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Spectrum The home of autism research news and expert analysis.
We provide comprehensive news and analysis of advances in autism research. Through our work we hope to catalyze new collaborations and perspectives on autism. More information at: spectrumnews.org/about (PS. We are not a cable company.)
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3-D brain organoids offer a new window onto the effects of oxygen deprivation on the developing brain.
05/15/2019
Human 3D cellular model of hypoxic brain injury of prematurity

3-D brain organoids offer a new window onto the effects of oxygen deprivation on the developing brain.

Brain organoids derived from human iPSCs are used to study the effects of hypoxia on early cortical neurodevelopment and identify defects in specific human progenitor populations that likely contribute to encephalopathy of prematurity.

Clinicians can reliably diagnose autism in some toddlers roughly two years earlier than the typical age of diagnosis, a ...
05/15/2019
Autism diagnosis may be possible as early as age 14 months

Clinicians can reliably diagnose autism in some toddlers roughly two years earlier than the typical age of diagnosis, a new study suggests.

Clinicians can reliably diagnose autism roughly two years earlier than the typical age of diagnosis.

The ‘broad autism phenotype’ is a subclinical constellation of autism-like traits that appears in about half of pare...
05/15/2019
What the ‘broad spectrum’ can teach us about autism

The ‘broad autism phenotype’ is a subclinical constellation of autism-like traits that appears in about half of parents and siblings of autistic people. Studying BAP could reveal more of autism’s complex genetics.

The relatives of autistic people often have mild traits of the condition. Studying these family members could broaden our understanding of autism.

Study: When new neurons are born in the embryonic brain, they contain epigenetic signals that allow a diversity of neuro...
05/14/2019
Temporal patterning of apical progenitors and their daughter neurons in the developing neocortex

Study: When new neurons are born in the embryonic brain, they contain epigenetic signals that allow a diversity of neuron types to develop.

Although the main task of a neuroprogenitor is to produce more cells, it may not always produce the same cells. Some progenitors produce different daughter neurons as an embryo develops. Concurrently, these daughter neurons are also transitioning through states toward maturation. Telley et al. used....

What has a brain chemical linked to depression got to do with autism?Interest in serotonin’s role in autism has grown ...
05/14/2019
Serotonin’s link to autism, explained

What has a brain chemical linked to depression got to do with autism?

Interest in serotonin’s role in autism has grown in the past five years. Here’s what we know so far about serotonin’s role in autism.

Serotonin, the brain chemical best known for its link to depression, may also be involved in autism.

Genetic variants associated with neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disor...
05/13/2019
Genotype–phenotype associations in children with copy number variants associated with high neuropsychiatric risk in the UK (IMAGINE-ID): a case-control cohort study

Genetic variants associated with neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, seem to affect multiple brain circuits and cognitive traits in children.

The 13 ND-CNVs studied have a similar range of adverse effects on childhood neurodevelopment, despite subtle quantitative and qualitative differences. Genomic risk for neuropsychiatric disorder has pleiotropic effects on multiple processes and neural circuits and indicates that future research shoul...

The databases used in genetics research consist overwhelmingly of genomes from people of European descent — that is a ...
05/13/2019
Repairing racial inequality in genetic research

The databases used in genetics research consist overwhelmingly of genomes from people of European descent — that is a huge problem for genetic medicine. But how best to fix it?

To boost the participation of marginalized communities in genetic studies, doctors must first win back their trust.

An enzyme called SETD2 helps regulate the maternal epigenome in mice, thereby playing an important role in embryonic dev...
05/13/2019
SETD2 regulates the maternal epigenome, genomic imprinting and embryonic development

An enzyme called SETD2 helps regulate the maternal epigenome in mice, thereby playing an important role in embryonic development.

Maternal SETD2 deficiency leads to loss of H3K36me3, aberrant DNA methylation and ectopic H3K4me3 and H3K27me3 in mouse oocytes. Maternal depletion of SETD2 causes oocyte defects and subsequent zygotic arrest.

Organizers of the world’s biggest autism research conference nimbly walked a tightrope this year, aiming to satisfy th...
05/13/2019
International autism meeting tilts balance back toward biology

Organizers of the world’s biggest autism research conference nimbly walked a tightrope this year, aiming to satisfy the meeting’s diverse mix of attendees. The offerings largely satisfied scientists pushing for a focus on biology, while also including enough sessions on social issues to please others.

The conference’s planning committee plans to bolster biology even more at the next two meetings in Seattle and Boston, too.

The offerings at this year's international autism conference largely satisfied scientists pushing for a focus on biology, while also including enough sessions on social issues to please others.

Autistic teenagers receive fewer support services with each passing year in high school, leading to a “post‐high sch...
05/12/2019
Loss in Services Precedes High School Exit for Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Longitudinal Study - Laxman - - Autism Research - Wiley Online Library

Autistic teenagers receive fewer support services with each passing year in high school, leading to a “post‐high school service cliff.”

RESEARCH ARTICLE Loss in Services Precedes High School Exit for Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Longitudinal Study Daniel J. Laxman Utah State University, Logan, UtahSearch for more papers by this author Julie Lounds Taylor Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TennesseeSearch for....

