What's new in autism spectrum disorder? Harvard Review of Psychiatry presents research update

March 10, 2014

Philadelphia, Pa. (March 10, 2014) - Recent years have seen exciting progress in key areas of research on autism spectrum disorders (ASD): from possible genetic causes, to effective treatments for common symptoms and clinical problems, to promoting success for young people with ASD entering college. Updates on these and other advances in ASD research are presented in the March special issue of Harvard Review of Psychiatry. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

"Autism is one of the most challenging disorders to treat and the public health concerns associated with the disorder are numerous due to its burden on the individual, on the family and on society," write guest editors Drs Jean A. Frazier of University of Massachusetts Medical School and Christopher J. McDougle of Harvard Medical School. The special issue provides a timely update on research into the causes, important clinical issues, and evidence-based treatments for ASD.

Updates on ASD Research in Six Key Areas

Leading experts provide state-of-the-art reviews on six topics: the genetics of ASD; the use of psychoactive drugs; symptoms of special clinical problems, including obesity, gastrointestinal problems, and sensory issues; and transitioning to college.

Genetics. Over the last few years, there have been "unprecedented advances" in understanding the genetic causes of ASD. Hundreds of genes conferring varying degrees of ASD risk have been identified to date. Many of these genes also appear to be risk factors for related neurodevelopmental disorders and psychiatric problems. While many unanswered questions remain, it may soon be possible to make specific genetic diagnoses in children with ASD.

Psychoactive medications. Despite limited evidence, psychotropic drugs are widely used to manage behavior problems and mental health disorders in children with ASD. For medication classes--including antidepressants and stimulants--effectiveness may differ for youth versus adults with ASD. New treatments affecting specific neurotransmitters and the hormone oxytocin are under development, and may help in targeting the "core symptoms" of ASD.

Obesity. Obesity is a common problem with a major impact on the health of children with ASD. Some ASD-related genes may also promote obesity; the same is true for antipsychotic drugs used to help manage behavior problems. Other contributing factors may include sleep disorders and barriers to getting enough exercise. Childhood obesity and related health issues may be a "significant threat" to the health and quality of life of children with ASD.

Gastrointestinal issues. Children with ASD also have high rates of gastrointestinal symptoms and disorders. Some genes linked to ASD may also play a role in gastrointestinal disturbances, with a possible link to immune system dysfunction. There's also emerging evidence of a potential "gut-brain" connection, with gastrointestinal dysfunction contributing to the development or severity of ASD symptoms.

Sensory symptoms. Children with ASD have various abnormalities of sensory function, including both over- and under-responsivity as well as "sensory seeking behavior." Although the neurobiology of these sensory symptoms remains unclear, some researchers suggest they are related to known abnormalities of brain structure and function. Recent studies show that sensory symptoms are related to other ASD-related symptoms and behaviors; more research is needed to demonstrate the effectiveness of "sensory integration therapy" and other occupational therapy approaches.

Preparing for college. The final article highlights the need for new approaches to meeting the needs of "high-functioning" ASD patients entering college. Students "on the spectrum" transitioning to college are at risk of both academic and social problems, and may benefit from accommodation and supports. Based on a growing body of research, a set of recommendations for developing more effective transition plans for children with ASD are proposed.

Along with the editors of Harvard Review of Psychiatry, Drs Frazier and McDougal hope their special issue will provide a useful update for clinicians caring for the growing numbers of individuals and families living with ASD. They conclude, "Clearly, more research is needed on every level for the field to help support and treat individuals on the spectrum so that they can optimize their developmental trajectory and as adults become integral members of our work force."
-end-
About the Harvard Review of Psychiatry

The Harvard Review of Psychiatry is the authoritative source for scholarly reviews and perspectives on a diverse range of important topics in psychiatry. Founded by the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry, the journal is peer-reviewed and not industry sponsored. It is the property of Harvard University and is affiliated with all of the Departments of Psychiatry at the Harvard teaching hospitals. Articles encompass all major issues in contemporary psychiatry, including (but not limited to) neuroscience, psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, history of psychiatry, and ethics.

About Wolters Kluwer Health

Wolters Kluwer Health is a leading global provider of information, business intelligence and point-of-care solutions for the healthcare industry. Serving more than 150 countries and territories worldwide, Wolters Kluwer Health's customers include professionals, institutions and students in medicine, nursing, allied health and pharmacy. Major brands include Health Language®, Lexicomp®, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Medicom®, Medknow, Ovid®, Pharmacy OneSource®, ProVation® Medical and UpToDate®.

Wolters Kluwer Health is part of Wolters Kluwer, a market-leading global information services company. Wolters Kluwer had 2012 annual revenues of €3.6 billion ($4.6 billion), employs approximately 19,000 people worldwide, and maintains operations in over 40 countries across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. Follow our official Twitter handle: @WKHealth.

Wolters Kluwer Health

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.