Paths to Autism: One or Many?July 19, 2016
Philadelphia, PA, July 19, 2016 - A new report in Biological Psychiatry reports that brain alterations in infants at risk for autism may be widespread and affect multiple systems, in contrast to the widely held assumption of impairment specifically in social brain networks.
Autism is diagnosed based on impairments in social and communication behaviors. These symptoms tend to emerge in the second year of life, but identifying abnormalities in early infancy could help researchers understand how autism develops and potentially allow clinicians to predict the disorder before it emerges.
Attempts to identify precursors have primarily focused on social behaviors, based on the assumption that abnormalities in social brain networks arise early in life and compound throughout development. But Dr. Mayada Elsabbagh from McGill University in Canada, and Dr. Mark Johnson, from Birkbeck, University of London, suggest that recent studies do not support the idea of a singular pathway in the development of autism.
In their synthesis of studies examining infants at risk for autism, Elsabbagh and Johnson highlight behavioral research providing evidence for general abnormalities during the first year of life. These include delayed motor maturation, higher level of perceptual sensitivity, and poor attention flexibility. The authors also highlight brain imaging studies that provide evidence for widespread alterations throughout brain networks, rather than focal deficits in social networks.
The behavioral and imaging studies challenge the assumption of early social network abnormalities that persist throughout development and lead to emergence of the disorder.
"Our review reveals little support for localized deficits in social brain network systems within the first year of life," said Elsabbagh. "It instead favors the view that atypical development involving perceptual, attentional, motor, and social systems precede emerging autism and lead to overt behavioral symptoms by the second year."
The review suggests that focusing on a single deficit may not be sufficient to identify early warning signs and will likely adjust how researchers conceptualize the disorder.
"There has been a concerted effort to identify the final common neural pathways underlying symptoms and deficits for psychiatric disorders," said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "Yet the perspective shared by Elsabbagh and Johnson suggests that there are widespread disturbances in brain development in autism spectrum disorder and that the prominent social deficits either reflect the fact that circuits underlying social behaviors are among the many circuits affected or that some functional deficits are emergent properties of multiple affected circuits."
The article is "Autism and the Social Brain: The First-Year Puzzle," by Mayada Elsabbagh and Mark H. Johnson (doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.02.019). It appears in Biological Psychiatry, volume 80, issue 2 (2016), published by Elsevier.
Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Rhiannon Bugno at 1-214-648-0880 or email@example.com. Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Mayada Elsabbagh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The authors' affiliations, and disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available in the article.
John H. Krystal, M.D., is Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, Chief of Psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and a research psychiatrist at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. His disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available here.
About Biological Psychiatry
Biological Psychiatry is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry, whose purpose is to promote excellence in scientific research and education in fields that investigate the nature, causes, mechanisms and treatments of disorders of thought, emotion, or behavior. In accord with this mission, this peer-reviewed, rapid-publication, international journal publishes both basic and clinical contributions from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major psychiatric disorders.
The journal publishes novel results of original research which represent an important new lead or significant impact on the field, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Reviews and commentaries that focus on topics of current research and interest are also encouraged.
Biological Psychiatry is one of the most selective and highly cited journals in the field of psychiatric neuroscience. It is ranked 5th out of 140 Psychiatry titles and 11th out of 256 Neurosciences titles in the Journal Citations Reports® published by Thomson Reuters. The 2015 Impact Factor score for Biological Psychiatry is 11.212.
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions -- among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey -- and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 35,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a world-leading provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries. http://www.elsevier.com
Editorial Office, Biological Psychiatry
Related Autism Articles:
Exposure to ozone in the environment puts individuals with high levels of genetic variation at an even higher risk for developing autism than would be expected just by adding the two risk factors together, a new analysis shows.
An algorithm based on levels of metabolites found in a blood sample can accurately predict whether a child is on the autism spectrum of disorder (ASD), based upon a recent study.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affect around one percent of the world's population and are characterized by a range of difficulties in social interaction and communication.
A new study from Autism Speaks' MSSNG program expands understanding of autism's complex causes and may hold clues for the future development of targeted treatments.
A new report in Biological Psychiatry reports that brain alterations in infants at risk for autism may be widespread and affect multiple systems, in contrast to the widely held assumption of impairment specifically in social brain networks.
Humans are resilient, even facing the toughest of life's challenges.
Recognizing a need to better understand the biology that produces Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms, scientists at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), Singapore, have teamed up and identified a novel mechanism that potentially links abnormal brain development to the cause of ASDs.
Using a visual test that is known to prompt different reactions in autistic and normal brains, Harvard researchers have shown that those differences were associated with a breakdown in the signaling pathway used by GABA, one of the brain's chief inhibitory neurotransmitters.
The release of oxytocin leads to an increase in the production of anandamide, which causes mice to display a preference for interacting socially.
The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding autism research, today announced the launch of the Autism Sisters Project, a new initiative that will give unaffected sisters of individuals with autism the opportunity to take an active role in accelerating research into the 'Female Protective Effect.'
