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Autism Spectrum Disorder

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SCIENCE
March 27, 2014 | Alan Zarembo
Autism is much more common than previously thought, according to a new government report that estimates that 1 in 68 children have some form of the disorder. Boosting the rate has become a two-year ritual since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set up a surveillance system more than a decade ago. The last estimate, in 2012, was 1 in 88, up from 1 in 110 two years before that. As in the past, researchers could not say what was driving the increase. While the role of environmental factors remains an open question, rising awareness of the disorder, greater detection and improved access to services have all been shown to be significant factors in the explosive growth in diagnosis over the last two decades.
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SCIENCE
March 27, 2014 | Alan Zarembo
Autism is much more common than previously thought, according to a new government report that estimates that 1 in 68 children have some form of the disorder. Boosting the rate has become a two-year ritual since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set up a surveillance system more than a decade ago. The last estimate, in 2012, was 1 in 88, up from 1 in 110 two years before that. As in the past, researchers could not say what was driving the increase. While the role of environmental factors remains an open question, rising awareness of the disorder, greater detection and improved access to services have all been shown to be significant factors in the explosive growth in diagnosis over the last two decades.
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SCIENCE
November 6, 2013 | By Karen Kaplan
Children with autism spectrum disorders usually aren't diagnosed until they are at least 2 years old, but a new study finds that signs of the condition are apparent as early as two months after birth. Researchers focused on babies' ability to make eye contact with caregivers, since lack of eye contact is one of the hallmarks of autism. Among typical children, interest in the eyes increased steadily with age. But for children with autism, interest in the eyes waned starting between 2 and 6 months of age. By the time they reached their second birthdays, levels of eye fixation among children with autism were only half as high as levels seen in typically developing children, according to a report published Wednesday by the journal Nature.
HEALTH
March 14, 2014 | By Emily Dwass
Television producer and writer Jason Katims is known for tackling emotional stories. Even his new NBC comedy, "About a Boy," deals with bullying and depression. But family challenges are most apparent in his dramas, especially "Parenthood," finishing its fifth season on NBC, for which Katims sometimes draws on his own experiences. On "Parenthood," the character Max Braverman (played by Max Burkholder) is a child struggling with the autism spectrum disorder Asperger's syndrome. As the father of a son with this developmental disorder, what has it been like to tell that story?
HEALTH
June 9, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
Autism is not caused by one or two gene defects but probably by hundreds of different mutations, many of which arise spontaneously, according to research that examined the genetic underpinnings of the disorder in more than 1,000 families. The findings, reported in three studies published Wednesday in the journal Neuron, cast autism disorders as genetically very complex, involving many potential changes in DNA that may produce, essentially, different forms of autism. The affected genes, however, appear to be part of a large network involved in controlling the development of synapses, the critical junctions between nerve cells that allow them to communicate, according to one of the three studies.
NEWS
June 8, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Autism spectrum disorders can be caused by as many as 300 or so rare genetic mutations, scientists reported Wednesday. The research strongly implicates genetics, including spontaneous gene mutations, in the development of the disorder. But why do four times as many males as females develop autism spectrum disorder? In one of the three papers published in the journal Neuron , researchers suggest that girls are more resistant to gene mutations than boys. Girls seem to require a higher number of gene mutations to become afflicted with autism spectrum disorder.
SCIENCE
April 24, 2013 | By Melissa Healy
Pregnant women who took the anti-seizure drug valproate during pregnancy increased the odds that their baby would have autism, and were roughly twice as likely to give birth to a child who would go on to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to a large study that captured 10 years of births in Denmark. Valproate, often known by its commercial name Depakote, is widely prescribed in the treatment of epilepsy and a wide range of psychiatric conditions. It is one of a class of drugs that has been linked to a child's delayed cognitive development and to some congenital malformations.
SCIENCE
August 9, 2013 | By Geoffrey Mohan
Do women who are on the autism spectrum have brains that are more “masculine”? A team of researchers at Cambridge University's Autism Research Center has found striking similarities between the structural anomalies found in the brains of women with autism spectrum disorder and neurobiological characteristics known to be different between males and females in general. The results, published online Thursday in the review Brain , partially confirm aspects of an “extreme male brain” theory of autism put forth by Cambridge neuroscientist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues.
SCIENCE
February 6, 2014 | By Geoffrey Mohan
A generic blood pressure drug could prevent hyperactive brain cell firing associated with early stages of autism spectrum disorder, according to a new study. Injecting pregnant mice with Bumetanide, a diuretic, appears to correct a developmental switch flipped during childbirth that reverses the firing characteristics of neurons in newborns, according to a study published online Thursday in the journal Science. Bumetanide mimics the effects of oxytocin, a hormone released during labor that helps protect newborns from the stresses and complications of birth, the study found.
SCIENCE
December 3, 2013 | By Melissa Healy
Oxytocin, the "cuddle" hormone that makes mothers' milk flow, men faithful to their mates and even tough negotiators more trusting, also makes children with autism more attuned to social cues in others, a new study says. The study found that compared to autistic children who got a placebo nasal spray, autistic children who got a puff of oxytocin up the nose responded to pictures of people's faces with greater activation in their brains' "social circuits" and in the regions key to reward and motivation.
