Autism Research: Jan 30, 2015 Week in Review

Research

Largest autism study finds siblings don’t share most autism genes

The largest-ever study conducted on the autism genome came up with some shocking results this week. The study led by Dr. Stephen Scherer of Autism Speaks found that siblings with autism did not share most of the autism-linked genes. The study comes as a huge blow to all the research so far which laid claims to a strong genetic basis to autism. The findings have been published in Nature Medicine this week.
Journal Reference: Stephen W Scherer et al. Whole-genome sequencing of quartet families with autism spectrum disorder. Nature Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nm.3792

Faulty brain biology discovered beneath emotional disturbances in autism

Researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine led by Dr. Gabriel Dechter have identified the biological basis in the brain that is connected to the emotional difficulties faced by people with autism. The anxiety, tantrums and the irritability have a palpable, real reason compared to typical peers. The team used functional MRI scans to assess emotional responses and found that the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that deals with emotions and needs, did not light up to the same extent in people with autism compared to the control group. The findings were published this week in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Journal Reference: Anthony Richey, Cara R. Damiano, Antoinette Sabatino, et al. Neural Mechanisms of Emotion Regulation in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s10803-015-2359-z

Social play differs in autism, new brain study reveals

A new study from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, led by Dr. Blythe Corbett found that the way children with autism handle stress and behave socially is different from typically growing peers. The team demonstrated their findings of brain scans which showed wide variations in patterns of brain activation. The findings that were published this week in the journal Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience observed that some children found social play not just stressful, but actually aversive.
Journal Reference: K. Edmiston, K. Merkle, B. A. Corbett. Neural and cortisol responses during play with human and computer partners in children with autism. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2014; DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsu159

Autism improves by age 6, new study observes

Dr. Peter Szatmari and his team from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto studied preschool children with autism and found that about 20% made progress each day to show significant improvement by the age of 6. The Canadian team of researchers found that everyday adaptive functioning is necessary for the children to make them independent. The findings have been published in JAMA Psychiatry this week. Yet, the symptom severity did not reduce with increased adaptive functioning.
Journal reference: Szatmari P, Georgiades S, Duku E. Developmental Trajectories of Symptom Severity and Adaptive Functioning in an Inception Cohort of Preschool Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015 Jan 28. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.2463. [Epub ahead of print]

Expressions and emotions not fully synced in autism, study finds

The findings of a new study conducted by researchers at UT Dallas state that the expressions manifested on the faces of people with autism don’t always mirror the exact emotions. The emotions might be too intense or unusual, odd. The study published this week in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders was led by Dr. Noah Sasson. The researchers fear that this exaggerated display of emotions might be eliciting unusual responses from other people in the society leading to impairment in social interaction.
 Journal reference: “Evaluating Posed and Evoked Facial Expressions of Emotion from Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, January 2015, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 75-89. link.springer.com/article/10.1… %2Fs10803-014-2194-7

Oxytocin shows therapeutic potential in autism yet again

One more new research has backe the therapeutic potential of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin for symptoms of autism. In a new study published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine , researchers from UCLA led by Daniel Geschwind found that oxytocin helped restore typical social behavior in mice with autism and had potential in human medicine too. The researchers also found that melanocortin, a protein that helped the natural secretion of oxytocin also improved sociability amongst the mice and could be a future target molecule in autism therapy.
Journal reference: Exogenous and evoked oxytocin restores social behavior in the Cntnap2 mouse model of autism. Olga Peñagarikano, María T. Lázaro, Xiao-Hong Lu, et al. Sci Transl Med 21 January 2015 7:271ra8. DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.3010257] http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/7/271/271ra8.short