Saturday, June 17, 2017

Can Brain Scans Predict the Future of Autism?

New research suggests that performing brain scans on high-risk infants might be able to predict the  
Scans comparing activity in different sections of the brain were performed on 59 infants, all of whom had autistic siblings.  Children with autistic siblings are considered 20 times more likely to develop autism than the general population.  Of those 59 infants, 11 later developed autism, 9 of which had been correctly predicted by the brain scans.  Such technology is currently too new to tell if it’s always reliable, and too expensive for most parents to afford.  But being able to predict autism at a younger age would give parents an opportunity to address it at a much younger age, when the child’s brain is far more receptive to new things.
development of autism in the future.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sensory Therapy and Special Diets: What Do They Really Do?

Sensory therapy isn’t a foolproof way to address autism in children; in fact, there is no conclusive
evidence that it has any effect at all.  Tests involving various forms of sensory therapy, such as massage therapy, music therapy, or sue of weighted blankets, do not show consistent enough results for researchers to conclude that sensory therapy benefits autistic children in any way.  Various tests involving special diets, such as going gluten- or casein-free, also proved inconclusive.  There are some theories that sensory therapy may be no less risky than traditional medication, despite most likely being less effective.  However, the success of sensory therapy is most likely case by case.  What works for one individual may not be effective for another. Many treatments and therapies for autism are new, and thus not widely researched, so it can take some time to figure out what is and what isn’t a good fit.  Perhaps the best course of action that parents of children with autism can take is to closely monitor and take note of what is and is not effective for the child, and treating the child accordingly.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Early 19th Century Drug May Be Able to Alleviate Some of Autism's Symptoms

There may be good news for individuals with autism looking to treat some of their symptoms, new   Recent studies of suramin, a drug originally used in the early 19th century to treat sleeping sickness, indicate that it may be able to alleviate some of autism’s symptoms.  Research on suramin, led by Dr. Robert Naviaux, is still in the early stages.  Naviaux’s earlier tests of suramin on mice with autism managed to alleviate their symptoms, and human trials have recently begun.
research suggests.

 Despite extensive research on the topic, few treatments for autism work effectively.  Naviaux was inspired to look for a potential link between suramin use and autism when he realized that suramin use affected similar parts of the brain as those affected by autism.  Although the initial pool of human test subjects was very small, every child participant showed remarkable improvement, both cognitively and emotionally.  These results were temporary, lasting only about three weeks before wearing off.  However, this research is still in its very early stages.  If future research continues to indicate benefits from suramin, individuals with autism may finally have an effective treatment for any undesirable symptoms.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Virtual Reality May be a Key Tool in Understanding Autism

New studies indicate that virtual reality technology may be a key tool in understanding autism, as well as helping children with autism learn to navigate difficult social situations.  Traditional tests of interpersonal skills often included dolls acting out social situations, which focuses on observation rather than participation.  Use of a virtual avatar now allows participants to take part in a scenario rather than simply observe one. Practicing social skills with virtual reality can simplify an otherwise complicated interaction, allowing participants to learn skills in a controlled environment.  Interaction with virtual reality is much less stressful than interaction with another human.  A virtual person will not get mad if they are misunderstood, and will not accidentally send mixed signals.  Virtual reality does what it is programmed to do, and thus can be practiced and re-practiced many times until a skill is mastered.  Virtual reality allows participants with autism to develop a familiarity with common nonverbal cues.  It is suspected that the patterns within social interactions are easier for participants with autism to pick up on through virtual reality than they would be in a real-life situation.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Could Autism Be Linked to a Grandmothers’ Smoking?

Some studies have found that there could be a higher likelihood of autism spectrum disorder or ASD with children who had maternal grandmothers that smoked while they were pregnant.

For girls, whose grandmothers may have smoked while pregnant, there could be a 67% higher chance of showing autistic traits and both girls and boys were up to 53% more likely to be diagnosed with ASD traits.

In terms of mechanisms, there are two broad possibilities. There is DNA damage that is transmitted to the grandchildren or there is some adaptive response to the smoking that leaves the grandchild more vulnerable to ASD,’ said Professor Marcus Pembrey at University College London, and one of the study authors. ‘More specifically, we know smoking can damage the DNA of mitochondria - the numerous “power-packs” contained in every cell, and mitochondria are only transmitted to the next generation via the mother's egg.’

The researchers at the University of Bristol utilized data which they collected from the Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, ALSPAC. The study followed up to 14,500 individuals that were born in the 90s. They studied and assessed the grandchildren of paternal and maternal grandmothers that smoked during their pregnancies and checked for ASD or four documented autistic traits.

Of the 14,500 participants, almost 7,000 were found to have autistic traits present. They found that girls were 67% more likely to show at least one of two autistic traits, which includes poor social interaction and repetitive behavior if their maternal grandmother smoked cigarettes.

The results of the study suggest that cigarette smoke could adversely affect the developing eggs of females in the womb, then eventually affect the development of the children born from those eggs, either through epigenetic or mitochondrial DNA damage. Professor Peter Hajek of the Queen Mary University of London said the study suggested ‘an interesting epigenetic effect’ but said that more data on children diagnosed with ASD would be useful to rule out a ‘chance finding.’