Autism Research: November 14, 2014 Week in Review

ResearchResearchers use facial recognition study for individuals with autism

Individuals on the autistic spectrum often have difficulties with recognizing and interpreting facial expressions, a new study, Impaired Perception of Facial Motion in Autism Spectrum Disorder, has found. Researchers at Brunel University looked into how 14 individuals with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), recognized facial motions as a clue to a person’s social identity. The research supports evidence that these impairments in perceiving biological motion may be an indicator that may underlie the difficulties with social interaction. This is in direct contrast to the suggestions that have previously been stated in that poor attention skills are the reason for this problem. Dr Justin O’Brien, from Brunel University London, said: “Our data indicates that people with ASD are unable to pick up on changing visual information that informs their judgment of someone’s identity or emotional state, and that this could contribute to difficulties in social interaction.”

Geneticists research brain development in individuals with autism

The Department of Molecular Human Genetics at Heidelberg University Hospital have created a new mouse model to show how a  genetic mutation is linked to a specific type of autism and how it affects both brain development and behavior. For individuals with a specific form of autism, a protein known as  FOXP1 cannot be synthesized, which then leads to a degenerative role in the individual’s ability of perception.This  new mouse model will allow better understanding of the brain and the role that this protein plays. Researchers hope to find out the response paths that are disrupted which will hopefully be a starting point for more targeted treatment.
Brain-specific Foxp1 deletion impairs neuronal development and causes autistic-like behaviour. Bacon C, Schneider M, Le Magueresse C, Froehlich H, Sticht C, Gluch C, Monyer H, Rappold GA. Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Sep 30. DOI: 10.1038/mp.2014.116.

San Diego Autism Researchers use teeth to aid autism research

Alysson Muotri an autism researcher from  UC San Diego has isolated cells from extracted teeth in order to study genetic markers. The program is known as the Tooth Fairy Project and Muotri told: “It’s completely non-invasive and it’s an easy way to engage the families to participate in the science.” The study published in  Molecular Psychiatry, studied the teeth extracted from 300 children  and extracted cells from the teeth into brain cells. When these cells were observed under a microscope different sizes and shapes of neurons were seen as well as connectivity problems between brain cells.

Darting mice help to solve mystery of autism and bipolar disorder

A darting mouse may help solve the mysetery of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism.  The study carried out by researchers from  Vanderbilt University published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers injected a rare genetic variation found in the dopamine transporter (DAT) into a transgenic mousen in the hope of eventually finding a treatment and diagnosis for these conditions. Autism Daily Newscast recently reported on this research and the article can be read here.
The rare DAT coding variant Val559 perturbs DA neuron function, changes behavior, and alters in vivo responses to psychostimulants, Marc A. Mergy,  E4779–E4788, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1417294111

How brain mapping help us perceive the world

Scientists based at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that ‘moving forward’ helps the brain to normally perceive the world. Researchers also found that the relationship between the neurons located in the eye and the brain is much more complicated that initially perceived.  They found that the order in which a human sees things can help us in perceiving time and what is around us.Hollis Cline, senior author of the study told: “We were trying to understand how that happens and the rules used during brain development,” The research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
M. Hiramoto, H. T. Cline. Optic flow instructs retinotopic map formation through a spatial to temporal to spatial transformation of visual information. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1416953111