Round Up of Autism Research 2012

Research into the causes of Autism is increasing at a rapid pace.  While we are only in the fourth month of 2012, already a wide variety of different research has been published illuminating different areas of interest.  ICare4Autism is very excited to be bringing together many important figures in autism research and education for the opportunity to share their research and develop powerful collaborations. The 2012 International Autism Conference will be held in Jerusalem on August 1st and 2nd.

Here are some of the top discoveries in Autism research released in 2012 to date;

Obesity during Pregnancy Raises Risk of Autism: Obese mothers were found to be 67% more likely than mothers of normal weight to have a child with autism, and they were more than twice as likely to have a child with another developmental disorder.

Not a Breakthrough but a Turning Point – Researchers Connect Gene Mutation to Autism Risk: A recent study of hundreds of families with autism has discovered that spontaneous mutations can take place in a parent’s sperm or egg cells that result in an increased risk of autism, and fathers are four times more likely than mothers to pass these mutations on to their children. The researchers discovered that new mutations occurred four times more frequently in sperm cells than in egg cells, and the older the father, the more likely he was to have sperm with these spontaneous mutations.

Severity of Autism Linked to Length of Pregnancy: Research suggests normal term children born with autism have less severe symptoms than children with autism who are born pre-term or several weeks late.

Autism Research Identifies Gene Abnormalities: Researchers found that genetic mechanisms that normally regulate the number of cortical neurons are abnormal in those with Autism and that the genes that control the number of brain cells did not behave in the standard way.  This probably leads to too many brain cells in some locations, such as prefrontal cortex, but perhaps too few in other regions of cortex as well.

Those with Autism have Higher Perceptual Capacity: A study revealed that people with autism have a greater than normal capacity for processing information. The research may explain way some with autism excel in highly technical fields.

Mouse Model explores Role of Serotonin in Autism:VanderbiltUniversity researchers used mice to explore how altered brain serotonin levels during development may produce long-lasting changes in behavior and impact the risk for autism. The researchers conclude that a lack of serotonin during development may lead to long-standing changes in the way the brain is wired.

New Study looks at Autism and Social Touch: A new study offers insight into why some people do not respond to physical touch and how families affected by autism may learn to show affection without overwhelming an child with autism’s senses. Yale neuroscientists imaged the brain activity of young adults while exposing them to different types of social touch.

Prenatal Exposure to Solvents Could Be Linked to Autism: According to an exploratory study exposures to lacquer, varnish and xylene occurred more often in the parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder compared to the parents of unaffected children.

Rare Bone Disorder Illuminates Potential Cause of Autism: A new study has found that mice with a genetic defect that models human MHE show symptoms of the three defining characteristics of autism: social impairment, language deficits, and repetitive behavior. The study used a mouse model of MHE to investigate cognitive function and points to the amygdala as the region of the brain causing symptoms of autism.

Deficiency in Mirror Neuron System Connected to Autism: Scientists found that the mirror neuron system in the ASD individuals became less activated when watching the gestures, compared to the control group. This finding adds to the evidence that deficits in mirror neuron system functioning contribute to the social deficits in ASD.

Study Shows Increased ASDs in Recent Immigrants: A study shows that children of immigrant parents particularly mothers who migrated just before or during pregnancy are disproportionately more likely to develop autism with intellectual disability. This link seems to be related to the timing of the migration rather than complications in childbirth.

Low Birth Weight Linked to Autism Spectrum Disorders: After studying 3,715 pairs of twins the researchers found that lower birth weight more than tripled the risk for autism spectrum disorder in identical twin pairs in which one twin had ASD and the other did not.

Another Autism Suspect Eliminated: Mercury: Mercury levels in urine did not differ between children with autism and controls, even after the figures were adjusted for factors such as urine concentration and body mass. The team also found no difference in the levels of other heavy metals such as lithium, manganese, and copper.

Gene Mutation in Autism Causes Hypersensitivity: A study has found that the loss of a specific mutated gene in the auditory cortical neurons – the powerhouses of the sound-processing center – causes hypersensitive to sound.

Researchers find Uncommon Bacteria in Children with Autism: Researchers atColumbiaUniversity have found that an uncommon bacterium exists in the walls of intestines of children with autism, but not those who do not have autism.

Study Finds Autism Linked to Parental Age: A study of Danish families found that children born to a parent over age 35 are at greater risk of developing an autism spectrum disorder — but the researchers are confused as why this is and why the risk is the same whether just one or both parents are older.

Autism Causes: Another Suspect Eliminated: One of the many potential causes of autism, smoking during pregnancy, has been ruled out after a large population-based study inSweden. Overall, 19.8 percent of the children with ASD were exposed to maternal smoking during pregnancy, compared to 18.4 percent of control children.

Biological Marker for Autism Possibly Found: A recent study using a mouse model of autism proposes abnormalities in the immune system could be linked to pervasive developmental disorders. The research proposes that heightened levels of an APP fragment circulating in the blood could explain the abnormalities in immune cell populations and function – both of which are seen in some autism patients.


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