Autism Research: January 16,2015 Week in review

ResearchCircumcision linked to autism risk in boys

A new study has found an increased association between circumcision and autism spectrum disorders in boys under ten, compared to non-operated peers. The study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggested that the risk is especially high in boys under five. The researchers led by Prof. Morten Frisch of the Statens Serum Institut at Copenhagen hypothesize that painful experiences noted in human and animal neonates have been associated in the past with long-term changes in the perception of pain. This is a characteristic feature encountered commonly amongst children with ASD. The Danish study that analyzed data of over 3,40,000 boys also found that there was an increased risk of hyperactivity in circumcised boys from non-Islamic families. The researchers suggest that the painful experiences mutate stress responses for a lifetime and this might be one of the reasons the boys later developed autism.

Journal Reference:
Frisch, J. Simonsen. Ritual circumcision and risk of autism spectrum disorder in 0- to 9-year-old boys: national cohort study in Denmark. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1177/0141076814565942

Brief checkups miss out autism at the Pediatricians’

Researchers are now suggesting that brief routine checkups with your regular pediatrician might be missing out autism symptoms which often need some amount of time to be noticed, especially if they are subtle. Speedy visits of about 10 to 20 minutes to the child specialist might not be enough. The study published by Brigham Young University researchers was led by Terisa Gabrielsen. Even the experts participating in the study missed out over 39% children with autism in the 10 minute evaluation. The findings published in the prestigious journal Pediatrics highlight the need for using evaluation and diagnostic tools like questionnaires to detect autism at the earliest so that rigorous interventions can be made for the child.

Journal Reference:
Judith Miller, PhD et al. Identifying Autism in a Brief Observation. Pediatrics, January 2015 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2014-1428

Imaging test on way for autism

Imaging studies have been revolutionizing medicine ever since their discovery, giving doctors a peep into the murky interiors of the human body and mind. Now researchers from Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have come up with an imaging device to help diagnose autism spectrum disorders in children. Claiming to be able to diagnose ASD in under 2 minutes, the machine was developed under the leadership of author Read Montague. The findings are up for review on Clinical Psychological Science journal. With some more research and fine tuning the device will be able to replace the clinical methods which often miss out on autism in children when the signs are subtle. Researchers identified that the responses were dulled in a brain’s region called the cingulate cortex; the more severe the symptoms, the duller the response. In this way using functional MRI scanning, the researchers are being able to make autism diagnosis more standardized and less based on time consuming questionnaires and clinical evaluation.

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech.

Facial imaging in 3D for detecting autism under development

Researchers from the University of Missouri Columbia are working on a device that will use advanced techniques of 3D imaging to help diagnose autism spectrum disorders. The study led by Judith Miles and her team was published this week in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. The researchers showed that children with autism had certain similar facial features that they were able to quantify using 3D mapping and advanced analytical methods. They found that the features and severity of symptoms corroborated. This might pave a completely new way of diagnosing autism in the future.

Journal Reference:
Tayo Obafemi-Ajayi, Judith H. Miles, T. Nicole Takahashi, Wenchuan Qi, Kristina Aldridge, Minqi Zhang, Shi-Qing Xin, Ying He, Ye Duan. Facial Structure Analysis Separates Autism Spectrum Disorders into Meaningful Clinical Subgroups. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, January 2015 DOI: 10.1007/s10803-014-2290-8