Adding to the list of difficulties faced by children with autism, a new research from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology is now suggesting that autism might also be impairing the predictive abilities of an individual. The study led by Richard Held was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team hypothesized that one of the reasons someone with autism might be engaging in ritualistic or repetitive behaviors is to maintain a false feeling of “constancy” or “sameness” when in reality, the world around is changing continuously. This occurs, they suggest, due the impaired ability to predict a set of future events, further adding weight to the symptoms of hypersensitivity and exaggerated reactions to new stimuli that are common in people diagnosed with autism. The team went on to suggest that subjects like math and music, which are fairly constant, might be good options for individuals with autism.
Common molecular cause to autism, Down’s syndrome and others
Neurodevelopmental disorders like autism spectrum disorders, Down’s syndrome, ADHD etc seem to have different causes but there is little scientific evidence about the exact molecular aberrations taking place beneath them. A new study from the McGill University, led by author Carl Ernst is suggesting that despite the differences, certain common molecules are affected leading to lifelong impairment of learning, etc. The authors found that the fundamental issue lay in the premature conversion of neural stem cells to more specialized, full brain cells. The findings published by Cell Press in the American Journal of Human Genetics suggest a ‘one-size-fits-all’ theory for treating these conditions due to the underlying common thread that they discovered between 2 seemingly different genetic disorders tied by common molecular pathways.
Synthetic oil improves mouse model of autism
Always at the cutting edge of research, John Hopkins University of Medicine has come up with yet another path breaking potential therapeutic measure to help mankind. A team of researchers led by Gabriele Ronnett has published findings of their work with a synthetic oil called triheptanoin oil used to treat mice with Rett Syndrome, the mice equivalent of autism. The researchers said in the journal PLOS ONE that the mice did not just have 30% longer life spans but also experienced symptoms of lesser severity in both the behavioral and physical spheres.
Neuronal stem cell overgrowth linked to autism-like symptoms
A team of researchers from the UCLA has uncovered a link between inflammation during pregnancy leading to stem cell overgrowth in the brains eventually leading to autism-like symptoms. The team led by Dr. Harley Kornblum found this by studying pregnant mice and results on their offsprings. The researchers recreated a potentially toxic environment for these mice to induce inflammation and studied the after effects; further strengthening the debate in favor of the lobby believing that environmental causes leading to autism. The findings published in Stem Cell Reports this week gives one more angle to the ever expanding database of knowledge of how autism spectrum disorders occur in an effort to develop targeted therapies.
Researchers at Penn State University have devised a new game to help teens on the spectrum
The computer game, which has been created by staff hailing from the university’s psychology and behavioral health faculties, is designed to appear like a labyrinth situated underneath a large city. Players are required to rely solely on nonverbal cues provided by bystanders in order to catch the “bad guy” and thus, win the game. The objective is to improve nonverbal communication and interpersonal skills. More on this story can be read on Autism Daily Newscast here.