Autism Research: August 15, 2014 Week in Review

ResearchSexual victimization risk higher in autism adults

Published this week in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders is a finding that will force everyone to take extra care about adults with autism. The study conducted by Prof. Jonathan Weiss and his team found that adults having an ASD posses a greater risk of being sexually victimized than typical peers. This could be due to the sources of sex education being not friends and parents but internet and television. The team studied 95 autism adults and 117 typical adults between ages 19 and 43 years. The shocking findings stated that some adults might not even realize that what they experienced is termed as sexual abuse. The study published by the York University researchers comes with a suggestion that the risk might be lesser if there are interventions that impart sexual knowledge to adults with autism right in their formative years.

Focus on strength of child with autism, study shows

A team of academicians researched and uncovered the key to autism therapies with best outcomes. The study conducted by Laurent Mottron and his colleagues of University of Montreal, Canada found that the brain of a person with autism has greater processing for certain genres of information at the cost of neglecting others. Multiple genetic mutations that alter the brain’s plasticity produce autism and its variants that process information selectively. Thus, the researchers concluded, autism therapy should focus on enhancing strengths of the child instead of constantly trying to make them behave correctly. They found that the autistic brain has a skewed processing of non-social and social information and has interest, brain activity and performance for non-social information. Their Trigger-Threshold-Target brain model helped them glean this information that could help focus on positive intervention rather than corrective intervention. Dr. Mottron’s perspective is helping people with autism tap into their talent pool instead of acquiring newer, more mundane skills. This study was published in the prestigious journal Nature.

Human brain ‘switchboard’ malfunction is possible cause for autism, study finds

Scientists at the NYU Langone Medical Center, headed by Dr. Michael Halassa have found that an important area in the brain called as the ‘switchboard’ i.e. thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) is responsible for vital functions like sleep, attention, etc. It is a regulator and redirects sensory input to their predestined processing centers. The team identified that this switchboard is dysfunctional in people with schizophrenia and autism using multiple electrodes to observe activity in each neuron of the TRN. The study published in the journal Cell this week. TRN neurons send inhibitory impulses to the underlying thalamus, acting as a gatekeeper for which information passes through and which gets blocked. The team also found that sleep spindles that can block sensory inputs were also reduced in people diagnosed with schizophrenia and autism. The scientists infer that the TRN neurons were somehow disrupting the correct filtration of information leading to faulty outputs despite complete sensory inputs. The findings could help develop targeted therapies for autism, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder that originate due to disturbances in the TRN.

Research model might be able-to explain how ASD develops in the brain

As reported by Autism Daily Newscast yesterday, “Trigger-Threshold-Target, a Montreal based research has released a model that might explain how Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) develop in the brain.  According to the model released, ASD develop when natural predispositions and genetic mutations cause the brain to be plastic or malleable.