Internet addiction is a real thing and it is worse in kids with autism

Two studies of importance came out this week.  The first looked at the interactive effects of genetic mutations called copy number variations and air pollution.  Previously, ozone was not listed in the factors in air pollution that increased risk for autism.  But combine it with copy number variations – now the two together dramatically increase risk.  Ozone levels are something that can be reduced through legislation.  Second, the role of internet addiction is generally not acknowledged or appreciated, but a recent study demonstrated that people with autism show triple the rate of internet addiction compared to those without autism.  This is something that psychiatrists and psychologists should know about when they think about treatments and comorbidities of people with ASD.

Brain signals improve the efficacy of behavioral interventions

Biomarkers can help distinguish different types of features but this week they were used to predict who would respond to Pivotal Response Training, or PRT.  Researchers, led by Pam Ventral at Yale looked at how the brain responded to a social or non social situation as well as baseline features on standardized measures.  Remarkably, these brain signatures were better at standard behavioral assessments at determining who would respond most positively to PRT.  This study has enormous implications for personalized medicine approach and demonstrates how early studies in biomarkers many years ago have paid off for those with autism.

New technologies to help people with autism

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.