Autism Research: July 3, 2015 Week in Review

ResearchHigh risk preemies don’t manifest typical autism signs in early infancy

A new study conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine has identified that premature babies, tend to be at a higher risk of being diagnosed with autism. Those babies who tend to avoid eye contact during early infancy were found to be less likely to have typical symptoms of autism at the age of 2 as compared to preemies who did maintain eye contact during their initial interactions. These findings are unusual and surprising, but first author Bobbi Pineda evaluated 62 premature babies to come to these findings that are now available in the journal The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. The study comes as an important addition to the knowledge of early signs to look out for in kids, as early aggressive intervention is the only way to combat autism, and the earlier a child can be diagnosed, the higher his chances of leading an independent life.

Journal reference: Pineda R, Melchior K, Oberle S, Inder T, Rogers C. Assessment of Autism Symptoms During the Neonatal Period: Is There Early Evidence of Autism Risk? The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. July/August 2015 edition.

Research throws new light on understanding of autism and schizophrenia

Scientists from the Goethe University, Frankfurt have delved deeper into the brain’s predictive abilities and discovered how even with rudimentary visual cues it can make significant deductions. Published this week in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience, Prof. Michael Wibral and his team observed during their study that only when the brain senses mismatches in its predictions and the succeeding clues does it send data to the higher processors to make more active corrections to these predictions. They found that the brain wave activity increases when predictive errors occur. This study’s findings hold importance in our understanding of autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia because these error waves are significantly impaired in individuals suffering from these conditions as seen in a earlier study at the Frankfurt Brain Imaging Centre.

Journal Reference: Wibral M. Journal of Neuroscience. 2015. July.

Micro RNA found to play key role in memory formation

Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute discovered that microRNAs, a type of genetic material, play vital roles in memory formation, as seen in fruit fly models. These small RNAs sometimes increase and sometimes decrease memory, the scientists said. Researcher Ron Davis who led the study that was published this week in the journal Genetics said that this is an important new step in understanding how memory and learning work. This study has opened a new road for research into RNAs to help understand how learning works and how it can be used to teach children on the spectrum or with learning disabilities.

Journal Reference: G. U. Busto, T. Guven-Ozkan, T. A. Fulga, D. Van Vactor, R. L. Davis. microRNAs That Promote or Inhibit Memory Formation in Drosophila melanogaster. Genetics, 2015; 200 (2): 569 DOI: 10.1534/genetics.114.169623

Measuring autism in a sniff, study suggests

A new study published this week in the journal Current Biology has suggested that in the near future, maybe we could be able to diagnose autism merely by the way a person sniffs! Researchers noted that autistic children do not limit their flow of sniffing the way typical children do, when they enter a restroom, or increase when they enter a garden. This could help serve as an early indicator for autism, researchers led by Noam Sobel suggested. Only with large scale studies can researchers conclude whether olfactory impairment lies at the heart of autism and can help serve as a screening/diagnostic tool.

Journal reference: Current Biology, Rozenkrantz et al.: “A Mechanistic Link between Olfaction and Autism Spectrum Disorder”.