Related Autism Reading:
Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism
by Barry M. Prizant (Author)
Winner of the Autism Society of America’s Dr. Temple Grandin Award for the Outstanding Literary Work in Autism
A groundbreaking book on autism, by one of the world’s leading experts, who portrays autism as a unique way of being human—this is “required reading....Breathtakingly simple and profoundly positive” (Chicago Tribune).
Autism therapy typically focuses on ridding individuals of “autistic” symptoms such as difficulties interacting socially, problems in communicating, sensory challenges, and repetitive behavior patterns. Now Dr. Barry M. Prizant... View Details
Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That Has Helped Families All Over the World
by Raun K. Kaufman (Author)
As a boy, Raun Kaufman was diagnosed by multiple experts as severely autistic, with an IQ below 30, and destined to spend his life in an institution. Years later, Raun graduated with a degree in Biomedical Ethics from Brown University and has become a passionate and articulate autism expert and educator with no trace of his former condition.
So what happened?
Thanks to The Son-Rise Program, a revolutionary method created by his parents, Raun experienced a full recovery from autism. (His story was recounted in the best-selling book Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues and in the... View Details
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
by Naoki Higashida (Author), KA Yoshida (Translator), David Mitchell (Translator)
“One of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. It’s truly moving, eye-opening, incredibly vivid.”—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
NPR • The Wall Street Journal • Bloomberg Business • Bookish
FINALIST FOR THE BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE FIRST BOOK AWARD • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a... View Details
A Parent's Guide to High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, Second Edition: How to Meet the Challenges and Help Your Child Thrive
by Sally Ozonoff (Author), Geraldine Dawson (Author), James C. McPartland (Author)
Many tens of thousands of parents have found the facts they need about high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including Asperger syndrome, in this indispensable guide. Leading experts show how you can work with your child's unique impairments--and harness his or her capabilities. Vivid stories and real-world examples illustrate ways to help kids with ASD relate more comfortably to peers, learn the rules of appropriate behavior, and succeed in school. You'll learn how ASD is diagnosed and what treatments and educational supports really work. Updated with the latest research and... View Details
An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn
by Sally J. Rogers (Author), Geraldine Dawson (Author), Laurie A. Vismara (Author)
Cutting-edge research reveals that parents can play a huge role in helping toddlers and preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) connect with others and live up to their potential. This encouraging guide from the developers of a groundbreaking early intervention program provides doable, practical strategies you can use every day. Nearly all young kids—including those with ASD—have an amazing capacity to learn. Drs. Sally Rogers, Geraldine Dawson, and Laurie Vismara make it surprisingly simple to turn daily routines like breakfast or bath time into fun and rewarding learning... View Details
Autism Spectrum Disorder (revised): The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism
by Chantal Sicile-Kira (Author)
Newly revised and updated, this award-winning guide covers every aspect of understanding and living with autism today
Comprehensive and authoritative, Autism Spectrum Disorders explains all aspects of the condition, and is written for parents, educators, caregivers, and others looking for accurate information and expert insight. Newly updated to reflect the latest research, treatment methods, and DSM-V criteria, this invaluable book covers:
• The causes of autism spectrum disorders
• Getting an accurate diagnosis
• Treatments based on behavioral,... View Details
I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism (A First Look At...Series)
by Pat Thomas (Author)
Psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas puts her gentle, yet straightforward approach to work in this new addition to Barron’s highly acclaimed A First Look At...Series. This book will help children understand what autism is and how it affects someone who has it. A wonderful catalyst for discussion that will help children to better understand and support autistic classmates or siblings. The story line is simple and easily accessible to younger children, who will learn that exploring the personal feelings around social issues is a first step in dealing with them. Full-color... View Details
Eating for Autism: The 10-Step Nutrition Plan to Help Treat Your Child’s Autism, Asperger’s, or ADHD
by Elizabeth Strickland (Author)
What your child eats has a major impact on his brain and body function. Eating for Autism is the first book to explain how an autism, Asperger's, PDD-NOS, or ADHD condition can effectively be treated through diet.
Eating for Autism presents a realistic 10-step plan to change your child's diet, starting with essential foods and supplements and moving to more advanced therapies like the Gluten-Free Casein-Free diet. Parents who have followed Strickland's revolutionary plan have reported great improvements in their child's condition, from his mood, sleeping patterns, learning... View Details
We're Amazing 1,2,3! A Story About Friendship and Autism (Sesame Street) (Big Golden Book)
by Leslie Kimmelman (Author), Mary Beth Nelson (Illustrator)
A Sesame Street Big Golden Book about a new character with autism.
We're Amazing 1,2,3! is the first Sesame Street storybook to focus on autism, which, according to the most recent US government survey, may, in some form, affect as many as one in forty-five children. It's part of Sesame Street's autism initiative that has expanded to include a new character with autism. Elmo introduces his longtime friend Julia to Abby, who's a little confused at first because Julia isn't saying hello. Elmo explains that Julia has autism, so she does things a little differently. Julia... View Details
Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Updated and Expanded Edition
by Ellen Notbohm (Author), Veronica Zysk (Editor)
A bestseller gets even better! Every parent, teacher, social worker, therapist, and physician should have this succinct and informative book in their back pocket. Framed with both humor and compassion, the book describes ten characteristics that help illuminate—not define—children with autism.