Autism Research: Feb 28, 2014 Week In Review

adn-icon-298x300Study suggests females have more robust brains and thus, less autism

For the first time ever, a study has been able to suggest a scientific reason as to why autism is more common in the male population. Published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the study conducted at the University Hospital of Lausanne has suggested that women have brains that require many more genetic mutations than men to manifest a disorder; they are thus, more robust and resistant to neurodevelopmental disorders as compared to the other sex, the study concluded.  An interesting article on this study can be found in the Economist here.

Vitamin D, autism and serotonin link discovered

A study conducted at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) has brought to light the yet undiscovered link between vitamin D and autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Patrick and Dr. Ames of CHORI showed that vitamin D regulates metabolism of three vital neurohormones i.e. oxytocin, vasopressin and the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin. Vitamin D activates the gene responsible for converting the essential amino acid tryptophan to the hormone serotonin in the brain. Since serotonin affects social behavior, a vitamin D deficiency could lead to serotonin deficiency and thereby, changes in social behaviors. The study opens a new door towards treating social skills in children with autism by correcting potential vitamin D deficiencies.

New diagnosis criteria might cut diagnosis rates by a third, study observes

The highest authority on psychiatric disorders, the American Psychiatric Association redefined and updated the criteria that define what is autism and autism spectrum disorder in May 2013. The results of this change can be felt as a reduction in the diagnosis of the condition by almost a third, a new study conducted by the Columbia University School of Nursing found. The study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders suggests that this might leave a lot of children bereft of the privileges that the diagnosis of autism provides in the form of educational, financial, social services and medical support.

Genetic trigger leading to autism detected

A new study published in the journal Science by scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College has shown that messenger RNAs start sticking to the Fragile X syndrome’s DNA. This leads to inactivation of the DNA preventing it from producing crucial proteins and transmitting neural signals.  It is a well known fact Fragile X syndrome is one of the commonest causes for autism. One of the researchers on the team also developed a drug that would prevent this gluing up of the RNA to the DNA and preventing the genetic jam. This is a path-breaking new research which could actually put a stop to the rising rates of autism globally.

Advancing age of fathers linked to higher psychiatric problems in offsprings

Till now it was only the mothers, but now it’s the fathers who are in trouble too. A study conducted by the Indiana University in collaboration with the Karolinska University, Stockholm has tied higher paternal age with higher rate of academic and psychiatric difficulties in the kids borne by these fathers. A study that analysed the entire population of Sweden born between 1973 and 2001 found that advancing age of the father at childbearing was linked to higher problems in children like ADHD, bipolar disorder, autism, substance abuse, failing grades and low IQ.