Oxytocin: hitting a small nail with a giant sledgehammer?

This week’s podcast is inspired by a new study in PNAS thatlooked at the role of methylation of the oxytocin receptor in social behavior in people without autism.  Together with studies of the brains of people with autism, it suggests that filling the brains with oxytocin may not be the best approach for treating social impairments.  Instead, compounds that turn on or turn off the genes that control oxytocin may be more appropriate, and it also may help explain variability in why some people respond to oxytocin treatment, and why others do not.   Also, scientific technology has a new way of studying the influence of the environment on brain development.

Intervention studies are about to get better

Studies looking at interventions in autism have been plagued with issues of what treatments will work best in what people, and use of instruments to detect change that were never designed for use in people with autism. Recently, a new instrument was developed to look at improvements in social – communication in autism. This the first of it’s kind and will lead to better interventions to help people with ASD. Also, new research is using biological markers of autism to look at the effectiveness of interventions. The findings are still early, but promising and will help find out what types of treatment are best in which people.

Help for college students with autism

As college and university semesters come to a close, new research is determining the factors that lead to success in college for the individuals with autism but without intellectual disability. They include: help with time management, relationships (both peer and romantic), self-advocacy and organizational skills. Students, parents and educators agree on what is needed, but institutions are struggling to make sure they are available.

Autism across the ages

Two studies from Sweden came out this week with the same idea: study autism across time, and focus on other things besides just autism. This podcast reviews both. The first examined quality of life in adults over the course of 20 years and the other followed preschoolers into school age. The results are consistent. That is, people with autism have high levels of psychiatric comorbidities which depended on a number of factors. Of particular importance is the role of intellectual functioning on outcome. These recent data are further evidence that while people with autism share struggles, those with ID may need to be considered differently in clinical care, housing, employment, and obviously intervention.