What is the focus this week? The unsung heroes of grandparents and clinicians

Scientists have studied males compared to females with autism, but rarely has there been studies about what clinicians see as differences in these two groups.  Given that they provide insight on diagnosis, needs and access to services, it is kind of important to talk to them, and a study out this week in the journal Autism did just that.  You can find the full text here:

http://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/V5p3isSVAKDbdQf2jH4Q/full

Also, scientists are starting to understand the role of exposures in parents and how they affect diagnosis of autism in their children, but this week a new wrench was thrown into the wheel:  researchers in the UK found that grandparental exposures play a role in autism diagnosis too.  Luckily, this too is open access and you can read it for yourself.  It was covered in the media and we have perspective from a parent included.

https://www.nature.com/articles/srep46179

I discuss this second project with Jill Escher, founder of the Escher Fund for Autism and co-funder of the study.

Where are all the girls with autism? Live from the Seaver Center Conference

Hear what you missed if you were unable to attend the Seaver Autism Conference on September 25th!  Dr. David Skuse discusses “where are all the girls with autism”, summarizing evidence that some girls with high verbal IQ and autism might be missed, suggesting genes associated with high IQ may be protective against a diagnosis until adolescence.  Also, ASF grantee Dr. Jennifer Foss-Feig describes how biomarkers can be used to improve personalized medicine.  Finally, a summary and review of the new air pollution systematic review and meta analysis.  Limited evidence does not equal none, and air pollution is a real problem.  Here is a link to the paper:  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0161851.  All in 12 minutes.

What you missed at the ASF 3rd annual Day of Learning

If you couldn’t make it to the ASF Day of Learning last week, this week’s podcast provides a 10 minute summary. Not the same as being there, but it will do. We will have videos of each presentation up soon, but this provides a quick recap. Researchers from basic science, translational research and those with a clinical perspective provided 12 minute summaries of different research areas. This included studying autism behaviors in mice, the role of single gene disorders to autism where there are hundreds of genes involved, understanding anxiety and technologies in the classroom to mitigate stress reactions, understanding recurrence of autism in the children of siblings with ASD, and resilience in females. The podcast also includes pictures from the event.

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.

 

 

 

A year of autism research in under 30 minutes

What was impactful this year in autism research? This last podcast of 2015 explores the year of the female, highlighting the relatively new exploration into what makes females with ASD different and what they can tell us about everybody with autism and their families.  Some of what is discussed was highlighted in other podcasts, but not all of it.   The summary is organized so that what may initially be interpreted as small, nonsignificant discoveries, are viewed as progress.  Everything from genetics to getting laws passed is included.

Females with autism and the idea of an ‘extreme male’ brain

New studies were published this week highlighting differences, or lack of differences, in males and females with autism.  This podcast explores one of these theories called the ‘Extreme Male Brain’ theory which is actively studied by Simon Baron-Cohen’s lab in the United Kingdom.  While this theory suggests that males and females with autism are more alike than different, another study focused on those individuals with autism who were not diagnosed until later in life.  Were they able to mask their symptoms for autism and slide under the radar and how?  In this group, males and females are more different than alike, which reinforces the ideas that you can’t study people with autism without studying people without autism, and that the differences between males and females may be subtle, based on context, and time of life.

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.

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.