The brain is developing even after birth. So interventions that are given very early have the best chance of remolding and rewiring a brain with autism to prevent autism related disabilities. This week, a group from the University of London, Duke University and University of Washington measured brain activity during tasks that required social attention following 2 months of very very very early intervention. They found that the way the brain responded to social stimuli was more like those without an autism diagnosis. This study shows a biological marker of brain function is altered after behavioral interventions that are intended to do just that – change the way the brain functions.
This week two studies which examined infants and younger children that will significantly advance understanding of causes and services for people with autism were published. After a commentary about the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, the study that used a practical methodology to improve autism screening in pediatrics clinic from researchers at Duke University was presented. After that, some early results from the EARLI study which examined pregnancies in families where an older sibling was diagnosed was presented. In this study, Bo Park and her colleagues at Drexel University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California at Davis and Kaiser Permanente show that testosterone levels in pregnancy aren’t related to later autism symptoms unless the older sibling affected is a girl. These findings can illustrate why girls are less likely to be diagnosed with autism compared to boys. The study is open access and can be downloaded here, thanks to the journal Molecular Autism: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5282802/pdf/13229_2017_Article_118.pdf