Boston researchers study impact of autism

Researchers at Harvard University and Mass General Hospital are conducting a study to better understand the health and financial impact of autism spectrum disorder. As part of this study, the researchers would like to interview parents of children between the ages of 3-18 years who have been diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified.

In 90 minute group interview sessions, parents will be asked questions about their child’s current wellbeing, as well as characteristics of their child that influence his or her wellbeing. They will also be asked about their own wellbeing, both physically and emotionally, and the financial costs that their family has had to bear because of their child’s autism spectrum disorder.

via Autism-PDD Message Boards: Boston, MA area research study.

EARLI Study – Research into early causes of autism

EARLI is a network of research sites that will enroll and follow 1,200 mothers of children with autism at the start of another pregnancy and document the newborn child’s development through three years of age. The EARLI Study will examine possible environmental risk factors for autism and study whether there is any interplay between environmental factors and genetic susceptibility.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in every 110 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the country; however, little is known about what causes it.

The EARLI Study is an important research study trying to change that. If you have a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and are currently pregnant or may become pregnant again in the future, you have a unique opportunity to help researchers better understand the causes of autism so that we can one day more effectively treat or prevent this challenging disorder.

via EARLI Study – Research Into Early Causes of Autism | EARLI Study.

Mothers of children with autism pay price in workplace

VANCOUVER, Wash.—Mothers of children with autism see their careers disproportionally affected as they confront greater demands on their time, inflexible workplaces and increased medical costs, according to a new study by researchers at Washington State University Vancouver.

The study, based on a survey of 326 families in Washington and Oregon, found that slightly more than half the women worked fewer hours to accommodate the needs of their child and three out of five had not taken a job because of their child’s autism. To care for the child, one-quarter had taken a leave of absence and nearly as many had not taken a promotion. Nearly 60 percent had suffered financial problems in the past year.

via WSU researchers find mothers of children with autism pay price in workplace.

Comparing how people with and without autism view “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”

Public Radio International’s Studio 360 has an interesting audio post and slide show on a Yale School of Medicine study that compares how people with and without autism viewed the movie “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” Eye-tracking technology showed that the two groups looked at entirely different things, sometimes in surprising ways.

Science is looking for ways to better understand an autistic person’s perception of the world. Using laser technology, Ami Klin and Warren Jones of the Yale School of Medicine screened “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and tracked the gazes of autistic viewers precisely, to study how they perceive social interactions. Biologist David Gruber visited their lab to learn about the technique.

via Studio 360: Autism, Flanagan, Shearwater.

Brain Imaging Technique May Help Diagnose Autism

Researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia report that a brain imaging technique may help in the diagnosis of autism. The reason this is possible is that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) process language and sound a fraction of a second slower than children who do not have autism, and magnetoencephalography (MEG) allows clinicians to detect this difference.

via Brain Imaging Technique May Help Diagnose Autism, Autism.

Effects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Parent-Reported Autism Symptoms in School-Age Children with High-Functioning Autism

Cognitive behavioral therapy CBT may be helpful for reducing autism symptoms in school-age children.

This pilot study asked whether cognitive behavioral therapy may be helpful for children with autism ages 7-11 years old. Nine children received cognitive behavioral therapy for 3 months, and an additional10 children did not receive therapy until 3 months later wait-listed controls.

Parents were asked to score their autism symptoms before and after treatment. Children who received therapy improved as compared to children who did not receive therapy. The improvements lasted at least 3 months after the therapy was stopped.

via Research: Brief Report: Effects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Parent-Reported Autism Symptoms in School-Age Children with High-Functioning Autism | Healing Thresholds Autism Therapy.

Cartoon trains teach autistic children about emotions

The Reverend W. Awdry, the creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, was on to something in 1943 when he developed the smiling steam engine. It turns out that putting a human face on a cartoon train, bus or tram can help children with autism understand emotions.

The head of the University of Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre, Simon Baron-Cohen, conducted a study using a series of 15 animated stories called The Transporters. Each episode focused on a different emotion – from simple ones such as happy, sad and angry to more complex emotions such as sorry, ashamed, tired and joking.

via Cartoon trains teach autistic children about emotions.

Alzheimer’s: Destructive Amyloid-Beta Protein May Also Be Essential for Normal Brain Function

Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by the build-up of a brain peptide called amyloid-beta. That’s why eliminating the protein has been the focus of almost all drug research pursuing a cure for the devastating neurodegenerative condition.

But that may be counterproductive, says Dr. Inna Slutsky of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine. Her recent research demonstrates that amyloid-beta is also necessary to maintain proper brain functioning.

These findings may shake the foundations of Alzheimer’s research.

In a new study published this month in Nature Neuroscience, Dr. Slutsky finds that amyloid-beta is essential for normal day-to-day information transfer through nerve cell networks in the brain. “If this protein is removed from the brain,” says Dr. Slutsky, “as some drugs in development attempt to do, it may cause an impairment of neuronal function, as well as a further and faster accumulation of amyloid-beta in Alzheimer’s.”

Via Alzheimer’s: Destructive Amyloid-Beta Protein May Also Be Essential for Normal Brain Function

Britney Spears Fights Alzheimer’s: How Celebrity Names Identify Those at Risk

Britney Spears has a new gig: Alzheimer’s research. Along with George Clooney, Bob Hope, and Albert Einstein, Spears (or, rather, her celebrity status) is helping fight Alzheimer’s by giving researchers a heads up as to who might develop the disease.

via The Human Condition : Britney Spears Fights Alzheimer’s: How Celebrity Names Identify Those at Risk.