All about chromosome 15 and autism

One way to identify which treatments will help which people is to studying them in people with autism and known genetic causes.  This week, I traveled to the Dup15 meeting in Orlando, Florida to participate in a science discussion around how researchers are learning about individuals with this mutation and autism to understand their particular features so more personalized interventions can be delivered.  This includes epilepsy, sleep issues, and behavioral interventions.   I was honored to be a part of the parade at the meeting, and here some some images of these amazing families. photo[1] photo[2]

Those ‘brains in a dish’ are not enough

This week saw the publication of a remarkable new study that took skin cells and turned them into brain cells.  No joke.  This technique allows researchers to study the autism brain during very early development. But it isn’t sufficient to study and understand the brains across the lifespan of people with autism.  The only way to do that is with postmortem brains of people with ASD.   Because of this resource, researchers discovered a new type of genetic mutation associated with ASD – one that redefines how scientists view all of the DNA.  TO REGISTER FOR THE AUTISM BRAINNET GO TO WWW.TAKESBRAINS.ORG.  Also this week, beyond genetics and brain tissue research, a meeting in California applied a technique to the air pollution and autism data to understand and make sense of the multiple studies showing an association.

Can people with autism lose their diagnosis?

Researchers have been studying a small group of individuals who were diagnosed with autism, then later no longer met criteria for diagnosis.  Most of these people received early intense behavioral intervention before the age of 3, and what is called “optimal outcome” by researchers is the exception, not the rule.  However, a new study explores where they are no longer showing symptoms, and where they still are.  Also, ASF postdoctoral fellow Aarthi Padmanabhan explains her data on the brain structure of girls and boys with autism.  A sneak peak:  girls are different than boys.

Help for symptoms of anxiety in autism and understanding very early signs of autism in girls

About 40% of individuals with autism experience symptoms of anxiety. Despite this, clinicians still treat anxiety in autism the same way they treat anxiety in people without autism because there has not been enough research.  However, this week a new study was published which reviews and summarizes almost a dozen studies on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in autism, showing that it is effective when given in group and individual sessions.  Also, I talk to Dr. Clare Harrop from UCLA about why it isn’t enough to study people with autism at just younger ages or at older ages, and what types of research is needed.

Targeting environmental chemicals in neurodevelopmental disorders

This week a group of experts met to build consensus around the effects of environmental chemicals on the developing brain. Autism was part of this discussion. And a new large-scale study shows that c-sections do not cause autism, it is something else related to c-sections.

Molecular Autism special issue on gender differences

Study on the amazing brains of females with autism highlighted in the special issue of Molecular Autism focusing on the sex difference. In addition, recommendations for research by researchers is outlined.

Who isn’t at risk for having a child with autism?

The largest study on parental age and autism reveals more age groups at risk for having a child with autism.  So what does this say about a single unitary “cause” for autism?  And is this type of finding specific to ASD or is ASD now a condition that is affected by parental age?  Also, vocational rehabilitation programs that are effective for both men and women with autism.