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Spectrum: Autism Research News


The Brain

Charting the structure and function of the brain’s many circuits may unravel autism’s mysteries.

October 2010

Parents share key traits of children with autism

by  /  14 October 2010

Parents and siblings of people with autism have abnormal eye movements and score higher on tests evaluating traits associated with the disorder.


Speed trap

by  /  13 October 2010

New DNA tests for fragile X syndrome are quick, but also raise ethical questions: they pick up abnormalities in some babies who won’t develop symptoms until adulthood, if at all.


New tests for fragile X promise routine screening

by  /  11 October 2010

A new wave of genetic tests for fragile X syndrome, the leading cause of inherited mental retardation and the most common genetic cause of autism, may make it possible to routinely screen pregnant women and newborns for the syndrome.


Multi-gene deletion creates model for Angelman syndrome

by  /  7 October 2010

A new mouse model of Angelman syndrome that knocks out a large stretch of a key chromosome is clarifying some of the molecular mechanisms underlying the more severe forms of the disorder.


Molecular mechanisms: Autism mutation causes neuroligin to misfold

by  /  6 October 2010

A point mutation in the autism-linked protein neuroligin-3 (NLGN3), seen in individuals with autism, causes the protein to misfold and localize to the wrong site in the cell, according to a study published in September in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.


Estrogen reverses autism-like features in mice

by  /  4 October 2010

Two new studies provide clues that may explain sex differences in autism prevalence. Italian researchers have found that injecting estrogen into the brains of young male mice reverses some of the structural and behavioral changes associated with low levels of reelin — a brain protein that has been previously implicated in autism — and the effects endure into adulthood.

September 2010

Jokes crack open brain connectivity in autism

by  /  28 September 2010

Telling jokes allows children to connect with others, refine their language skills and develop keen imaginations. Because these are precisely the skills lacking in people with autism, studying humor in children with the disorder may give insights into their abnormal brain circuitry and even lead to therapies, according to a review published in the Journal of Child Neurology.


Yawning gap

by  /  28 September 2010

Children with autism are less likely to yawn when others do, perhaps because they tend not to unconsciously mimic behavior.


Cognition and behavior: Amygdala lesions don’t cause autism

by  /  27 September 2010

Damage to the amygdala — a region of the brain that regulates emotional processing — does not cause autism, according to a study of two individuals with lesions in the region. The study, published in September in the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, found that these individuals show no evidence of autism when given multiple diagnostic tests.


Genetics: Postmortem study links new gene to autism

by  /  27 September 2010

A study of postmortem brain tissue shows that RPP25, a gene on the autism-linked 15q22-26 chromosomal region, is expressed differently in the brains of people with the disorder. This is the first time this gene has been implicated in autism.