HEALTH
March 10, 2014 | By Michael Muskal
Peter Lanza, the father of the man who killed 20 children and six educators in an elementary school in Connecticut, wishes his son, Adam, had never been born because the massacre was an act that “couldn't get any more evil.” In a series of interviews with the magazine the New Yorker, Peter Lanza broke his silence on the 2012 rampage at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that stunned the nation and resumed a debate about...
SCIENCE
February 6, 2014 | By Geoffrey Mohan
A generic blood pressure drug could prevent hyperactive brain cell firing associated with early stages of autism spectrum disorder, according to a new study. Injecting pregnant mice with Bumetanide, a diuretic, appears to correct a developmental switch flipped during childbirth that reverses the firing characteristics of neurons in newborns, according to a study published online Thursday in the journal Science. Bumetanide mimics the effects of oxytocin, a hormone released during labor that helps protect newborns from the stresses and complications of birth, the study found.
SCIENCE
December 3, 2013 | By Melissa Healy
Oxytocin, the "cuddle" hormone that makes mothers' milk flow, men faithful to their mates and even tough negotiators more trusting, also makes children with autism more attuned to social cues in others, a new study says. The study found that compared to autistic children who got a placebo nasal spray, autistic children who got a puff of oxytocin up the nose responded to pictures of people's faces with greater activation in their brains' "social circuits" and in the regions key to reward and motivation.
SCIENCE
November 20, 2013 | By Geoffrey Mohan
The eyes may be the mirror of the soul, but for those with autism, the mouth will have to do. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center isolated neurons in the brain's amygdala that respond to facial expressions, and tested patients with autism against those without. Both groups could correctly identify a "happy" or "fearful" face, a function long associated with the amygdala. But when the researchers examined which neurons fired in relation to areas of the face, they found that those with autism "read" the information from the mouth area more than from the eyes and seemed to be lacking a population of nerve cells that respond only to images of eyes.
SCIENCE
November 6, 2013 | By Karen Kaplan
Children with autism spectrum disorders usually aren't diagnosed until they are at least 2 years old, but a new study finds that signs of the condition are apparent as early as two months after birth. Researchers focused on babies' ability to make eye contact with caregivers, since lack of eye contact is one of the hallmarks of autism. Among typical children, interest in the eyes increased steadily with age. But for children with autism, interest in the eyes waned starting between 2 and 6 months of age. By the time they reached their second birthdays, levels of eye fixation among children with autism were only half as high as levels seen in typically developing children, according to a report published Wednesday by the journal Nature.
SCIENCE
August 9, 2013 | By Geoffrey Mohan
Do women who are on the autism spectrum have brains that are more “masculine”? A team of researchers at Cambridge University's Autism Research Center has found striking similarities between the structural anomalies found in the brains of women with autism spectrum disorder and neurobiological characteristics known to be different between males and females in general. The results, published online Thursday in the review Brain , partially confirm aspects of an “extreme male brain” theory of autism put forth by Cambridge neuroscientist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues.
NEWS
October 11, 2010
UPDATED: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed the research to the University of Washington. Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine have uncovered more evidence of a genetic basis for autism. Reviewing surveys collected from more than 1,000 families with autistic kids, they discovered that siblings of autistic children who have not been diagnosed with the disease often exhibit mild traits of autism, including speech delays. The team sifted through information about almost 3,000 children from 1,235 families in which at least one child was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and in which there was at least one full biological sibling.
HEALTH
March 10, 2014 | By Michael Muskal
Peter Lanza, the father of the man who killed 20 children and six educators in an elementary school in Connecticut, wishes his son, Adam, had never been born because the massacre was an act that “couldn't get any more evil.” In a series of interviews with the magazine the New Yorker, Peter Lanza broke his silence on the 2012 rampage at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that stunned the nation and resumed a debate about...
SCIENCE
April 24, 2013 | By Melissa Healy
Pregnant women who took the anti-seizure drug valproate during pregnancy increased the odds that their baby would have autism, and were roughly twice as likely to give birth to a child who would go on to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to a large study that captured 10 years of births in Denmark. Valproate, often known by its commercial name Depakote, is widely prescribed in the treatment of epilepsy and a wide range of psychiatric conditions. It is one of a class of drugs that has been linked to a child's delayed cognitive development and to some congenital malformations.
SCIENCE
March 20, 2013 | By Alan Zarembo, Los Angeles Times
U.S. schoolchildren are being diagnosed with some form of autism at a record rate of 1 in 50, according to a new government study. That rate of 2% is based on a survey involving tens of thousands of children between the ages of 6 and 17. A similar survey in 2007 found a rate of 1.2%. Though the increase is likely to fuel speculation that an expanding environmental threat is behind the rise in autism cases, the authors said their report did not support that view. Rather, better detection appears to be driving the surge, according to the researchers, from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.
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