Autism Research: March 14, 2014 Week in Review

adn-icon-298x300Liver transplant potentially helpful in rare form of autism

A patient suffering from lathosterolosis, a rare metabolic condition, showed significant improvement in her mental as well as physical symptoms after she received a new liver via transplant, a case study reported. The condition is known to produce liver failure and autism-like behavior along with defective cholesterol metabolism, congenital defects and progressive liver failure.  According to a case report in the American Journal of Transplantation, the patient’s transplant showed that there might be an unexpected association between autism and certain metabolic conditions as these. The relief in the autism symptoms of the patient has prompted the role of a healthy liver in patients with autism. The patient, all of 7 years, is the only living person with the said condition and received the liver transplant in Italy.

ASD children more likely to wish to be of another gender, study finds

A new study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior managed by Springer, has found that teenagers and children on the autism spectrum are more likely to wish that they were born as the other gender. Children between 6 and 18 years of age having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder  (ADHD), epilepsy or other medical neurodevelopmental condition were compared to children having a typical neurodevelopment. John Strang, lead author of this pioneering study from Children’s National Medical Center, Washington DC, observed that gender variance to the order of 7.59 times was observed in the ASD group as compared to the control group and about 6.64 times  more in the ADHD group. The study throws light on one more aspect of how raising a child with a neurodevelopmental condition can be a challenging task.

 Autism linked to male genital malformation, environmental factors

A gigantic new study published by the University of Chicago Medical Center has discovered hitherto unthought-of associations. The study analyzed 100 million records from the US and found that intellectual disability and autism were rates correlated with incidence of genital malformations in male babies. This implies that congenital exposure to harmful chemicals in the environment like pesticides etc could be responsible for the conditions. The study was published in the PLOS Computational Biology journal this week. It also confirmed how diagnostic standards change the prevalence of a disease. It was found that incidence of autism and intellectual disability reduced by a dramatic 99 percent in those states that regulated the diagnostic criteria more stringently.  The study might bring to light many more associations and maybe even a few answers to the problem of neurodevelopmental disorders.

 Contagious yawning mystery probably not linked to empathy, study notes

Contagious yawning is a phenomenon seen only in us humans and our more primate cousins, the chimpanzees. Researchers have now stumbled upon the fact that empathy, a formerly thought of associate of contagious yawning, is not related to it after all. Researchers from the Duke Center for Human Genome Variation have identified that the phenomenon might not be associated with tiredness, empathy or energy levels. The study published in PLOS ONE hopes to understand conditions like autism and schizophrenia better by understanding the biological processes that dictate this unusual phenomenon.  Autism Daily Newscast reported on a study last fall that indicated that yawning not contagious for children with autism.

Pain may predict sleeping problems in teens diagnosed with autism

According to new research from Megan Tudor and colleagues from Stony Brook University, USA. and published in February reveals a potentially interesting connection which calls for both further study and much greater appreciation of how both issues may impact on the overt presentation of autism. For more information read our report here.

Occupational therapists look at social challenges caused by ASD

Earlier this week, Autism Daily Newscast reported on new research conducted by a group of occupational therapists provides insight into the specific social activities that challenge children and pre-teens diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Researchers found that children’s autism symptoms impacted how frequently they spent time in social activities.