Bradley Hospital Collaborative Study Identifies Genetic Change in Autism-Related Gene

A new study from Bradley Hospital has identified a genetic change in a recently identified autism-associated gene, which may provide further insight into the causes of autism. The study, now published online in the Journal of Medical Genetics, presents findings that likely represent a definitive clinical marker for some patients’ developmental disabilities.

Study Finds That Brains With Autism Fail to Trim Synapses as They Develop

As a baby’s brain develops, there is an explosion of synapses, the connections that allow neurons to send and receive signals. But during childhood and adolescence, the brain needs to start pruning those synapses, limiting their number so different brain areas can develop specific functions and are not overloaded with stimuli.

Now a new study suggests that in children with autism, something in the process goes awry, leaving an oversupply of synapses in at least some parts of the brain.

How playing an instrument benefits your brain - Anita Collins

Let’s Begin…

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What’s going on? Anita Collins explains the fireworks that go off in musicians’ brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout.

In development, it’s all about the timing

Closely related organisms share most of their genes, but these similarities belie major differences in behavior, intelligence, and physical appearance. For example, we share nearly 99% of our genes with chimps, our closest relatives on the great “tree of life.” Still, the differences between the two species are unmistakable. If not just genes, what else accounts for the disparities?

Early life stress can leave lasting impacts on the brain

A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers recently showed these kinds of stressors, experienced in early life, might be changing the parts of developing children's brains responsible for learning, memory and the processing of stress and emotion. These changes may be tied to negative impacts on behavior, health, employment and even the choice of romantic partners later in life. "We haven't really understood why things that happen when you're 2, 3, 4 years old stay with you and have a lasting impact," says Seth Pollak, co-leader of the study and UW-Madison professor of psychology. Yet, early life stress has been tied before to depression, anxiety, heart disease, cancer, and a lack of educational and employment success, says Pollak, who is also director of the UW Waisman Center's Child Emotion Research Laboratory.

Scripps Florida Scientists Pinpoint How Genetic Mutation Causes Early Brain Damage

In humans, mutations in Syngap1 are known to cause devastating forms of intellectual disability and epilepsy. In the study, Rumbaugh and his colleagues used a mouse model to show that mutations in Syngap1 damage the development of a kind of neuron known as glutamatergic neurons in the young forebrain, leading to intellectual disability. Higher cognitive processes, such as language, reasoning and memory arise in children as the forebrain develops. Repairing damaging Syngap1 mutations in these specific neurons during development prevented cognitive abnormalities, while repairing the gene in other kinds of neurons and in other locations had no effect.

MRI shows brain abnormalities in late preterm infants

Much of the existing knowledge on preterm birth and brain development has been drawn from studies of individuals born very preterm, or less than 32 weeks into gestation at birth. For the new study, researchers in Australia focused on moderate and late preterm (MLPT) babies —those born between 32 weeks, zero days, and 36 weeks, six days, into gestation. MLPT babies account for approximately 80 percent of all preterm births and are responsible for much of the rise in the rates of preterm birth over the last 20 years. Despite this, to date there have been no large-scale studies published on brain alterations associated with MLPT birth that may provide insight into brain-behavior relationships in this group of children. "In those very preterm babies, brain injury from bleeding into the brain or a lack of blood flow, oxygen or nutrition to the brain may explain some of the abnormal brain development that occurs," said the study's lead author, Jennifer M. Walsh, M.B.B.Ch., B.A.O., M.R.C.P.I., from the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. "However, in some preterm babies, there may be no obvious explanation for why their brain development appears slow compared with babies born on time."

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Researchers Find Association Between SSRI Use During Pregnancy and Autism and Developmental Delays in Boys

In a study of nearly 1,000 mother-child pairs, researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public health found that prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a frequently prescribed treatment for depression, anxiety and other disorders, was associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental delays (DD) in boys.

LIPID LEVELS DURING PRENATAL BRAIN DEVELOPMENT IMPACT AUTISM: YORK U STUDY

"Using real-time imaging microscopy, we determined that higher levels of PGE2 can change Wnt-dependent behaviour of neural stem cells by increasing cell migration or proliferation. As a result, this could affect how the brain is organized and wired. Moreover, we found that an elevated level of PGE2 can increase expression of Wnt-regulated genes — Ctnnb1, Ptgs2, Ccnd1, and Mmp9. “Interestingly, all these genes have been previously implicated in various autism studies."