Common brain changes found in children with autism, ADHD and OCD
A team of Toronto scientists has found similarities in brain impairments in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The study involved brain imaging of white matter in 200 children with autism, ADHD, OCD or no diagnosis.
Researchers temporarily turn off brain area to better understand function
Capitalizing on experimental genetic techniques, researchers have demonstrated that temporarily turning off an area of the brain changes patterns of activity across much of the remaining brain. The research suggests that alterations in the functional connectivity of the brain in humans may be used to determine the sites of pathology in complex disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.
“Shocking” new role of the immune system: Controlling social interaction
In a startling discovery that raises fundamental questions about human behavior, researchers have determined that the immune system directly affects – and even controls – creatures’ social behavior, such as their desire to interact with others. So could immune system problems contribute to an inability to have normal social interactions?
Origin of synaptic pruning process linked to learning, autism and schizophrenia identified
Vaccines don’t cause autism, but because the brain is so complex, we still don’t know how much of it works so figuring out the real causes (as in more than one) of autism has been slow going. Well, researchers have identified a brain receptor that appears to initiate adolescent synaptic pruning, a process believed necessary for learning, but in this case it is one that appears to go awry in both autism and schizophrenia.
Blood pressure medicine may improve conversational skills of individuals with autism
An estimated 1 in 68 children in the United States has autism. The neurodevelopmental disorder, which impairs communication and social interaction skills, can be treated with medications and behavioral therapies, though there is no cure. Now, University of Missouri researchers have found that a medication commonly used to treat high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats may have the potential to improve some social functions of individuals with autism.
Autism-linked protein lays groundwork for healthy brain
A gene linked to mental disorders helps lays the foundation for a crucial brain structure during prenatal development, according to Salk Institute research. The findings reveal new mechanistic insights into the gene, known as MDGA1, which may bring a better understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders in people.
Scientists identify key receptor as potential target for treatment of autism
Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have uncovered a significant–and potentially treatable–relationship between a chemical that helps transmit signals in the brain and genetic mutations present in a subset of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The new research findings focus on the role that the neurotransmitter serotonin plays in the development of social behavior.
Genetic analysis supports prediction that spontaneous rare mutations cause half of autism
A team led by researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has published a new analysis of data on the genetics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One commonly held theory is that autism results from the chance combinations of commonly occurring gene mutations, which are otherwise harmless. But the authors’ work provides support for a different theory.
Autism: The value of an integrated approach to diagnosis
Researchers at Inserm (Inserm Unit 930 “Imaging and Brain”) attached to François-Rabelais University and Tours Regional University Hospital have combined three clinical, neurophysiological and genetic approaches in order to better understand the brain mechanisms that cause autism. When tested on two families, this strategy enabled the researchers to identify specific gene combinations in autistic patients that distinguished them from patients with intellectual disabilities.
Largest-ever study of parental age and autism finds increased risk with teen moms
The largest-ever multinational study of parental age and autism risk, funded by Autism Speaks, found increased autism rates among the children of teen moms and among children whose parents have relatively large gaps between their ages. The study also confirmed that older parents are at higher risk of having children with autism. The analysis included more than 5.7 million children in five countries.
Mental disorders do not predict violence, so please stop
When Sandy Hook happened, it was so shocking that to this day, some don’t actually believe it happened. Shortly after, something frustrating happened, the shooter was labeled with aspergers. This helped drive the mental health and violence connection to the point that Time came out with an article dispelling that myth. Even now according to new longitudinal study of delinquent youth, most psychiatric disorders – including depression — do not predict future violent behavior. The only exception is substance abuse and dependence.
New understanding of genetics behind the autism spectrum
Autism is a spectrum, because it isn’t a clear-cut diagnosis — and because the brain is so complex — it has been hard to figure out what causes autism. This uncertainty has led rise to the anti-vaccination movement along with other groups who are at best misinformed and at worst trying to make a quick dollar. However, a new study reveals an important connection between dozens of genes that may contribute to autism, a major step toward understanding how brain development goes awry in some individuals with the disorder.
Trust issues? It may be your brain structure
Ever feel too trusting, or maybe not trusting at all? Well a recent study shows differences in brain structure according to how trusting people are of others. Teasing out the intricacies of the brain hasn’t been an easy job; if it were we probably wouldn’t be intelligent enough to figure it out. Because of this complexity, we also have higher risk of psychological conditions. Interestingly enough, this research may have implications for future treatments of those conditions, conditions such as autism or other attachment disorders.
A study of twins shows that autism is largely genetic
In the fight against misinformation about autism it seems science is starting to come out on top, finally. A new study hopes to add to the recent advancements made in the understanding of autism, which finds that a substantial genetic and moderate environmental influences were associated with risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and broader autism traits in a study of twins.
