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  1. Machine Learning Puts New Lends on Autism Scree...

    July 12, 2016- "Machine Learning Puts New Lends on Autism Screening and Diagnostics"- Researchers from a number of institutions recently collaborated to explore whether machine learning might play an important role in helping screen for autism and guide caregiver and practitioner intervention. Study authors looked at two established industry tests: the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), both exams in which parents are interviewed about their children’s behaviors. The scholars then applied machine learning techniques to analyze how parents’ responses on individual items and combinations of items matched up with the child’s overall clinical diagnosis of ASD vs. non-ASD. By using machine learning to analyze thousands of caregiver responses, the researchers were able to identify redundancies in the questions asked to caregivers. By eliminating these redundancies, the authors identified five ADI-R questions that appeared to be capable of maintaining 95% of the instrument’s performance. The authors also believe they can use “machine learning to provide another lens on autism, offering a picture that is clearer, more distilled, and overall more data-informed for caregivers and practitioners.”

    • Jul 13 2016 08:35 AM
    • by brian
  2. People with Autism can Read Emotions, Feel Empathy

    July 12, 2016- "People with Autism can Read Emotions, Feel Empathy"- This article disparages the persistent stereotype that individuals with autism lack empathy and fail to comprehend emotions. However, individuals on the spectrum do often admit to difficulties expressing and understanding emotions and empathy, which lead the authors of this article to investigate the overlap between autism and alexithymia, a condition defined by a difficulty understanding and identifying one's own emotions. About ten percent of the population at large, and about 50 percent of people with autism, has alexithymia.

    • Jul 12 2016 09:26 AM
    • by brian
  3. Insurance Mandates Boost U.S. Autism Diagnoses

    July 11, 2016- "Insurance Mandates Boost U.S. Autism Diagnoses"- A new study has found that children are getting diagnosed and treated for autism in states that require commercial health insurers to cover these services. However, there are still a great number of children who have gone undiagnosed and still aren’t receiving therapy. To assess the effectiveness of state insurance mandates, the Penn researchers analyzed inpatient and outpatient health insurance claims from 2008 through 2012 for more than 1 million children aged 21 and younger. Over the course of the study, just over 154,000 kids were diagnosed with autism. Overall, the mandates result in a 12.7 annual increase in diagnoses, according to researchers. Furthermore, the longer these laws were in police, the mote children were identified, with an 18 percent jump noted in the finals years of the study.

    • Jul 11 2016 02:59 PM
    • by brian
  4. Single Microbe May Restore Social Behaviors in...

    July 7, 2016- "Single Microbe May Restore Social Behaviors in Mice"- A new study may help explain the elevated autism risk in children born to obese women. They may also hint at a possible connection between a pregnant woman’s diet and the gastrointestinal problems seen in many children with autism. The study found that a single species of bacteria reverses autism-like features in mice exposed to a high fat diet in utero. The finding suggests that this microbe, Lactobacillus reuteri, is the missing link between diet during pregnancy and autism-like behaviors in the pups. However, some researchers are highly critical of the findings, stating they have limited relevance on actual people with the condition.  

    • Jul 08 2016 09:23 AM
    • by brian
  5. Study Released on Effects of Supervision Variab...

    July 5, 2016- "Study Released on Effects of Supervision Variables in Treating ASD"- Researchers at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) and Chapman University released a recent study which analyzed a pool of more than 800 children from ages 18 months to 12 years. The study focused on the effects of variables in treating ASD and found important determinations in regards to supervision. For example, being a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) and the years of experience an analyst has have a significant direct impact on the individual with autism’s treatment success rate, while increased hours of supervision above the standard ratio and caseload of the BCBA do not. These findings will help guide those who treat individuals with autism better plan, allocated time, and direct resources accurately toward treatment plans.  

    • Jul 07 2016 09:05 AM
    • by brian
  6. Brain Scans May Soon Paint Personal Pictures of...

    July 5, 2016- Brain Scans May Soon Paint Personal Pictures of Mental Health- This article delves into the recent technical advances surrounding brain imaging, a field that is still in its infancy. These advances includes new statistical techniques, combination approaches, and methods that capture changes in neural activity over time. These advances, combined with collaborative efforts such as the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (AIDE) and the Human Connectome Project, which are generating larger datasets and more high-quality brain imaging data, are helping to expand the applications and accuracy of brain imaging. The article concludes with a deep dive into a few brain imaging initiatives and how the data collected can transform our understanding of the human brain and how conditions like autism affect it.

    • Jul 05 2016 09:13 AM
    • by brian
  7. Analyses of Gene Activity May Yield Clues to Ro...

    June 28, 2016- "Analyses of Gene Activity May Yield Clues to Roots of Autism"- This article explores the fact that although there are multiple genetic causes of autism, their functions appear to converge on a few biological pathways, including the brain’s outer shell (cerebral cortex), the function of neuronal junctions (synapses), translation of the genetic code into protein, and the activation of brain immune cells called microglia. These findings suggest that researchers may need to target only a few pathways to effectively treat people with autism. ‘Transcriptomic’ studies are those in which researchers quantify gene expression across all genes present in a tissue sample and identify differences between the study group and controls. This analysis generally reveals values of 10,000 to 20,000 genes, a number too large to make sense of on its own. Network analyses, via software tools that identify biologically relevant patterns from large datasets, are often the key to analyzing all these data. This article goes on to discuss a specific type of network analysis and their limitations in research.

    • Jun 29 2016 10:04 AM
    • by brian
  8. Aberrant Gene Doses Disrupt 'Optimal' B...

    June 27, 2016- "Aberrant Gene Doses Disrupt 'Optimal' Brain Architecture"- Too few or too many copies at the chromosomal region 16p11.2, which has been linked to autism, produced similar effects on intelligence and social skills, according to a new study. Higher or lower doses of the gene than normal have opposite effects on brain structure. The study is the first to connect genetic, structural, and behavioral data in a single group of people who have variations at the chromosomal region 16p11.2. Rearrangements of this region are among the most common genetic causes of autism, appearing in about 1 percent of people with the condition. The study found that too many of two few copies of 16p11.2, known as copy number variants, are both associated with changes in the structure of the brain’s white matter. This structural shift may lay the groundwork for autism or other conditions.  

    • Jun 28 2016 09:13 AM
    • by brian
  9. New Findings on Probiotics and Autism: What You...

    June 24, 2016- "New Findings on Probiotics and Autism: What You Need to Know"- A study recently made a splash in the headlines describing how one strain of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri reduced some autism-like behaviors in mice, which had abnormally low levels of this microbe in their digestive tract. The findings are of particular interest because many probiotics and cultured dairy products already contain one of more strains of L. reuteri, which occurs naturally in breast milk and a healthy intestinal tract. In this interview, readers learn more about the results of this study and how it will impact future research.

    • Jun 27 2016 01:16 PM
    • by brian
  10. Questions for Robert Joseph: How Extreme Premat...

    June 21, 2016- "Questions for Robert Joseph: How Extreme Prematurity Ups Autism Risk"- Infants born prematurely have a higher risk of autism than infants delivered at term, and this risk climbs the earlier a baby is born. Robert Joseph, assistant professor of anatomy and neurobiology at Boston University, conducted a 2009 study that found that 21 percent of children born before 28 weeks of gestation showed signs of autism at age 2. In this interview, readers are privy to an in-depth discussion about the role premature birth can play in autism.  

    • Jun 22 2016 09:24 AM
    • by brian
  11. New Brain Map Could Enable Novel Therapies for...

    June 20, 2016- "New Brain Map Could Enable Novel Therapies for Autism and Huntington's Disease"- Researchers at USC have mapped an uncharted portion of the mouse brain to explain which circuit disruptions might occur in disorders such as Huntington’s disease and autism. Specifically, the study looked at the connections on the dorsal striatum, a part of the brain that is responsible for motor learning. Scientists injected fluorescent molecules into about 150 mouse brain structures and used a high-resolution microscope to document the molecules as they moved through the brain’s “cellular highways,” which need to be in tip-top shape for different parts of the brain to communicate and coordinate behaviors. Researchers were able to identify 29 distinct areas within this area of this brain region receiving information from the cerebral cortex. In the words of one researcher, this study is helping to provide “a structural basis for studies seeking to understand which part of the brain does what.”

    • Jun 21 2016 09:06 AM
    • by brian
  12. Mom's Immune Markers Flag Autism with Intel...

    June 20, 2016- "Mom's Immune Markers Flag Autism with Intellectual Disability"- Pregnant women with elevated levels of certain immune molecules in their blood are at an increased risk of having a child with both autism and intellectual disability, according to a new study. A growing body of evidence indicates that altered immune system function in either a mother or her child affects the child’s risk of autism. The new study is among the first to analyze immune factors in relation to autism subgroups. It is also the largest autism study to date that measures levels of immune molecules in pregnant women. The article goes on to discuss the study, which found that elevated cytokines or chemokines drive changes in neurodevelopment, but at this point it is not clear as to which.

    • Jun 20 2016 03:26 PM
    • by brian
  13. How Can We Help Young Adults with Autism Thrive...

    June 20, 2016- "How Can We Help Young Adults with Autism Thrive in the Workplace?"-  A lack of programs available to individuals who “age out” of IDEA services has resulted in just 58 percent of young adults in their late teens and early 20s with autism having worked for pay outside the home outside after high school, a far lower share than those with other types of disabilities, according to the 2015 National Autism Indicators Report. This article discusses a study that provided employees with social cognition training, including social skills in the workplace, pragmatic language skills, behavioral regulation, and executive functioning and its results.    

    • Jun 20 2016 02:59 PM
    • by brian
  14. More With Developmental Disabilities Medicated,...

    June 17, 2016- "More With Developmental Disabilities Medicated, Study Finds"- According to a new study, nearly 1 out 10 youths given antipsychotic medication is diagnosed with a developmental disability. Furthermore, one in six with autism or intellectual disability has taken the drugs. The findings are based on a meta-analysis of 39 existing studies observing over 350,000 young people.  

    • Jun 20 2016 12:58 PM
    • by brian
  15. Links Between Autism and Epilepsy Deepen

    June 16, 2016- "Links Between Autism and Epilepsy Deepen"- A new study examined how epilepsy and autism relate specifically to brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of people with epilepsy to determine a possible autism risk in these relatives. Researchers used a data registry to identify 85,201 people with epilepsy, along with their siblings (80,5111 individuals) and offspring (98,534). Each person with epilepsy was compared with with five other people of the same sex, similar age, and from the same country. The siblings of people with epilepsy were compared with siblings and offspring of people without an epilepsy diagnosis. Over the course of the 6-year follow-up, 1,381 of the participants with epilepsy and 700 of the people without epilepsy were diagnosed with autism. The results show that people with epilepsy have an increased risk of being diagnosed with autism -- 1.6 percent compared with 0.2 percent. When the relatives of individuals with epilepsy were studied, they found a 63 percent increased risk of developing autism for siblings and offspring. This article goes on to discuss why there is apparent connection between autism and epilepsy and how this research may improve future therapies.

    • Jun 19 2016 01:01 PM
    • by brian
  16. Mice Missing Key Autism Gene Hint at New Treatm...

    June 16, 2016- "Mice Missing Key Autism Gene Hint at New Treatment Target"- A newly created strain of mice lacking SHANK3 closely mimics the effects of the protein’s loss in some people with autism, according to a new study. Scientists have created SHANK3 mouse models since 2010, and have since developed 10 others. Each of these strains carries a deletion or a variant in part of the SHANK3 gene. But because all of the mice have only a partial loss of the protein, none perfectly mirror the most common situation in people. The new mouse model “mimics the human condition better,” according to study leader Yong-Hui Jiang, associate professor of pediatrics at Duke University. This article goes on to explore the positives of this mouse model for future research and touches upon the complexity of developing treatments for people with SHANK3 mutations.

    • Jun 16 2016 09:01 AM
    • by brian
  17. Dozens of Autism Genes have Cancer Connections

    June 10, 2016- "Dozens of Autism Genes have Cancer Connections"-  Research over the years has determined that many of the cellular pathways involved in cancer overlap with those implicated in conditions associated with brain development, such as autism. Autism researcher Janine LaSalle is intrigued by this connection to the point that she has spent the last two years fully documenting the extent of the crossover. Her work has resulted in a 43-gene list that suggests ways for researchers in each field to collaborate. The list highlights a few key cancer pathways that also appear to play an important role in autism. A detailed infographic within this article highlights which autism-linked genes have roles in various forms of cancer.

    • Jun 13 2016 12:21 PM
    • by brian
  18. Stress in Pregnancy and Autism: New-gene Stress...

    June 8, 2016- "Stress in Pregnancy and Autism: New-gene Stress Interaction Uncovered"- Researchers have identified a variant of a gene that is sensitive to stress, which they observed in two groups of mothers of children with autism. The investigators surveyed mothers about stress during pregnancy, including loss of a job, divorce, or moving. They then tested their blood for a variation of the stress-sensitive gene called 5-HTTLPR.  The gene regulates serotonin in the nervous system, but when a variation of the gene exists, it increases the body’s reaction to stress, according to the researchers. The article concludes with a video illustrating the researchers’ findings. However, they are quick to note that this is an observational study and that further research is necessary.

    • Jun 09 2016 10:14 AM
    • by brian
  19. Questions for Letitia Naigles: Parsing Pronoun...

    June 7, 2016- "Questions for Letitia Naigles: Parsing Pronoun Confusion"- Children with autism tend to mix up personal pronouns, referring to others as ‘I’ and to themselves as ‘you.’ Past studies suggest this pronoun switching reflects a distortion between self and others. Another possibility is that these children misuse pronouns because they have a poor grasp of language, causing them to mimic other individuals’ speech. In this interview with Letitia Naigles, professor of psychological sciences and director of the Child Language Lab at the University of Connecticut, readers delve into the possible source of pronoun confusion and its significance in children with autism.

    • Jun 08 2016 12:45 PM
    • by brian
  20. Preventing Weight Gain in Special Needs Patients

    June 3, 2016- "Preventing Weight Gain in Special Needs Patients"-  This article discusses how to implement healthy habits for patients with autism from the perspective of a primary care physician. For one, the article recommends that primary care doctors “be more assertive” in pushing a total health agenda instead of deferring all of their care for their patients with autism to psychiatrists. A focus on a healthy diet and exercise is also included.

    • Jun 06 2016 03:24 PM
    • by brian
  21. Brain Connectivity Fluctuates Over Time in Autism

    June 6, 2016- "Brain Connectivity Fluctuates Over Time in Autism"- A new imaging study suggests unusually frequent fluctuations in synchronized activity between brain regions. The findings may help explain the inconsistent results from studies of connectivity in autism. Researchers analyzed 76 brain scans from children and adults with autism. They compared the data with scans from 76 controls of similar age, gender, intelligence, and handedness.  Researchers looked at synchronized activity between 91 pairs of brain regions that previous studies have flagged as being altered in autism, identifying eight pairs of brain areas that appear to be weakly connected in people with autism. The researchers then looked at how activity between these regions fluctuates over time. In a ‘sliding window’ analysis, they looked at the activity during the first 30-second ‘window’ of a session. They then shifted the window by 8 seconds and took another 30-second snapshot. They repeated this process until they had covered the entire image session for each participant. Their analysis revealed that activity in three of the eight pairs of underconnected brain areas fluctuates more in people with autism than in controls. The apparent underconnectivity in autism is due, in large part, to a greater variation in that connectivity over time. The findings suggest that previous connectivity results in people with autism need to be reexamined.

    • Jun 06 2016 02:04 PM
    • by brian
  22. Tightly Folded Autism Brain Tied to Dense Neura...

    June 2, 2016- "Tightly Folded Autism Brain Tied to Dense Neural Connections"- According to a new study, dense connections between nearby neurons and excess folding of the brain’s surface, which are two known features of the autism brain, may be linked. The findings suggest that excess surface pleating underlies the unusually strong local connections in the brains of people with autism. The latest study is the first to rigorously combine two different brain imaging approaches to investigate a possible link between surface folds and the neural connections within.  

    • Jun 03 2016 09:10 AM
    • by brian
  23. Talking Sense: What Sensory Processing Disorder...

    June 1, 2016- "Talking Sense: What Sensory Processing Disorder Says about Autism"- Children with autism spectrum disorder also have a spectrum of sensitivities, with some children being highly sensitive to sound, sight, or touch, whereas others seem almost numb. This in-depth articles explores sensory processing disorder’s relation to autism with a focus on how the differences in individuals’ sensory sensitivities may offer insights into autism.  

    • Jun 02 2016 10:48 AM
    • by brian
  24. Novel Mouse Model Sheds New Light on Autism Spe...

    June 1, 2016- "Novel Mouse Model Sheds New Light on Autism Spectrum Disorder"- A new mouse model is the first to show that when more of a specific biological molecule moves between parts of nerve cells in the mouse brain, it can lead to behaviors that resembles some aspects of ASD in humans. This biological molecule, called acetyl-CoA, is a major part of the process cells use to make energy from food. In this study researchers engineered mice to make the human version of a protein that ferries acetyl-CoA into a specific compartment within cells. This article goes on to discuss what the researchers found from this mouse model and its implications for future research.

    • Jun 02 2016 08:47 AM
    • by brian
  25. Antipsychotic Prescribing Trends in Youths with...

    May 31, 2016- "Antipsychotic Prescribing Trends in Youths with Autism and Intellectual Disability"- About one in 10 youths treated with an antipsychotic are diagnosed with ASD or intellectual disability. Conversely, one in six youths diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder has been prescribed antipsychotics. Furthermore, the results from a recent meta-analysis suggest that the proportion of adolescents with autism or intellectual disability has increased among youths treated with antipsychotics and that more youths with autism or intellectual disability have received antipsychotics. FDA-approved medications are designed only for the control of irritability and aggression. They do not have an indication for youth with intellectual disability, and they do not seem to affect the core symptoms of ASD, such as social and communication difficulties, or the core symptoms of intellectual disability, such as problems with understanding and responding appropriately to information from the outside world. A meta-analysis of 39 studies and over 350,000 youth with mental illness examined the frequency and time trends of antipsychotic prescribing in youth with ASDs or intellectual disability. Based on the study results, the authors concluded that clinicians should consider using psychosocial interventions that are proven to be efficient for behavior dysregulation such as irritability and aggression, before prescribing antipsychotics to adolescents with autism or intellectual disability.

    • Jun 01 2016 09:29 AM
    • by brian