Ultra Testing, a New York-based software testing company, actively hires people on the spectrum and fosters their natura...
05/12/2019
75% of staff at this successful IT company are on the autism spectrum

Ultra Testing, a New York-based software testing company, actively hires people on the spectrum and fosters their natural talents, such as the ability recognize patterns and hyperfocus.

Ultra Testing is helping lead the way for companies embracing neurodiversity: “We’re staffing these teams with fantastically capable talent who just haven’t had a fair shot before.”

Musicians with perfect pitch — the ability to identify or create a specific musical note without a reference tone — ...
05/11/2019
Autistic traits, resting-state connectivity, and absolute pitch in professional musicians: shared and distinct neural features

Musicians with perfect pitch — the ability to identify or create a specific musical note without a reference tone — have brain connectivity patterns like those of autistic individuals.

Recent studies indicate increased autistic traits in musicians with absolute pitch and a higher proportion of absolute pitch in people with autism. Theoretical accounts connect both of these with shared neural principles of local hyper- and global hypoconnectivity, enhanced perceptual functioning, a...

Helen Hoang’s novels feature autistic individuals — like herself — who live full lives, fall in love and find happ...
05/11/2019
In Helen Hoang's Novels, Autism Is No Bar To Love And Happiness

Helen Hoang’s novels feature autistic individuals — like herself — who live full lives, fall in love and find happiness.

Helen Hoang's romances feature characters on the autism spectrum — as she herself is; she says she wants to show that autistic people can get their happily-ever-afters just like anyone else.

The social interactions, constant email and chat notifications and other distractions of a typical office can make it di...
05/11/2019
Offices Can Be Hell for People Whose Brains Work Differently

The social interactions, constant email and chat notifications and other distractions of a typical office can make it difficult for neurodivergent individuals to thrive in a traditional work environment.

Work spaces today come with strong smells, harsh light, lots of chatter, and constant messages on email or Slack. For neurodivergent people, this can be a big ask.

Male prairie voles exposed to oxytocin at birth are unusually social as adults, suggesting that the hormone, commonly us...
05/10/2019
Behavioral and epigenetic consequences of oxytocin treatment at birth

Male prairie voles exposed to oxytocin at birth are unusually social as adults, suggesting that the hormone, commonly used to induce labor in people, has long-term developmental effects.

Oxytocin is used in approximately half of all births in the United States during labor induction and/or augmentation. However, the effects of maternal oxytocin administration on offspring development have not been fully characterized. Here, we used the socially monogamous prairie vole to examine the...

Scientists at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting highlighted an investigational drug to treat Angelman syn...
05/10/2019
Scientists see hope in rare disease drug Wall Street has doubted - STAT

Scientists at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting highlighted an investigational drug to treat Angelman syndrome as a breakthrough, though it has raised several red flags for investors.

STAT reports.

The debate over whether OV101 is a beacon of hope or a scientific nonstarter comes down to the metric Ovid chose to measure its benefits.

Scientists are on the hunt for anti-CRISPR proteins and chemicals that could turn off the gene-editing tool if needed.
05/10/2019
The search for the kryptonite that can stop CRISPR

Scientists are on the hunt for anti-CRISPR proteins and chemicals that could turn off the gene-editing tool if needed.

Powerful gene-editing tools have the potential to heal—or to harm. Now there’s a race to develop the antidote to the next bioweapon.

Brain organoids — tiny balls of cells that mimic the structure and function of the human brain — can now survive for...
05/10/2019
New method creates complex, long-lived brain ‘organoids’

Brain organoids — tiny balls of cells that mimic the structure and function of the human brain — can now survive for up to a year.

Until now, they have been able to survive for just 2-3 months.

A new method for growing brain organoids allows them to survive for up to a year — more than four times as long as is possible with other methods.

Male prairie voles exposed to oxytocin at birth are unusually social as adults, suggesting that the hormone, commonly us...
05/09/2019
Behavioral and epigenetic consequences of oxytocin treatment at birth

Male prairie voles exposed to oxytocin at birth are unusually social as adults, suggesting that the hormone, commonly used to induce labor in people, may have long-term developmental effects.

Oxytocin is used in approximately half of all births in the United States during labor induction and/or augmentation. However, the effects of maternal oxytocin administration on offspring development have not been fully characterized. Here, we used the socially monogamous prairie vole to examine the...

Patterns of chemical tags on the DNA of autistic people could reveal clues to the condition and lead to treatments.A tho...
05/09/2019
Chemical tags reveal interplay of genes, environment in autism

Patterns of chemical tags on the DNA of autistic people could reveal clues to the condition and lead to treatments.

A thought-provoking Viewpoint, for #ThrowbackThursday.

The landscape of chemical modifications on the DNA of people with autism could reveal clues to the condition and lead to treatments.

The overall ratio of boys to girls among children diagnosed with autism is 3-to-1. Scientists have suggested many theori...
05/09/2019
Sex bias in autism virtually absent among those with epilepsy

The overall ratio of boys to girls among children diagnosed with autism is 3-to-1. Scientists have suggested many theories for this sex bias: that girls are partially protected from mutations that cause the condition, for example.