Genetic brain disorders start at the synapse
As we’ve seen from research featured here at the lab, there are many genetic disorders that cause intellectual disability and autism. Historically, these were viewed as untreatable. However, in recent years we have shown via animal models that it is possible to reverse the effects of these gene mutations. But the question remained whether different gene mutations disrupt common physiological processes. If this were the case, a treatment developed for one genetic cause of autism and intellectual disability might be useful for many others.
Evolution of whooping cough and the anti-vaccination movement
When I was your age, whooping cough wasn’t what it is today. I’m sure we all know the stereotypical grandfather telling stories like that, but — at least in this case — if he started his story off like that then he is actually right. Over the last few years, this once-common childhood illness, has evolved in response to its own vaccine, in other words this isn’t your parents’ pertussis.
Autism presentation and genetic variance
People with autism have a wide range of symptoms, with no two people sharing the exact type and severity of behaviors. This has made finding a cause (or causes) difficult, leaving pseudoscientists to claim vaccines are the cause as if it were that simple (hint: vaccines do not cause autism). Now a large-scale analysis of hundreds of patients and nearly 1000 genes has started to uncover how diversity among traits can be traced to differences in patients’ genetic mutations.
Gene fragments linked to brain development and autism
While the anti-vaccine movement enjoys the simple (and very wrong) answer to the cause of autism, there are people who want the actual truth. This drive had lead to a slew of causes (and risk factors) for autism in recent times. Now scientists have found that very small segments of genes called “microexons” influence how proteins interact with each other in the nervous system. In turn, this opens up a new line of research into the cause of autism.
Epigenetic changes and autism
Despite what you may think, the supposed “explosion” of children diagnosed with autism can directly attributed to better diagnosing techniques and — more importantly — the change of definition to make Autism spectrum disorders more broad. Thankfully more causes of autism have been found, none of them remotely related to vaccines and now scientists have found that chemical modifications to DNA’s packaging—known as epigenetic changes—can activate or repress genes involved in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and early brain development.
Fragile X and a new autism treatment
There are many roads to autism, none of them involve vaccination. I get tired of saying that, but it’s simple science, vaccines do not cause autism. Thankfully science knows this and is looking at not only what actually causes autism (Since again there are many different ways to develop on the spectrum). Well they may have found a new treatment for people affected by a common inherited form of autism by using a drug that is being tested as a treatment for cancer.
More Genetic Links Behind Autism
Vaccines do NOT cause autism. One more time, vaccines DO NOT cause autism. So what does cause autism, that problem has been plaguing scientists for awhile now. Thankfully two major genetic studies of autism and involving more than 50 laboratories worldwide, have newly implicated dozens of genes in the disorder. The research shows that rare mutations in these genes affect communication networks in the brain and compromise fundamental biological mechanisms that govern whether, when, and how genes are activated overall.
Autism and the Low Iron Connection
The topic of autism is a charged one. Maybe it’s because it isn’t a simple diagnosis; there are many roads to autism. Most of them are probably genetic, some of them are likely environmental, and none of them are related to vaccination (sorry to burst your bubble anti vax people, it’s called science). Some new research shows another possible (environmental) cause. The new study shows that mothers of children with autism are significantly less likely to report taking iron supplements before and during their pregnancies than the mothers of children who are developing normally.
Autism and Testosterone
As a male we are at higher risk for heart disease, we are also at higher risk for stroke. It’s that pesky testosterone, sure it has its benefits, don’t get me wrong I think testosterone over all is great. Estrogen has it’s own downsides too, things like certain cancers for example. Well estrogen has some other benefits and as it turns out, the same sex hormone that helps protect females from stroke may also reduce their risk of autism.
mTOR and the Cause of Autism
Autism is a hot topic, lets face it, the increase in prevalence has started to cause a panic in some people. That fear is what the anti-vaccination movement is hoping to capitalize on, but that doesn’t stop science from trying to solve what is really causing the problem. There are probably several roads to autism, most — if not all — of them genetic. Scientists have already found one definite genetic cause of autism and several genetic factors. Now it looks like they may have even found the actual brain changes that cause it. With these new discoveries come better testing, treatment and more individualized care.
Autism and Parents: Reducing stress
Raising an autistic child can be a gift. Unfortunately it can also be challenging and stressful. Let’s be real, it’s stressful just being a parent, throw in a disability that most new parents don’t understand all that well and it can be down-right depression inducing. Not because your child fall is the Autistic spectrum, but because you don’t know what that means or how to best help your child. Then it should be unsurprising that, according to a new study, peer-led interventions that target parental well-being can significantly reduce stress, depression and anxiety in mothers of children with disabilities.
