Autism Research: Oct 3, 2014 Week In Review

ResearchEarly parent coaching program aids young autism children

In the new findings of a trial published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, researchers have developed and described their PLAY (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters) project. The project headed by Dr. Richard Solomon and his team from Ann Arbor Center for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics was orchestrated for preschool children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and aimed at coaching parents for early and aggressive intervention techniques regarding language, occupational therapy, etc. At the end of the year, the largest study of its kind found that coached parents were able to respond more sensitively to the needs of their children and able to more effectively engage them. The study involved 128 families spread out over 5 US cities and engaged children between ages 3 and 6 years. The improvements noted in barely a year were far better than regular clinical experience, Dr. Solomon said.

Autism finds new diagnostic aid in Tanzania

In a country where basic medical services are a rarity, reliable diagnosis for autism has been a fairly ignored subject. Swahili, the major language in Tanzania, has now been put to task to form a diagnostic measure for Tanzanian kids by researchers from Brown University in collaboration with University of Georgia. The study led by Ashley Harrison evaluated 41 local children using interpreters and a diagnostic panel. The findings are published in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities this week. Initially, only the most severe autism cases got diagnosed, but on development of a panel using Swahili, children all across the spectrum were diagnosed.

Sedentary life more common in autism kids, study finds

A study conducted by the researchers from Oregon State University has found that compared to their typical peers, children with autism showed a more sedentary lifestyle. On an average, the children had 50 minutes of lesser ‘moderate physical activity’ and spent about 70 minutes more sitting daily. The findings of the study have been published in the journal Autism Research and Treatment. The study headed jointly by Kylie Tyler and Kristi Menear involved 17 children diagnosed with autism and 12 without. More on this story can be read on Autism Daily Newscast here.

Distribution of genes in space affects neuropsychiatric disorders like autism

A team of Spanish-Polish researchers from the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology have identified that not just the genetic material in our cells but their distribution in space can greatly affect the outcomes and lead to neuropsychiatric conditions. The study headed by Prof. Angel Barco was published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications and has given a new direction altogether to our understanding of genetic studies. The team used mice that were genetically modified at the Warsaw based institute and found that the spacing of the genetic material or chromatin, as it is medically called, affected the mice’s neural development and led to atypical behaviors. The scientists developed a special software to study these genetically modified chromatin in the mice and found that the altered mice also had lower serotonin and dopamine, 2 vital neurotransmitters, that led to depressive symptoms.