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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Spotted A roundup of autism papers and media mentions you may have missed.

Memory shuttle; fly eyes; gaze avoidance and more

by  /  6 July 2018

July 2nd

Memory shuttle

A protein that helps deliver sights and sounds to the brain might behave atypically in people who have autism, intellectual disability or schizophrenia. Mice without this protein, called gamma-CaMKII, have impaired spatial memory, researchers reported 22 June in Nature Communications.

Gaze avoidance

Having more autism traits is tied to decreased responsiveness to direct gaze in people without an autism diagnosis, according to findings published 27 June in Psychological Medicine. The researchers say their findings support the concept of a continuum of autism traits from neurotypical people to those with autism.

Fly eyes

The deletion of chromosomal region 16p.11.2 is tied to autism. Genes within the region also interact to alter eye development in fruit flies, according to findings published 29 June in Nature Communications.

Social understanding

Adolescents with autism and above-average verbal intelligence can apply social understanding to tasks representing social scenarios, but struggle to apply what they know in spontaneous social situations. Researchers published these findings 29 June in Cognitive Processing.

Robot learning

Robots intended to treat people with autism need to accurately interpret human emotions, but many people on the spectrum have atypical facial expressions. The upshot is that the robots would need to learn the many ways that faces express each emotion. Researchers reported progress on that front 27 June in Science Robotics.

Goldwater revision requested

More than 20 mental health practitioners have called on the American Psychiatric Association to revise the ‘Goldwater rule,’ which prevents members from commenting on the mental health of public figures. The signatories argue that withholding their views would be unethical if doing so would leave the public in “clear and present danger,” STAT reported 28 June.

Science stars

Nature has drawn up a list of “science stars of East Asia.” Researchers on the list are making important contributions to microRNA research, speech recognition, the control of infectious disease and CRISPR technology, the editors wrote in their 27 June roundup.

Nature / 27 Jun 2018
Budget bump

The National Institutes of Health is “on a roll,” says Francis Collins, the institute’s director. His positive outlook stems from what’s likely to be the institute’s fourth consecutive budget increase, amounting to about a $2 billion bump, STAT reported 26 June.

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