Autism Research: November 8, 2013 Week in review

adn iconGastrointestinal upsets more likely with autism

A new research funded and published by the prestigious UC Davis MIND Institute has stated that children having autism are 6 to 8 times more prone to developing tummy upsets like diarrhea, food sensitivity and constipation compared to typically developing peers. Chief researcher Virginia Chaidez said that the GI problems might be the cause of the peculiar behavioral problems that are a hallmark of autism like avoiding eye to eye contact, solitary play and repetitive behaviors amongst others. It’s also possible that the digestive problems are a result of the characteristic behaviors and eating patterns that children with autism present, she said. The study involved 1000 children between 2003 and 2011 and studied children of ages 24 up to 60 months. The study participants were racially diverse too.

The study found that parents of children with autism reported complaints like bloating, diarrhea, constipation and/or abdominal pain six to eight times more than other parents. The researchers suggested a thorough GI examination and inquiry for every autistic child.

 Gaze problems could detect autism earlier

As reported on November 7th, by Autism Daily Newscast, an eye-opening new paper published in the journal Nature, authors Warren Jones and Ami Klin focused on how the babies with the sharpest decline in gazing at people over time developed most severe forms of autism as they grew. Published this Wednesday, the study that used eye-tracking devices, found that children detected with autism at 3 gazed much lesser into people’s eyes even when they were babies! The infants who went on to develop autism, spend lesser and lesser time peering into other’s eyes between second and six months age compared to typically developing infants who spent increasingly more time till they turned nine months old.

The study defined a possible window for treatment of autism as the gazing differences were not felt at birth but only after the infant turned 2 months old. Dr. Dawson of Duke University added that its by observing other people that kids learn behavior and if eye contact and observation reduced in children with autism even while they were infants, we have a better clue as to why they have social withdrawal later on.

More neural connections equals more problems in autism, study suggests

A mind-bending new paper published in Cell Reports on 7th November has suggested that the reason for children with autism facing social difficulties is the extra connections amongst the neurons that they seem to possess. This study challenges all previous studies that have pointed towards fewer connections being the problem in children with autism. Kaustubh Supekar of Stanford along with Vinod Menon studied several pediatric brain images. They found that the kids with the most severe symptoms of autism were the ones which were “hyper-connected” in the brain scans.

Another study published by Ralph-Axel Muller and his team at the San Diego State University identified similar above normal connectivity in teenagers suffering from autism. They too corroborated positive correlations between the hyper-connectivity in the brain with severity of autism. Together these studies point to possible utilization of drugs used in epilepsy to treat autism.

Social skills in autistics boosted after magnetic brain wave treatment

Recapping our report published on November 4th, results of the first clinical trial using magnetic wave stimulation autistic people, show an encouraging boost in the development of social interactive skills after treatment. The study conducted by the Monash University in Melbourne Australia involved boosting brain waves in the frontal cortex using rTMS, or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.. The participants carried out a number of tests of their social skills before the start of the therapy and at the end of the therapy. These showed that those who received rTMS had significantly improved social skills a month later.

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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.