication, but there is also lots of ugly. While new medications are being developed and researchers are looking into new ways of measuring change across time time, medications are not effective in treating the core symptoms of autism and they have pretty harsh side effects which, you guessed it, are dealt with by prescribing more medications. There are a lot of reasons to be hopeful about the future of medication use in autism, but lots of reasons to feel frustrated too.
Here are some of the articles that were cited:
This podcast was going to be dedicated to new early detection research which shows what the USPSTF has been looking for – the link between early detection, early intervention, and improved outcomes in a community setting. Those findings are still included this week, but there is a slight diversion in theme. The podcast will also include an explanation of the immune/microbiome study published in Nature and misrepresented by Korea Daily. The study is important, however, the media sensationalized the findings and did the research no favors by labeling it a “major cause”. Learn what the study did and what it actually discovered in this week’s podcast.
Here are the references of the studies mentioned in the podcast: