Overlooking Girls with Autism

molecularautism.com

molecularautism.com

We know that for every four boys diagnosed with autism, there is only one girl diagnosed. And while that ratio may imply that autism is more prevalent in boys than girls, it doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the case.

According to a new study, there are significant brain structure and behavior deviations between boys and girls touched by autism. Girls with autism often display symptoms differently—specifically, girls tend to show less repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping, a narrow scope of focus, or even the need for rigid routines are not as prominent.

What this means is that girls with autism could be getting overlooked, or it may make it harder for them to get the right kind of therapy. This type of study could prove extremely helpful in understanding how autism differs between the sexes, leading to better diagnostic criteria and treatment.

Check out more on this study.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Creative Minds

creative studyThis may come as no surprise to some of the parents reading this post, but a new study has shown that many people with autism are exceptionally creative.

Researchers in the study used the Alternate Uses Test, which asks participants (some who have autism and some who don’t) to think of possible uses for everyday items such as a brick or paper clip. As described, this test is usually used to measure divergent thinking–a thinking style in which creative ideas are generated through the exploration of as many possible solutions to a single problem. And while participants with autism tended to come up with fewer responses, the responses they did come up with were considered more unique and were typically not the common responses to the questions, showing a remarkable level of creativity.

The researchers were, at least, a bit surprised by the findings – the study’s lead author said to the Huff Post that “people with high autistic traits could be said to have less quantity but greater quality of creative ideas. They are typically considered to be more rigid in their thinking, so the fact that the ideas they have are more unusual or rare is surprising.”

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

New Vaccine Study Re-Confirms No Link to Autism

Another study has come out that again shows there is no link between vaccines and autism. This one, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, focuses on siblings of those touched by autism.

JAMA

The research –as discussed in this article – shows that brothers and sisters of children with autism were not at a higher risk of developing the disorder if they were vaccinated compared to the siblings of those without autism.

This is significant because separate studies have found there is an increased risk of autism among those with older siblings on the spectrum, which could be contributed to genetic and environmental factors. But because some have a fear that vaccines– specifically the MMR vaccine – are linked to autism, parents of autistic children have been more hesitant to vaccinate their younger children.

This study-and others related to vaccine safety—are important so we can feel confident and comforted that we’re making the right decisions for our children. Opting out of vaccines has led to several outbreaks of diseases/viruses that we would be protected from getting, such as the measles. Much is being done to combat the fear of vaccines and this study is an important reassurance that a link doesn’t exist.

Read more about the study

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Inflammation in Brain Linked to Autism

Maybe a little closer to understanding a bit more about autism…a new study published in Nature Communications is showing that the brains of people with autism share a common pattern of inflammation related to an overactive immune response.

As discussed in this article, researchers from Johns Hopkins and University of Alabama at Birmingham analyzed the data from autopsied brains of 72 people – 32 of whom had autism – and of those that had autism, they found genes for inflammation permanently activated in certain cells. This was the largest ever study of gene expression in autism.

The inflammation is not likely a root cause of autism, but possibly a consequence of a gene mutation. In order to better understand the inflammation’s effects, researchers will need to determine whether treating it will make an impact on symptoms.

As one of the researchers involved in the study points out, the current findings highlights how much we don’t know about the way our immune systems affect brain activity.

 

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Broccoli Compound = Autism Treatment?

broccoli

Apparently so! A new study is showing that a compound extracted from broccoli sprouts may improve some social and behavioral issues that can impact children with autism. Specifically, it’s a compound called sulforaphane and it’s found in broccoli and some other veggies.

So, you may be wondering, how would this broccoli compound help? It’s related (as described here) to a phenomenon known as the ‘fever effect’ seen is some autistic children – where issues such as repetitive behaviors temporarily fade when a child has a fever.  This improvement could stem from that fact that a fever triggers a heat-shock response that impacts those behaviors – - and this sulforaphane has been found to trigger such a heat-shock response.

Keep in mind that this preliminary study was small and brief – and everyone in the study didn’t respond to the treatment (in fact, about 1/3 didn’t have a positive response). But it’s something new to look at – and it has promise – and we should expect that it will be studied further.

Check out more on this study here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Kids with Autism May Have Overload of Brain Connections (Study)

brain synapsesA new study, which is getting a lot of attention, is showing that children with autism may have an oversupply of synapses – which are the connections that allow neurons to send a receive signals –in their brains. With this excess amount of synapses, different brain areas can be affected and overloaded with stimuli. And having such an overload could account for symptoms like extreme sensitivity to noise or social challenges.

This information could help researchers and doctors identify a key cause of autism symptoms – which is good news for a potential treatment. But this would be long down the road – researchers were able to create a similar overloading of synapses among mice and used a drug called rapamycin, which worked well to improve, if not eliminate symptoms, however this drug comes with heavy side effects. But this is an exciting discovery and one that will hopefully be further explored.

Check out this NY Times article for a good breakdown on the study.

Lynsey, Community Manager

No Link Between Vaccines and Autism

CNN.com

CNN.com

It is no secret that an ongoing, much-debated topic among the autism community – and certainly even beyond – is if vaccinations, particularly the MMR vaccine, could be a cause of autism. Although there is no fully confirmed cause(s) of autism at this time, the idea that vaccines could be linked came from a study published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in 1998– and that study has since been debunked. But it started a movement – there have been some people that look back and may feel like it could have been a vaccine that caused their child’s autism because the timing of the vaccine with the show of symptoms – and those that are now opting out of getting their child vaccinated as a “preventative” measure.

Although the medical community has been working to spread reassurance that vaccines are safe, it still hasn’t done too much to change the minds of those opposed to them. But a new report led by the University of Sydney may give some comfort about vaccines – it reviewed available data from around the world and found that there is no link between vaccination and the development of autism.

As noted in this article, the paper’s senior author, Associate Professor Guy Eslick, said he was inspired to look into the issue after watching some documentaries on the medical debate. His study examined seven sets of data involving more than 1.25 million children and concluded that there was no evidence to support a relationship between common vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough and the development of autism.

This type of research is very important given that, as Eslick points out, there have been 11 measles outbreaks in the U.S. since 2000, and New South Wales/Australia also saw a spike in measles infections throughout the year in 2012.

Everyone needs to make the decisions that they feel is best for them/their families, but this report may at least provide some peace of mind.

 

Lynsey, Community Manager

Baby’s Gaze May Be An Early Predictor of Autism (study)

Nature JournalA new study is now out (published in Nature) that shows a baby’s gaze—when and how long a baby looks at your eyes—may prove to be an early indicator of autism. Researchers found that children who were found to have autism at age 3 looked less at people’s eyes when they were babies than children who did not develop autism.

As described in this NY Times blog, the study found that babies who later developed autism began spending less time looking at people’s eyes between 2 and 6 months old, and paid less attention to eyes as they grew older.

If this proves to be the case, then it could be the earliest behavioral sign to date of developing autism, and treatment could potentially begin much earlier on.  But researchers are quick to warn that specific technology would be needed to properly track eye movement in babies – and don’t want to create unnecessary concern, noting that if a child isn’t looking them in the eye all the time, it’s not an issue – children look all over the place.

As we all know, early intervention can make a world of difference in the treatment of autism, so this could prove to be a really important finding, helping to bring intervention in as early as possible.

Lynsey, Community Manager