Autism Research: October 17, 2014 Week in Review

ResearchRare autism type shows a new way

Researchers from Cleveland Clinic have discovered new genetic links that might help understand the steadily growing disorder of autism. Studying a small sect of children with autism having a mutation in the PTEN gene, Tom Frazier, lead author of the study, discovered that the children not only had larger heads but also had retaining much information in their short term memory compared to their peers in the control group. On doing MRI studied of the children’s brains, the team found that there were deficits in the white matter of the brain i.e. the communication system of the brain. This was probably the reason that the children were exhibiting the symptoms of autism they did. Researchers are hopeful this information will lead to further therapeutic-oriented research for autism especially, the PTEN mutation produced autism.

Broccoli helps treat cancer and now compound may also assist with autism

As reported extensively this week, the results of a new path breaking study from the prestigious John Hopkins University School of Medicine are out this week and they are sure to put a smile on every parent’s face. A team of scientists led by Dr. Paul Talalay and Dr. Andrew Zimmerman has found that broccoli sprouts contain a chemical called sulforaphane that helps alleviate symptoms of autism. The findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week are based on trials involving 40 boys between 13 to 27 years age having moderate or severe autism. After 18 weeks of treatment with sulforaphane, the team found as much as 17% reduction in symptoms like lethargy, irritability, repetitive behaviors, social interaction, eye contact, awareness, mannerisms and communication.  More can be read at Autism Daily Newscast here.

Proof piles up: pollution causes autism

Yet another researcher has added to the ever burgeoning pile of evidence that links the growing numbers of autism to our heavy polluted air. Amy Kalkbrenner published a study this week in the journal Epidemiology showcasing her findings linking the damaging effects of air pollution on unborn children in mothers their third trimester of pregnancy. The study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee compared pollution and autism rates in California and North Carolina and found a significant number of children developing autism when born in summer in North Carolina and during fall and winter in California when their mothers were exposed to higher particulate matter during her third trimester. This is the third study linking autism and pollution strongly sounding a red signal to policy makers to make stricter laws to curtail pollution.

Greater diagnostic accuracy for autism detection in children

Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University have found a brain waves test that is looking to be a surer diagnostic measure for autism than all others yet. The study’s findings have been published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities this week and were co-authored by Sophie Molholm. The team found that children with more severe variants of autism responded slower to audio-visual, visual and auditory stimuli. By recording the brain wave activity the team is hoping to look out for such activity in other children to help detect and diagnose autism earlier, with greater accuracy to lead to earlier interventions.