Autism Research: August 21,2015 Week in Review

ResearchStudy examines relation between creativity and autism

In a one-of-its kind study, a new paper published this week has examined how people having autistic traits at high levels tend to produce exceptionally creative ideas. The study found that although people with high degrees of autistic traits were not so great at producing alternatives to solve a problem, i.e. divergent thinking, but they came up with very unique and creative ideas. The study that was co-authored by Dr. Martin Doherty of University of East Anglia’s School of Psychology and his team has published the findings in this week’s Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

The authors found that people who did not have autism traits high enough to meet the diagnostic criteria might actually benefit from these and use them to their advantage. The researchers hypothesize that the associative routes or memory-based routes are probably impaired, but the ability to be creative with responses is superior and unimpaired. They also warned that though the study has shown that creativity levels might be higher, since the spectrum is so vast, just like not all are high functioning, not all with autistic traits might be creative.

Researchers worry about negative impact of technology on adolescent brains

 A new article published this week in the prestigious BMJ warns public and parents that concerns over how technology might be negatively impacting adolescent brains aren’t backed by concrete research and shouldn’t be taken at face value. Susan Greenfield, a senior fellow from the Lincoln College Oxford has been warning people that excessive use of computer games and internet might be harming the teenage brain and should be curtailed. However, experts from BMJ warned that no studies or peer reviewed literature has backed this up and its only the media that is spreading this like wild fire. News such as this can be highly misleading to parents and the public in general. Greenfield also hypothesized that online social interaction might be setting of autism or autistic traits without any scientific evidence to back this up. Thus, the experts from BMJ chose to warn the public regarding her unscientific claims.

Journal Reference: Vaughan Bell, Dorothy V M Bishop, Andrew K Przybylski. The debate over digital technology and young people. BMJ, 2015; h3064 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.h3064

New clues revealed to dysfunctional brain synapses

In a new study published this week by scientists from the VIB Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology, genetic analysis of patients has thrown forth a new pathway that affects the brain’s synaptic machinery. This pathway affects neuropsychiatric and neurological diseases such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease by hampering interneuronal communications. The study was published this week, co authored by Jeffrey Savas and Joris de Wit who with their team, first time, have revealed a pathway that governs the sorting of synaptic proteins in brain cells. The findings might give impetus to a whole new set of research on how protein sorting can lead to autism and lead to targeted therapies.

Journal Reference: Jeffrey N. Savas, Luís F. Ribeiro, John R. Yates, Anirvan Ghosh, Joris de Wit. The Sorting Receptor SorCS1 Regulates Trafficking of Neurexin and AMPA Receptors. Neuron, 2015; 87 (4): 764 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.08.007