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Science News

2018

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NICHD Science Update
August 2, 2018
NICHD researchers studied the startle reflex of zebrafish in response to a sudden loud noise, and how this reflex is muted when another sound is delivered a second before a target sound. This muted startle response, prepulse inhibition, is also seen in people. The researchers identified two clusters of neurons that are responsible for prepulse inhibition, which are close to the group of cells responsible for the startle reflex in fish. These clusters of neurons prevent sound information from reaching those cells, thereby preventing sensory overload.
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NIMH Science Update
July 24, 2018
NIMH-funded researchers have linked high levels of maternal inflammation during pregnancy to reduced brain circuit communications and altered long-distance brain wiring at birth, poorer cognitive functioning at one year, and reduced impulse control and working memory at two years. Deficient working memory is thought to be key to “executive functions.” Researchers measured pregnant mothers’ blood levels of an inflammatory messenger and conducted neuroimaging and behavioral assessments of their children. Children whose mothers had higher levels of inflammatory messengers showed sped-up growth in the long-distance wiring pathway, which predicted poorer cognitive outcomes at age one which are often seen in autism.
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NIMH Science Update
July 17, 2018
Participants with ASD underwent a fMRI while they played a picture puzzle game. They did not know that the activity of their social brain circuitry controlled the game. Following the game sessions, scans while the brain was at rest showed increased connectivity between two key networks of the social brain that are compromised in ASD.
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JAMA Pediatrics
July 9, 2018
An analysis of the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health found that approximately 30 percent of children aged 9 to 35 months received a parent-completed developmental screening and about 37 percent received developmental surveillance from a healthcare professional in the past year. Screening rates vary widely across states and overall remain low.
Blue colored DNA
National Institute of Mental Health, Science Update
May 30, 2018
A new study identified an association between rare structural variants in noncoding segments of genes inherited from fathers and autism in their children. Researchers studied 829 families, including 880 individuals with autism, without genetic mutations that have been previously linked to autism. They studied the contribution of these noncoding variants, called cis-regulatory elements (CRE-SVs), and found that when fathers passed on these variants there was an association with autism in their children. This association was not found when the variants were passed on by mothers.

2017

National Institutes of Health
September 7, 2017
The National Institutes of Health has awarded nine research grants totaling nearly $100 million over the next five years for the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE), a program that supports large research projects aimed at understanding and developing interventions for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
National Institutes of Health
June 7, 2017
Functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) scans may predict which high risk, 6 month old infants will develop autism by age 2 years.
National Institutes of Health
June 1, 2017
In a twin study, researchers found that baby teeth from individuals with autism contain higher levels of lead and low levels of nutrients.
AHRQ Press Release
May 26, 2017
Sensory-focused interventions – such as massage, swinging and trampoline exercises and exposure to different textures – reduced sensory and motor impairments in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to an analysis funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), highlighted today in the journal Pediatrics. Meanwhile, an additional AHRQ-supported article in Pediatrics concluded that little evidence currently exists to support the use of nutritional supplements or gluten-free/casein-free diets to improve autistic behaviors in children.
AHRQ Blog – by Dr. David Myers
May 26, 2017
The mysteries and impacts of autism continue to challenges us all ... I am pleased to report, however, that two new research reports from AHRQ provide important updates about what tactics are known to be effective—and not effective—in managing ASD behaviors.
Press Release - National Institute of Mental Health
April 26, 2017
Neuroscientists have created a 3D window into the human brain’s budding executive hub assembling itself during a critical period in prenatal development.
National Institute of Mental Health Director’s Message - by Dr. Joshua Gordon
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Understanding how the brain develops and functions remains among the most difficult of scientific challenges, as is the effort to understand the causes of conditions that alter its function. Among these is autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Press Release - National Institute of Mental Health
March 24, 2017
Researchers have discovered a pattern of genetic glitches and behavioral features, such as delayed walking, in some cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that could ultimately lead to identification of subgroups and improved treatment.
Press Release - National Institute of Mental Health
March 23, 2017
Mark Daly, Ph.D reported that a third of genetic mutations found in individuals with ASD are also found in unaffected people.
NIH Director’s Blog – by Dr. Francis Collins
February 21, 2017
For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), early diagnosis is critical to allow for possible interventions at a time when the brain is most amenable to change. But that’s been tough to implement for a simple reason: the symptoms of ASD, such as communication difficulties, social deficits, and repetitive behaviors, often do not show up until a child turns 2 or even 3 years old.

2016

Press Release - National Institute of Mental Health
August 12, 2016
Schizophrenia, autism risk gene trajectories point to shared causes

2015

Press Release - National Institute of Mental Health
November 17, 2015
Two of the world’s largest brain tissue banks unify efforts to collect and distribute a critical number of brain donations for important autism research.
Press Release - National Institute of Mental Health
July 16, 2015
James McPartland, Ph.D. of Yale University will lead a new four-year $28 million Biomarkers Consortium project that aims to improve clinical evaluation of treatments for social impairment in children with autism.
NIH Director’s Blog – by Dr. Francis Collins
April 28, 2015
Study after study has found no link between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine—or any vaccine for that matter. Yet many parents still refuse or delay vaccinations for their young children based on misplaced fear of ASD, which can be traced back to a small 1998 study that’s since been debunked and retracted.
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee Chairman’s Blog – by Dr. Thomas Insel
April 3, 2015
Dr. Insel describes recent accomplishments related to autism spectrum disorder over the past year—from the reauthorization of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee to promising therapeutic results from clinical trials.

2014

Press Release - National Institute of Mental Health
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Developing effective, real-world-ready approaches to providing early diagnosis, treatment, and supportive services for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the goal of 12 research grants awarded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

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