Autism Research: 17 September, 2015 Week in Review

ResearchAutism masked by ADHD in young children, study reveals

A new study conducted by pediatrician Dr. Amir Miodovnik and his team has found that symptoms of the condition ADHD might be overshadowing or masking autism spectrum disorders in very young kids. A staggering 81% children were first diagnosed with ADHD and later with autism, after the age of 6. Kids diagnosed with ADHD were 17 times more likely to later receive a diagnosis of autism, compared to kids who were diagnosed with autism alone, the researchers said. The study was conducted at the Boston Children’s Hospital and revealed that masking was leading to a delay of almost 3 years on an average in the diagnosis of autism in children who were initially diagnosed as having ADHD. Published this week in the prestigious journal Pediatrics, the findings of the study will have a significant impact on the attention paid to diagnosis. 3 years is a significant amount of delay and will affect the implementation of therapies that can help improve outcomes in kids on the spectrum. Although vastly different, these two neurodevelopmental conditions often have overlapping symptoms, making them difficult to differentiate. The study involved 1500 children on the spectrum between 2011-2012 and a whopping 43% parents said that their kids had been diagnosed with both conditions.

Journal Reference: Miodovnik A et al. Pediatrics. 2015.

Intervals between siblings may increase autism risk

Physicians have always thrown caution to the wind to parents having too less or too wide intervals between 2 siblings. Now, a new study is linking too little or excess of this interval with autism. conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Hospital, Oakland, California, study head Lisa Croen and her team found that children having a less than 2 year gap or greater than 6 year gap in conception from their older sibling had nearly a 2-3 times higher risk of having autism. the study, however, explain only association and does not elaborate a cause effect relationship between the two factors. The findings of the study reinforce WHO recommendations that one must wait at least 2 years before attempting the next pregnancy. The study was published this week in the prestigious Pediatrics of the American Pediatric Association. The study included records of almost 45000 second born children born between 2000 and 2009.

Journal Reference: Zerbo O, Yoshida C, Gunderson E et al. Interpregnancy interval and risk of autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2015.

High testosterone levels linked to higher autism traits

A new study has found that higher levels of testosterone in utero might be able to explain the higher autism-like traits. Baron-Cohen’s theory of autism being hyper-masculinization, popularly called as the Extreme Male Brain theory has been doing the rounds for a while now. Researchers led by Diana Tan at the University of Western Australia and the Telethon Kids Institute studied voices and faces of 76 male and female typical participants and assessed them for traits of autism. They found that the men with higher autism traits also sounded more masculine and girls who scored high looked less feminine. These findings add weight to the Baron Cohen theory. With larger studies, testosterone reducing therapies could be looked into to treat autism and autistic traits.

Journal Reference: “Perceived Gender Ratings for High and Low Scorers on the Autism-Spectrum Quotient Consistent with the Extreme Male Brain Account of Autism.” PLoS ONE 10(7): e0131780.