Autism Research: November 7, 2014 Week in Review

ResearchIncreased reporting in Denmark raising autism prevalence rates

Researchers led by Stefan Hansen of Aarhus University, Denmark have found that due to increase in the number of cases being reported, the prevalence rates for autism spectrum disorders have risen a whopping 60%. The findings have been published this week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The Danish health registries have had 2 major upheavals as regards reporting is concerned in the past 3 decades along with changes in the diagnostic criteria for ASD in 1994. The discharge diagnoses of outpatient contacts were also included in 1995 as part of the reporting system. These two have clearly vastly affected the figures of autism in Denmark, although the remaining 40% rise still remains probably attributable to unknown causative factors.

No visible differences found in ASD and typically developing brain’s anatomy

The largest ever MRI study has led to some myth-breaking answers for the researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Carnegie Mellon University. The team of scientists led by Dr. Ilan Dinstein has come up with ‘definitive answers’ regarding the brain anatomy. Published in the Oxford journal Cerebral Cortex, the findings state that beyond the age of six, there are mostly no distinguishable features between the anatomy of brains of a typically developing and an autism person. These findings refute numerous studies that have suggested that brain volumes, cerebellar size, hippocampus volumes, etc were different in people with autism as compared to their typical peers. A more indepth review of this study can be read on Autism Daily Newscast here.

Parents instead of clinicians best to help autism toddlers

A research team from the Florida State University led by Amy Wetherby has found that interventions by parents for toddlers with autism led to better outcomes as compared to the same intervention methods delivered by clinicians. The team developed a special model that parents could teach their kids to improve everyday social interaction, etc and found that the early intervention models lead to better outcomes when delivered by parents on a daily basis rather than by clinicians who were always running short on time. The findings have been published in Pediatrics online.

Hispanic, Black poorly represented in autism data, study finds

Jason Travers with a few other colleagues found that despite rising rates of autism in each state from 2000 to 2007, the representation of Black and Hispanic kids was grossly less. The professor from University of Kansas and his team published these findings in the Journal of Special Education this week. The authors stated that due to this, probably the minority students from schools were not getting the same healthcare services as their American peers. The team had studied data from over 50 schools over the 7 year span to study the rates of autism in various states.

 Preemie brain changes explain high neurodevelopment disorder risk

Team of researchers from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Saban Research Institute, led by Dr. Natasha Lepore have discovered vital changes in certain areas of the brain of prematurely born babies that might help explain why they are at higher risk for disorders like autism, ADHD, etc. The findings were published this week in Brain Structure and Function and were the result of 3D MRI studies of 17 preterm and 19 term born babies.