Autism Research: Feb 7, 2014 Week in Review

adn-icon-298x300Autistic brains overactive at rest

Case Western University teamed up with neuroscientists from the University of Toronto to find a groundbreaking new piece of information in the autism puzzle. The team of scientists found that brains of children having autism produce a whopping 42% more information while resting than the average child. The researchers went ahead to suggest that this might be the reason why they withdraw into a shell and are emotionally detached from people and their environment. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroinformatics and even had numbers measuring the connectivity of the brain and the amount of introspection in the children.

For a more in depth discussion of this research and other related studies read yesterday’s article from Autism Daily Newscast, “Study Shows Autistic Brain More Active at Rest

Oxytocin might control autism expression

A new study has found that oxytocin might be responsible for expression of autism symptoms. A team of researchers led by Yehezkel Ben-Ari at the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology has made a finding that might change the entire way autism is treated. Published in the journal Science,  the study observed mice brain models of autism and found that the chloride levels are elevated in the neurons and remain so right both before and after birth. They also found that oxytocin, the love hormone, brings about a reduction in the chloride levels during birth in typical human babies and in mice. Researchers had earlier found that using a diuretic in children having autism, the chloride levels of neurons could be reduced and this helped the symptoms. With this study, it can be inferred that, the chloride levels, which are normally bought under control by oxytocin in typical children, remain high post-birth in children with autism, leading to manifestation of its symptoms.

With this study, a new path has been paved for the use of diuretics to bring down elevated pre-natal neuron chloride levels in babies to prevent or correct autistic traits. 

 Failing microglial trimming might be causing autism, study shows

Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Italy, IIT, Rovereto and La Sapienza University, Rome have identified that autism might be the result of failure of actions of certain brain cells called microglia. Microglia are part of the connective tissues of the brain and their failure to ‘trim connections between neurons’ might be producing the reduced functional connectivity that is noticed on people living with autism. Published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the researchers found that mice with lesser microglia had weaker neuronal connectivity and poorer communication between the various regions of the brain.

 Birth complications hike risk for autism

A shocking new clinical study has found that complications that occur during delivery like brain hemorrhage and respiratory distress, in premature babies, might be contributing to an elevated chance of developing autism later. The study published in The Journal of Pediatrics  studied almost 200, 000 premature infants and found that the risk rate of autism increased with each week short of the 37 week term gestation period. The prevalence of autism amongst children born after full term (37-41 weeks) is about 1.2% while it is 2% for those born between 27-33 weeks and 4% for those under 27 weeks.

This study brings to light how not just genetics, but merely completing a full-term of pregnancy is so very important in the normal growth and development of a child.