Unraveling the Connections of the Brain
The brain is complex, heck if it wasn’t then we wouldn’t be smart enough to figure out how it works. I guess it’s one of those stupid catch-22 type things. Still, little is known about how the brain forms connections and the process that is behind all that. Thankfully new research provides an important glimpse into the processes that establish connections between nerve cells in the brain. These connections [also known as synapses] allow nerve cells to transmit and process information involved in thinking and moving the body. Sounds simple enough, but the formation is quite complex.
Schizophrenia and Autism: A New Connection
Autism and Schizophrenia, at first glance there probably isn’t a whole lot in common other than they are disorders that fall in that lovely book the DCM-5. The brain is a complex thing, so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that certain forms of Autism and Schizophrenia [don’t ask me why I capitalize them, I don’t know] share a link in what at first glance seems to be an unlikely culprit.
Finally! A Definite Cause of Autism: Hint it isn’t Vaccines
Autism, not caused by vaccines. In fact I’ve written several posts on the genetic clues to autism, now a new study offers more proof that it is purely genetic [at least in some cases]. This is huge because this is the first actual clear cut cause for certain types of Autism [or more accurately certain types of disorders falling under the Autistic spectrum]. It was a collaboration involving 13 institutions around the world — no easy feat either– and now researchers have broken new ground in understanding what causes autism.
“We finally got a clear cut case of an autism specific gene,” said Raphael Bernier, the lead author, and UW associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the clinical director of the Autism Center at Seattle Children’s.
Autism and Pesticides: What, too obvious?
There have been a few different things linked to children who fall under the Autism Spectrum Disorder. A combination of genetic and environmental factors, along with complications during pregnancy have been associated with the diagnoses. And a new study aims to strengthen the link between prenatal exposure to pesticides and autism [Please hold your collective duh’s until the end]. The large, multi-site California-based study examined associations between specific classes of pesticides, including organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates, applied during the study participants’ pregnancies and later diagnoses of autism and developmental delay in their offspring.
New and Exciting discoveries about Autism
Vaccines don’t cause autism. One more time, all together now, vaccines do not cause autism. Thankfully science understands that and is moving in on the actual cause for it. A combination of new studies not only shows a link between a particular gene and autistic disabilities [since it’s an autistic spectrum], but the second study offers a potential new pathway for treatment of the disorders.
Autistic-like behaviors and decreased cognitive ability may be associated with the disruption of a particular gene, in this case the APC gene [Adenomatous Polyposis Coli]. The connection was made when Tufts researchers deleted the gene from select neurons in the developing mouse brain. The mice developed all the autistic characteristics, such as reduced social behavior, increased repetitive behavior, and impaired learning and memory formation. This study is the first to look at how the loss of APC from nerve cells in the forebrain affects brain development, learning, and behavior.
New Genetic Clues to Autism
There is a long, controversial life to autism. Autism comes from the greek autos, meaning self. The term describes conditions which a person is removed from interaction — hence, an isolated self.
It was first described by a guy named Eugen Bleuler, a swiss psychologist who noticed the symptoms in a schizophrenic patient. Technically Autism is a particular diagnosis in the Autistic Spectrum which includes things like Asperger syndrome, there is even something called savant syndrome in which children display amazing abilities in a particular field [typically math or music] with no real training.
Mohawks and Autism- An unlikely connection
With how far science has come, eureka moments are becoming harder and harder to have. Most scientists will be lucky if they have one in their lifetime. So yes, rare, but then again, so is finding mice with a mohawk like hairstyle. As it turns out, both of these things happened just recently.
The connection came in a lab at NYU Langone Medical Center, months after an international team of neuroscientists bred hundreds of mice with a suspect genetic mutation tied to autism spectrum disorders.
Five [Medical] lies the TV told me
Fad diets, miracle weight loss super foods, and vaccines! Oh my! We live in the information age, a time where webMD will tell me what kind of cancer I am suffering from today and Dr. Oz will be more than happy to give me advice on the 5 superfoods I should include in my diet so I can live to see a healthy 160. (more…)
New [Free!] Tool Offers Insight into Diseases like Autism
Researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science have just released a high resolution blueprint of the human brain. What makes this particular mapping unique? It shows which genes are turned on and off during brain development at mid-pregnancy, all at an unprecedented resolution.
That isn’t even the best part, the Allen Institute for Brain Science is sharing it’s work with the public for further research by anyone who is interested. This means that you or I can have access to this information, for free, if we want it.
Did you hear the one about Vaccinations?
So a lawyer walks into a Doctors office and offers the Doctor large amounts of money if he can come up with a link between the MMR vaccine and some other problem. Not a very good start to a joke, I know, and if you are looking for a punch line there isn’t one.
Unfortunately this isn’t a joke, it is exactly how the vaccination controversy got started. The only punch line here is children catching preventable diseases and I don’t think anyone is laughing.
Just how did one man single handedly cause so many problems?