Autism Research: February 6, 2015 Week in Review

ResearchMedical marijuana doubtful for autism spectrum disorders

With increase in the acceptance and usage of marijuana for treating medical disorders, the medical fraternity is looking to use it for adolescents and children with ASD as well. A review published this week in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics dived into the studies available on the same. There is little clinically significant data that can prove that medical marijuana is useful for autism spectrum disorders and much more data that shows it is more harmful to the developing brain of a child. The trade off of control of symptoms on a short term basis might not be worth it against the child’s entire future. Thus, authors of the review Scott Hadland, John Knight and Sion Harris have suggested parents to stay away from such a psychoactive drug for children with ADHD, ASD and other behavioral or developmental disorders till more data is available.

Journal Reference: Scott E. Hadland, John R. Knight, Sion K. Harris. Medical Marijuana. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2015; 36 (2): 115 DOI: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000129

 Gender-specific alterations in autism due to protective proteins in brain

A new study from the American Friends of Tel Aviv University has found that certain proteins in the brain that are different for the two genders might be the reason behind the male preponderance for autism and other diseases. The lead author of the study Prof. Illana Gozes and her team found that removal of the ADNP gene altered memory, learning, etc differently in males and females. The study throws light on why diseases manifest differently in the two sexes and might help produce better drugs in the future. The findings of the study were published this week in the journal Translational Psychiatry. The team also found that ADNP-altered mice (females) were socially more deficient as against the non-altered females.

Journal Reference: A Malishkevich, N Amram, G Hacohen-Kleiman, I Magen, E Giladi, I Gozes. Activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP) exhibits striking sexual dichotomy impacting on autistic and Alzheimer’s pathologies. Translational Psychiatry, 2015; 5 (2): e501 DOI: 10.1038/tp.2014.138

Easy parental teaching techniques improve 1yr olds with high autism risk

A bunch of simple techniques adapted for parents to teach children have shown significant improvements in a year old toddlers with high risk for autism spectrum disorders. The study was published this week in the journal Autism Research and Treatment and was conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Lead author of the study and technique Dr. Grace Baranek and her team developed what is termed as ART i.e. adaptive responsive teaching. These were home based methods that parents could use on a daily basis with their children and showed substantial improvement in social interaction. The parents were taught to use imitation, vocalization and social interaction ‘back and forth’ with the children to improve the children’s outcomes.

Journal Reference: Grace T. Baranek, Linda R. Watson, Lauren Turner-Brown, Samuel H. Field, Elizabeth R. Crais, Linn Wakeford, Lauren M. Little, J. Steven Reznick. Preliminary Efficacy of Adapted Responsive Teaching for Infants at Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Community Sample. Autism Research and Treatment, 2015; 2015: 1 DOI: 10.1155/2015/386951

Autism risk higher in abandoned kids in institutions

A new study has found that the risk for autism is higher in children who were placed under institutional care. The study conducted at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s hospital by Dr. Charles Nelson and his team. The study found impaired communication in children abandoned in such care. The findings were published this week in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The findings throw light on the poor quality of social interaction and special attention at institutions demanding strict action and attention.

Journal Reference: April R. Levin, Nathan A. Fox, Charles H. Zeanah, Charles A. Nelson. Social Communication Difficulties and Autism in Previously Institutionalized Children. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2015; 54 (2): 108 DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2014.11.011