Can a new fragile x study offer insights into autism treatment?
C. G. Gkogkas et al. Pharmacogenetic Inhibition of eIF4E-Dependent Mmp9 mRNA Translation Reverses Fragile X Syndrome-like Phenotypes. Cell Reports, 27 November 2014.
Study explains why people with autism may see faces differently
Researchers at Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies and the University of Montreal have recently conducted a study into the way individuals with ASD gather information. Lead author of the study, Baudouin Forgeot d’Arc told, “The evaluation of an individual’s face is a rapid process that influences our future relationship with the individual,” The study wanted to try and understand how people with ASD recognise and use facial features. 71 individuals were involved in the study, 38 individuals were in a control group and 33 in the ASD group, none of the participants had intellectual disabilities. Each individual was shown 36 pairs of photographic images and their social judgment was evaluated by asking which neutral faces had appeared to be “kind”. The findings suggested that the reaction of the ASD participants were mixed and not predictable when compared to the control group. What the findings suggest is that the way individuals with ASD gather information about a person’s face is critical. Forgeot d’Arc told of the findings, “We now want to understand how the gathering of cues underpinning these judgments is different between people with or without ASD depending on whether they are viewing synthetic or photographic images. Ultimately, a better understanding of how people with ASD perceive and evaluate the social environment will allow us to better interact with them.”
The role of serotonin in assembling brain circuits
Past research has found that having a poor serotonin regulatory system can increase the risks of gaining autism and depression as well as anxiety disorders. Genetic variations found in the serotonin system can indeed interact with the stress experienced during foetal stages of development and early childhood, which can increase risks of developing psychiatric problems later on. Alexandre Dayer and his team at UNIGE’s Faculty of medicine looked at a receptor for this particular neurotransmitter in relation to forming brain circuits. What they found was that this receptor, “was indispensable in order for neurons to find their correct location in the developing cortex.” Larger studies will be needed on the role that serotonin plays in brain development. Alexandre Dayer told that the study raises some very important questions, “including about the use of medicine by pregnant women which could modify foetal serotonin levels. We also want to understand how early stress acts on this receptor and modifies the function of the neurons in question.”
Scientists find that abnormal neural connections causes motor coordination issues in autism
Scientists at the University of Chicago have found that abnormal neural connections may likely cause motor coordination difficulties in individuals with ASD. What was found was a malfunctioning neural circuit that they reported in Nature Communications Nov. 24. Senior author of the study, Christian Hansel, PhD, told:”We have identified synaptic abnormalities that may play a role in motor problems typically seen in children with autism.” 80 per cent of children with ASD have some kind of motor coordination issue, this may be clumsiness or difficulties involving the control and movement of the eye. For the study researchers used a mouse model for one of the most common genetic abnormalities, the human 15q11-13 chromosomal duplication and focused upon the cerebellum,the area of the brain responsible for motor control. Difficulties were found in unstable gait and in the impairment of motor learning.
Cerebellar plasticity and motor learning deficits in a copy-number variation mouse model of autism,” Nature Communications, 2014.