Autism Research: June 5, 2015 Week in Review

ResearchUnsupervised dietary supplementation not a good idea for autistic kids

In the largest-of-its-kind study ever done, researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center have busted a big myth that has been plaguing parents of children with autism spectrum disorders. The team of pediatricians led by assistant professor Patricia Stewart found that parents often indulged in diets like gluten-free casein-free diet, etc without professional nutritionist supervision to make up for the pickiness that kids on the spectrum often are. The study showed that despite the extra supplementation that the parents did, the children were deficient in calcium while some others had excess vitamin A and other minerals, vitamins. These could have an extremely deleterious effect on the health of the children and has been highly discouraged by the authors of the study published this week in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Read More Here

Journal Reference: Patricia A. Stewart; Susan L. Hyman; Brianne L. Schmidt; et al. Dietary Supplementation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Common, Insufficient and Excessive. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, June 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.03.026

Autism associated with elevated levels of salivary cortisol

Researchers led by Susan Putnam at the Institute for Autism Research at Canisius College have discovered that significantly high levels of salivary cortisol were found in lower-functioning children on the autism spectrum (LFASD). Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands in cases of stress on the body, both mental and physical. The levels of cortisol reported in these children were higher than both typical children as well as high functioning kids on the autism spectrum (HFASD). Earlier, studies have reported that individuals with autism spectrum disorders tend to experience more stress and complaints like anxiety, etc compared to other typical individuals. The findings of this study simply corroborate the old findings, that indeed the stress levels are higher, leading to elevated salivary cortisol level.

Journal Reference: Susan K. Putnam, Christopher Lopata, Marcus L. Thomeer, Martin A. Volker, Jonathan D. Rodgers. Salivary Cortisol Levels and Diurnal Patterns in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s10882-015-9428-2

Overstimulation key to differences in autism behaviors

A new study published by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has found that overstimulation, sensory as well as social, is a key reason for the stereotype autistic behaviors. The animal-based study corroborated the theory that many other studies have suggested, of the autism brain being hyperfunctional, not underfunctional. The study was led by Prof. Henry Markram and his co-author Kamila Markram and published this week in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience. The study has immediate implications in newly diagnosed children with autism, who can be allowed to flourish in a controlled environment, letting them grow and learn, without letting sensory overstimulation disturb them. Read More Here

Journal Reference: Mônica R. Favre, Deborah La Mendola, Julie Meystre, et al. Predictable enriched environment prevents development of hyper-emotionality in the VPA rat model of autism. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2015 DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2015.00127

Mobile phone apps and smart watches can aid autistic children

Technology and research are constantly endeavoring to simplify our lives and this is exactly what mobile phone applications and smart watches are doing too. A new study conducted by the researchers at SINTEF have found that these could especially help children with autism in managing appointments with their healthcare providers, school timings, etc. A calendar on the watch or tab, pictures, sounds and text could be used to simplify their lives, said lead author Oystein Dale. The findings of the study will be published soon while researchers try to figure out what apps help the most, and how they can be optimized for kids with autism.

Journal Reference: SINTEF. “Smart watches, apps can make life easier for ADHD children.” ScienceDaily, 2 June 2015. Available at : <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150602075553.htm>.