Autism Research: July 18, 2014 Week in Review

ResearchBoth men and women with autism resemble an extreme male thought process

One of the largest ever studies to study the subtleties of sex difference has found that the mind of a both a man and a woman having autism resembles the workings of the mind of a typical man, only taken to an extreme. The mind of a typical adult male focuses on systematizing and organizing everything while that of a typical female focuses on empathy and recognizing the feelings of people. The study led by Dr. Meng Chuan Lai and Prof. Cohen from the University of Cambridge was published this week in the journal PLOS ONE. The study that tested 811 adults having autism found that typical women had a high Empathy Quotient (EQ) while typical men had high Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) as well as Systematizing Quotient (SQ). Both men and women diagnosed with autism had a lower EQ and much higher AQ and SQ. The results of the study will have profound applications in education. Teachers and education systems must focus on classifications and systematizing each aspect of the material taught to the children with autism, as data presented in such a manner will be absorbed much faster owing to the high SQ.

Fatty acid deficits and autism might be associated, study suggests

A new study coming from RINKEN Brain Science Institute has reported that neurodevelopmental disorders like schizophrenia and autism might be linked to deficits in proteins that bind to fatty acids called Fatty Acid Binding Proteins (FABP). Mutations were identified in the FABPs in mice making them mimic behavior seen in patients with autism. The study published in Human Molecular Genetics reported this new connection between autism and genetic mutation in these binding proteins. The study seconded the theory that lipid metabolism is involved in such cognitive disorders as the human brain is made up of a large quantity of lipids. The team of neuroscientists found that the expression of the FABPs were altered in the brain cells and blood stream of patients diagnosed with autism, corroborating the lipid metabolism theory yet again. The study hopes to provide targeted therapies based on the findings in the future.

Synaptic dysfunction could be the reason behind autism and depression

A new study published in Glia has suggested the role of malfunctioning synapses in the brain as the possible cause of disorders like autism, depression, substance abuse and epilepsy. The team of researchers led by Flávia Gomes from the Rio de Janeiro Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Brazil, found the role of astrocytes in the development of neuropsychiatric conditions. Astrocytes are star shaped supportive brain tissue that were identified to be responsible for production of Transforming Growth Factor Beta 1 (TGF B1) in mice and human brain tissues. This TGF B1 is found to play a key role in formation of inhibitory synapses and memory control through activation of another receptor called N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor. Thus an impairment in inhibition of impulse transmission, that is controlled by astrocytes, leads to autism, etc gains more ground among scientists suggesting the imbalance between inhibition and excitation as the leading cause of all neuropsychiatric conditions.

Studies showed significant IQ increases following Reflective Network Therapy

Researchers have reported a surprising finding about a unique treatment of autism spectrum disorder: a large and reliable IQ rise. Almost every treated child, regardless of diagnosis, showed significant increases in IQ, along with improved social interaction, more positive behavior, and improved communication skills. These were the 2014 findings of a 49-year-long, multi-site study reported on at the American Psychoanalytic Association in Chicago. Investigators were led by Gilbert Kliman, M.D. of The Children’s Psychological Health Center in Santa Rosa and San Francisco. The Press Release from this past week can be found on Autism Daily Newscast here.