Autism Research: June 19, 2015 Week in Review

ResearchKeener perception in infants associated with autism

A new study published in the journal Current Biology has found a strong association between infants with strong perception skills and autism. This differential perception, often much stronger than average peers can be skimmed out right in infancy much before actual clinical symptoms of autism can be identified. The study led by Teodora Gliga at the University of London found that despite the lack of social skills, infants who went on to develop autism later, had high visual perceptual skills visible right in infancy. The researchers used visual tracking devices to gather data on perception of these infants and used this to gauge perceptual abilities. The study and many other such studies are compelling scientists to rethink of autism as an evolution, not mutation.

Journal Reference: Gliga, et al. Enhanced Visual Search in Infancy Predicts Emerging Autism Symptoms. Current Biology, 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.05.011

Teenage moms have higher autism risk

Teenage moms have plenty of worries, but new research is pointing out that they might have one more big aspect they might need to worry about. New research published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry by Michael Rosanoff, analyzed 5.7 million children across 5 countries, to find that not just parents in their 40s and 50s produce children with higher risk for autism, but teenage moms and parents with wide age gaps too had higher risk of autism in the children born. The largest ever study, throws light on how evolving social trends are increasing risk of hitherto rare conditions. The study was conducted across 5 countries namely, Sweden, Denmark, Western Australia, Norway and Israel, helping remove multiple socio-cultural biases, environmental factors, etc.

Journal Reference: S Sandin, D Schendel, P Magnusson, C Hultman, P Surén, et al. Autism risk associated with parental age and with increasing difference in age between the parents. Molecular Psychiatry, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2015.70

Cortical interactions critical in autism

A research team led by Christian Keysers has identified that there is an unusually synchronicity between the sensory cortices responsible for perception in the brain and the subcortical areas that relay information from our sensory organs like eyes, nose, etc to the cortex. The study conducted at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Amsterdam was published this week in the JAMA Psychiatry issue. The finding is vital to understanding how to tackle hypersensitivity issues in autism that a large number of individuals on the spectrum experience. The hypersensitivity to sounds, odours, new environments, etc can be a gift or a curse based on how it is handled and channelized.

Journal Reference: Leonardo Cerliani, Maarten Mennes, Rajat M. Thomas, Adriana Di Martino, Marc Thioux, Christian Keysers. Increased Functional Connectivity Between Subcortical and Cortical Resting-State Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder. JAMA Psychiatry, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.0101

Atypical brain development continues from childhood well into adulthood in ASD, new study observes

A new study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has demonstrated that the atypical brain cortex development that is observed in children on the spectrum continues from childhood, even into adolescence and young adulthood. The study led by Alex Martin found in one of the very first studies ever conducted to examine longitudinal brain development, i.e. studying the same subjects across a time span, that the unusual thinning of the cortex of brain was associated with greater executive function on behavioral rating scales.

Journal Reference: Gregory L. Wallace, Ian W. Eisenberg, Briana Robustelli, Nathan Dankner, Lauren Kenworthy, Jay N. Giedd, Alex Martin. Longitudinal Cortical Development During Adolescence and Young Adulthood in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Increased Cortical Thinning but Comparable Surface Area Changes. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2015; 54 (6): 464 DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2015.03.007