Autism Research: November 14, 2014 Week in Review

Research

Brain maps to help sensory processing in autism spectrum disorders

Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute are taking an unusual look at the world through the mind’s eye. The team led by Hollis Cline has discovered that travelling in the forward direction trained our brains to perceive our surroundings normally. The relation between the eyes and neurons is complex and this inverse processing of the brain could help use these rules to treat sensory processing disorders like autism, etc. The findings have been published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists identified that seeing things created visual maps in the brain that formed a certain flow in the brain while we drove forward. Using tadpoles, the scientists challenged an age old rule of neuroscience i.e. firing of neighboring neurons was necessary but that their sequence of firing also bore implications to the final outcomes in the processing. Researchers are guessing that this might be applicable to not just visual processing but also senses of hearing and touch.

Old protein, new insights: study links protein to Fragile X Syndrome and autism

Researchers from the VIB – Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology have found new information regarding an old protein that throws new light on the Fragile X Syndrome and autism connection. The study found that absence of a protein called FMRP lead to delay in transformation of nerve cells and reaching their designated position in the brain’s cortex. This lead to neurodevelopmental delay affecting early life after birth. Led by Claudia Bagni, the team published this hitherto unknown finding this week. This new insight highlights the importance of brain development in early postnatal life that might lead to incomplete tuning of the brain connectivity, producing characteristic symptoms of autism.

Molecule that limits brain memory identified; bears implications on autism and Alzheimer’s

A team of researchers from the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) has been able to pin point a molecule that helps halt neural processing and on removal can help improve memory recall and brain functioning. This ground breaking finding has been published this week in Cell Reports and raises hope for conditions that affect the memory tremendously like Alzheimer’s. The researchers led by Dr. Murai noted that the FXR1P can improve recall and overall memory function and might help produce targeted therapies for conditions like autism spectrum disorders as well as it helps enhance overall brain activity.

Serotonin affects brain circuit assembly

Serotonin has long been implicated in depression, autism and anxiety related disorders. Now, researchers from UNIGE led by Dr. Alexandre Dayer have identified that serotonin plays an indispensible role in the developing brain cortex. It helps the interneurons find their appropriate position via migration. Interneurons are nerve cells that regulate excitation and inhibition in the brain to avoid over activity of brain. Medical science could be revolutionized if serotonin could be utilized to alter fetal brain to correct neurodevelopmental disorders in the mother’s womb itself. The findings of the study were published this week and have implications on conditions like autism and ADHD.

Denmark – Increase in autism cases linked to changes in diagnostic criteria and reporting methods

As reported in Autism Daily Newscast here, Researchers found that the drastic increase in autism cases in Denmark may have been due to the changes in the diagnostic criteria as well as the reporting methods used to record the number of cases. According to the researchers they state that 60 per cent of the increase found in the prevalence of ASD in children born  1980 through 1991 can be explained due to the changes in diagnostic criteria that were introduced from 1994 as well as the collection of out patient data.