Regression in autism, down to the neuron

On Friday, February 19, the NIH organized a workshop on regression in autism.  It included autism researchers as well as neurobiologists studying regression in other disorders, specifically Rett Syndrome.  Rett Syndrome is characterized by a regression in symptoms around 18-30 months of age but is the result of a known genetic mutation.  Because the genetic mutation is know, researchers have been able to make huge advancements in the study of the cellular causes of regression.  Do they apply to autism?  The theory of overturning is presented and discussed in the workshop and on the podcast.  You can see the full agenda at:

Here are some screen shots of the workshop:


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A presidential issue for people with ASD: employment

In honor of President’s Day in the United States, today’s podcast is a summary of a few more recent studies on employment of people with autism spectrum disorder.  In addition to identifying challenges between the perspectives between employees and employers on the purpose of job supports, new methods to increase and maintain employment of people with ASD are reviewed.  They include supportive employment environments and self-instruction.  Both could be cost-effective in the long run.  These studies add to an ever emerging literature on employment strategies in people with autism, and hopefully there will be more on this topic in the future.

How early do females with autism show differences?

Using high risk baby siblings research design, scientists at Yale University showed that as babies, girls with autism show an unusual pattern of social attention for their age, spending most of their time looking at faces.  This is in stark contrast to findings in boys.  Together with other data, the authors conclude that this early social behavior may mitigate, or protect against, the symptoms of ASD later on in life.

In the second half of the podcast, the new supplement to the journal Pediatrics is summarized, which includes important new guidelines and recommendations that affect people with autism.  As promised, here is the link so you can see for yourself.




Monkeying around with symptoms of autism

This week saw two studies advancing a new type of animal model for autism:  the monkey.  Environmental factors had been studied using this model, but this week saw the very first genetic model of autism in a monkey that also demonstrates features of autism.  At the same time, another study published data on a new test to study autism in the monkey, the monkey Social Responsiveness Scale which, when further validated, will help show whether or not this new monkey model of autism symptoms is the real deal.   Can this advance knowledge of the causes like – as we heard this week – obesity and diabetes?  Too early to tell, but it’s two steps in the right direction.