autism

NIH Awards Funding for Early Autism Screening

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded more than four million dollars in FY 2019 to support seven research projects aimed at developing and validating screening tools to detect signs of autism spectrum disorder in the first year of life. Approximately 19 million dollars is projected to be awarded to these projects by NIH over the duration of the funded projects. “Early detection and treatment of children with autism spectrum disorder are two of…

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Levels of autism: Everything you need to know

Autism is a spectrum disorder that causes social and behavioral problems. There are three different levels of autism, which range from mild to severe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 59 children have autism. Signs of the condition are usually present at a young age, but occasionally people do not receive a diagnosis until adulthood. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5), doctors categorize autism as level…

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Amygdala neurons increase as children become adults — except in autism

In a striking new finding, researchers at the UC Davis MIND Institute found that typically-developing children gain more neurons in a region of the brain that governs social and emotional behavior, the amygdala, as they become adults. This phenomenon does not happen in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Instead, children with ASD have too many neurons early on and then appear to lose those neurons as they become adults. The findings were published today…

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Neurons’ faulty wiring leads to serotonin imbalance, depression-like behavior in mice

Columbia scientists have identified a gene that allows neurons that release serotonin — a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and emotions — to evenly spread their branches throughout the brain. Without this gene, these neuronal branches become entangled, leading to haphazard distribution of serotonin, and signs of depression in mice. These observations shed light on how precise neuronal wiring is critical to overall brain health, while also revealing a promising new area of focus for studying…

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Anxiety measure for children with autism proven reliable

A new method devised by a Drexel University professor to diagnose children on the spectrum for anxiety symptoms — which tend to be masked by symptoms of autism — was shown to be effective in a recent study. “Anxiety is considered an internalizing symptom, in that it is mostly felt by the person inside their bodies and minds and is not always obvious to others,” said Connor Kerns, PhD, an assistant research professor in the…

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Children with autism may be over-diagnosed with ADHD, new study suggests

A well-established screening tool used to assess children for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be less accurate when a child has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Pediatric researchers report that children with ASD may mistakenly be diagnosed with ADHD because they have autism-related social impairments rather than problems with attention. This is important for understanding what are the right services and treatments for a child. The study team, including one of the psychologists who developed…

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Brain levels of vitamin B12 decrease with age and are prematurely low in people with autism and schizophrenia

A new study published in the online journal, Public Library of Science One (PLOS One) found that Vitamin B12 levels in the brain are significantly decreased in the elderly and are much lower in individuals with autism or schizophrenia, as compared to their peers at similar ages. For example, children with autism under the age of 10 were found to have three times lower brain B12 levels, which is similar to levels for generally healthy adults in…

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Serotonin’s early role in assembly of brain circuits

A lot of research has shown that poor regulation of the serotonin system, caused by certain genetic variations, can increase the risk of developing psychiatric illnesses such as autism, depression, or anxiety disorders. Furthermore, genetic variations in the components of the serotonin system can interact with stress experienced during the fetal stages and/or early childhood, which can also increase the risk of developing psychiatric problems later on. In order to better understand serotonin’s influence in…

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NIH-funded projects aim at improving access, timeliness of interventions

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). These grants are part of a broad research effort to provide models for the delivery of needed services to children, youth, and adults with ASD, across different communities and care settings, appropriate to each age and individual. NIMH is part…

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Children with autism have extra synapses in brain: May be possible to prune synapses with drug after diagnosis

Children and adolescents with autism have a surplus of synapses in the brain, and this excess is due to a slowdown in a normal brain “pruning” process during development, according to a study by neuroscientists at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). Because synapses are the points where neurons connect and communicate with each other, the excessive synapses may have profound effects on how the brain functions. The study was published in the August 21 online…

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