Autism Research: March 6, 2015 Week in Review

ResearchBPA from plastics linked to autism

In a first, a new study has reported an association between BPA i.e bisphenol A, a common compound used in plastic containers made for beverages and foods, and autism spectrum disorders in children. The study was published this week in the journal Autism Research and was conducted by a team of researchers lead by T. Peter Stein of Rown University School of Osteopathic Medicine along with Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. The amount of BPA found in urine samples of autism children was 15 times greater than their typically developing peers, suggesting a strong link between the two. The study might lead to further in depth research, to identify the exact causes of autism and help develop targeted therapies for the same.

Journal Reference: T. Peter Stein, Margaret D. Schluter, Robert A. Steer, Lining Guo, Xue Ming. Bisphenol A Exposure in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Autism Research, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/aur.1444

Oxytocin might help enhance social functioning in autism, scientists study

In the ongoing debate about the utility of the enigmatic hormone oxytocin, a newly published study has found it to be potentially helpful in improving social interactions in children with autism. The study led by Meera Modi and Larry Young from the Emory University- Yerkes National Primate Research Center found that injecting melanocortin drug lead to immediate bonding between prairie voles which outlasted the duration of the drug in the body. Published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, the study backs up many past researches that have bolstered the use of oxytocin and has its own findings of improved attention, bonding and learning social information from people to add.

Journal Reference: Meera E Modi, Kiyoshi Inoue, Catherine E Barrett, Kara A Kittelberger, Daniel G Smith, Rainer Landgraf, Larry J Young. Melanocortin Receptor Agonists Facilitate Oxytocin-Dependent Partner Preference Formation in the Prairie Vole. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/npp.2015.35

Cutting edge robotic research for autism released at National Press Club

RoboKind, a leading social robotics manufacturer, unveiled its robot Milo that has shown to increase engagement in children on the spectrum, while enhancing emotional and social skill development. The robot was unveiled at the National Press Club event this week and the research was presented by Dr. Pamela Rollins, a leading autism expert. The findings revealed that social robots like Milo helped improve emotion identification and social interaction translating into success at academic as well as personal fronts. They also showed better engagement of children on the spectrum in learning sessions compared to human sessions.

Researchers find strong genetic links of autism in UK twins

Beata Tick and her team from the prestigious King’s College London studied twins born in England and Wales between 1994 and 1996. They delivered them various screening tests to diagnose and assess the degree of autism and various subclinical traits. The authors of the study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that association between identical twins were much higher than fraternal (non-identical) twins on all measures. The study reinforced previous studies that have suggested strong inheritance links to autism. The study concluded a high-level autism phenotype in UK twins 8 years and above and its derivation from non-shared influences from environment and significant genetic influences.

Journal reference: Colvert E, Tick B, et al. Heritability of Autism Spectrum Disorder in a UK population-based twin sample. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online March 04, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.3028

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