Autism Research: April 4, 2014 Week in Review

adn-icon-298x300Blueprint of human brain generated may help identify origins of autism disorder

 In a path breaking new study by scientists at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, a detailed blueprint or map of the human brain has been generated in high resolution. The map shows where genes are turned on/off during mid-trimester of pregnancy at unimaginably anatomical resolutions. This is a first-of-its-kind report developed using the BrainSpan Atlad of the Developing Human Brain.

The research published in the elite journal Nature can actually help build human brains apart from providing extensive information into diseases like Autism Spectrum Disorders that are associated to early neurodevelopment. Focusing the Atlas on autism, the scientists hunted for a hub of genes that might be associated with autism and found that ‘newly generated excitatory neurons’ in areas responsible for social behavior and cognition. It is an excellent example of the potential that the BrainSpan Atlas has in identifying possible origins of human developmental disorders.

Imitation predicts development in ASD children, study reveals

In a study published in the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders,  scientists Carmela et al reported that imitation instead of core language helped foresee pragmatic growth of language and conversational skills in children with ASD.  They suggested that future research should aim at demystifying this process and employ it for speech therapy for children affected with ASD.

2 more genes affecting Intellectual Disability identified

 Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health have identified two more genes that are linked to the psychiatric condition of Intellectual Disability in a set of two new studies. The research published simultaneously in Human Molecular Genetics and Human Genetics.  In one study Dr.Vincent identified a shortening of the FBXO31 gene which regulates the way proteins are handled during neuron development of the cerebellum cortex. In the other study, Dr. Vincent employed the same techniques of microarray genotyping to identify disruptions in METTL23 gene which is linked to  intellectual disability- mild recessive type.

About 1 % children from around the world suffer from intellectual disability which is non-syndromic, i.e. not clinically classifiable into any other psychiatric condition due to absence of associated clinical features. They have impaired learning capacity, poor cognitive functioning, social maladjustment and difficulty in processing complex information.

 21 distinct expression mapped by computer for cognitive analysis

 Researchers from the Ohio State University have discovered a way to make computers map emotional facial expressions. They made a computer recognize 21 unique facial emotional expressions, some of which were contradictory and very complex like being ‘sadly angry’ or ‘happily disgusted’. The report published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  noted that these are three times the expressions that scientists had for cognitive analysis so far. In an effort to find the algorithm that the brain employs to generate emotions and facial expressions, scientists ended up creating an entire palate of 21 emotions that are displayed by humans. The team is hopeful that the study might help provide answers to conditions like autism where emotion recognition is hampered in the individual.

CDC announces one in 68 US children have autism

As reported by Autism Daily Newscast, on 27th March, the Center for Disease Control published its latest data on the prevalence of autism amongst children in the USA. An evaluation of the health records of the 11 largest states in America by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has relieved that one in 68 children aged 8 in the US has an autism diagnosis. Gender analysis maintains that boys are more likely to be diagnosed than girls with an estimation of one in 45 boys diagnosed in comparison to one in every 187 girls.

 

 

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Dr. Rachita Narsaria is an physician with a passion for prose. Armed with an MD in Internal Medicine, she juggles between clinics and writing. When medicine gets overwhelming, poetry is her escape. Her maiden venture, Spellbound Inc., is a culmination of years of experience in creative writing.