This new work suggests seizure disorders override this protection.

The ratio of autistic boys to girls is roughly the same among children with epilepsy, according to a new meta-analysis.

Are girls and women biologically shielded from autism? We examine the evidence for this leading theory of autism.
05/08/2019
The female protective effect, explained

Are girls and women biologically shielded from autism?

We examine the evidence for this leading theory of autism.

One of the leading theories of autism posits that girls and women are biologically protected from the condition.

Neuron-sized electrodes may soon capture long-term recordings from animal brains without causing tissue damage.
05/08/2019
Neuron-size probes promise better recordings

Neuron-sized electrodes may soon capture long-term recordings from animal brains without causing tissue damage.

For a hair-thin probe penetrating the brain to listen in on neurons' electrical chatter, finesse is key. It's easy to rip tissue on the way in. And once in place, a probe can do further damage that muffles the signals it aims to detect. But recent reports describe a generation of finer probes that s...

Exposure to inflammation in the womb affects the brain and behavior of males and females differently, two new mouse stud...
05/08/2019
Inflammation may wield sex-specific effects on developing brain

Exposure to inflammation in the womb affects the brain and behavior of males and females differently, two new mouse studies suggest.

If the results hold up in people, they might help to explain why autism presents differently in boys and girls.

Exposure to inflammation in the womb may affect the brain and behavior of males and females differently.

An online public school in Colorado is helping autistic children learn at home, in an environment where they are comfort...
05/07/2019
Online school gives students with autism new ways to learn

An online public school in Colorado is helping autistic children learn at home, in an environment where they are comfortable.

For some, an autism diagnosis can mean limited options for students who struggle to learn in a traditional classroom.

The predictive coding theory holds that our experience of the world comes from within — in autism, the theory goes, an...
05/07/2019
Predictive coding theory of autism, explained

The predictive coding theory holds that our experience of the world comes from within — in autism, the theory goes, an autistic person’s brain doesn’t form accurate predictions, skewing their perception.

In autism, a person's brain may not form accurate predictions of imminent experiences, or even if it does, sensory input may override those predictions.

This year's meeting of the International Society for Autism Research featured a wealth of new science — but a few key ...
05/07/2019
Takeaways from INSAR 2019

This year's meeting of the International Society for Autism Research featured a wealth of new science — but a few key themes came to the fore.

Autism genetics and environmental influences were both hot topics. New investigations into suicide, self-injury and improving healthcare for autistic people were also among the notable science presentations.

The 18th annual meeting of the International Society for Autism Research has drawn to a close. The conference brought together a diverse set of autism researchers from around the world to share their results, exchange ideas and spark new collaborations. Spectrum’s reporters were there, too, coveri...

There are no medications approved for autism, but some drugs do modify autism-associated behaviors. This is the case for...
05/07/2019
Clinicians should consider off-label treatments for autism

There are no medications approved for autism, but some drugs do modify autism-associated behaviors.

This is the case for clinicians to prescribe drugs off-label to autistic children and adolescents.

Clinicians need a more consistent and evidence-based approach to prescribing antipsychotics to children and adolescents with autism.

Social media is connecting families with researchers who study rare conditions related to autism — to the benefit of b...
05/06/2019
How social media aids discovery and diagnosis of autism-linked conditions

Social media is connecting families with researchers who study rare conditions related to autism — to the benefit of both.

Our new podcast host Kaitlyn Schwalje explains.

Social media is connecting families with researchers who study rare conditions related to autism — to the benefit of both.

A social website called GeneMatcher has helped researchers identify a new gene for intellectual disability, developmenta...
05/06/2019
Matchmaking site for genes leads scientists to autism candidate

A social website called GeneMatcher has helped researchers identify a new gene for intellectual disability, developmental delay and, possibly, autism — BRSK2.

A website called GeneMatcher has helped researchers identify a new gene for intellectual disability, developmental delay and autism.

Irondequoit, New York, has been designated an ‘Autism Friendly Community.'
05/05/2019
Town of Irondequoit recognized for autism awareness, inclusion

Irondequoit, New York, has been designated an ‘Autism Friendly Community.'

Irondequoit has been designated an Autism Friendly Community. Members of the Autism Council of Rochester presented a proclamation to town leaders at the Irondequoit Town Board meeting on Tuesday. The honor recognizes the town's support for individuals on the autism spectrum. This comes during the an...

A video of a gene being turned on is enabling scientists to visualize the dynamics of this fundamental cellular event.
05/05/2019
What does it look like to “turn on” a gene?

A video of a gene being turned on is enabling scientists to visualize the dynamics of this fundamental cellular event.

Only recently have scientists directly witnessed this most pivotal of events in biology, thanks to new technology that allows them to observe the process in living cells. It’s teaching them a lot.

BREAKING: A survey that estimates autism prevalence in the United States includes far too few black families to yield ac...
05/05/2019
U.S. autism prevalence in black children based on few families

BREAKING: A survey that estimates autism prevalence in the United States includes far too few black families to yield accurate data, according to a new study.

A national survey that estimates autism prevalence includes too few black families to yield accurate data for that demographic.

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