Autism Research: February 13, 2015 Week in Review


Behavioral therapy helps manage pica in ASD

Findings of a new study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders suggest that pica can be managed well with behavioral therapy. The study headed by Nathan Call from the Severe Behavior Programs at Marcus Autism Center focused on intensive interventions for behaviors such as pica i.e. consumption of inedible items. Over a span of 2 weeks, the team found a 96% reduction in pica using one or more of the following strategies- manually blocking the kid from consuming the inedible substance, directing the child to another preferable activity and giving a treat as a positive conditioning for discarding an inedible object voluntarily. These strategies could be used by parents easily even at home to reduce pica permanently, reducing quite a few emergency hospital visits.

Journal Reference: Nathan Call, Christina Simmons et al. Behavioral therapy effective against pica in children with autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015 Jan 31. [Epub ahead of print]

Protein link found between autism and brain cancer

A new study published by the prestigious John Hopkins University of Medicine has found that alterations in the level of the same protein lead to both autism and brain cancer. The findings that have been published this week in the journal Nature Communications suggested that the protein NHE9 made the brain cancer called glioblastoma extremely fatal being hyperactive while the same protein is underactive in people with autism. The team of researchers headed by Dr. Rajini Rao hopes to develop targeted therapies to alter the actions of the protein and help cure glioblastoma and autism.

Journal Reference: Kalyan C. Kondapalli, Jose P. Llongueras, Vivian Capilla-González, Hari Prasad, Anniesha Hack, Christopher Smith, Hugo Guerrero-Cázares, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, Rajini Rao. A leak pathway for luminal protons in endosomes drives oncogenic signalling in glioblastoma. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 6289 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7289

‘Declarative memory’ compensates for autism, dyslexia and OCD

The human body is a miracle and its functioning deep and still fairly mysterious. Scientists have now discovered that the brain has an agile system to compensate for the impairments that disorders like dyslexia, ASD, OCD, Tourette syndrome and Specific language impairment produce. Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center have published their findings this week and will feature in the April issue of the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. The lead author of the study Michael Ullman, said that declarative memory was the real star when it came to learning systems and memory mechanisms utilized by the brain. The team found that declarative memory helped a person learn both consciously as well as sub-consciously. Developing treatments that could help enhance such compensatory brain mechanisms could be a strategy that is worth investigating further into.

Journal Reference: Michael T. Ullman, Mariel Y. Pullman. A compensatory role for declarative memory in neurodevelopmental disorders. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2015; 51: 205 DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.01.008

Labor induction/augmentation not linked to increased autism risk

The controversial study that showed induction of labor lead to an increased risk of autism has now found a counter-argument in the new study published by a collaboration of researchers at the University of Utah and Intermountain Healthcare. The team headed by Erin Clark found that induction of labor or augmentation did not increase the risk of ASD in the children thus born. The findings of the study have been shared this week at the annual meeting of Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine called The Pregnancy Meeting. The doctors suggest that the vital procedure of labor induction be used judiciously whenever needed to save the lives of the baby and mother, without worrying about autism.

Journal Reference: University of Utah Health Sciences. (2015, February 11). “Inducing or augmenting labor not associated with increase in autism .”