Autism Research: October 9, 2015 Week in Review

ResearchResearch identifies vital receptor for autism therapy

In their relentless search for autism therapy, researchers from the Scripps Research Institute have landed on a key receptor called 5-HT2cR that could prove to be a blessing for individuals on the spectrum. A team of researchers headed by Prof. Damon Page has uncovered an important and potentially therapeutic target in the brain that helps signal transmission. The findings that were published this week in the journal PLoS One talked about the important role of the neurotransmitter serotonin in social behavior development. Targeting the receptor will suppress serotonin activity and help in treatment of autism, researchers predict. They showed these in a mouse model containing the autism risk gene Pten that is responsible for autism in a sect of the patients. Social deficits improved dramatically by suppressing activity of the receptor using a drug, thereby laying foundation for further research for creating therapeutic drugs.

Journal Reference: Julien Séjourné, Danielle Llaneza, Orsolya J. Kuti, Damon T. Page. Social Behavioral Deficits Coincide with the Onset of Seizure Susceptibility in Mice Lacking Serotonin Receptor 2c. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (8): e0136494 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136494

Repetition during training harms learning in autism

As a norm, repetition has always been the mantra to ingrain stuff, for adults as well as children. This mantra has been as a matter of fact, used for kids with autism, assuming that they would need it more so than typical children. Now, new research coming in from the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University is showing that this repetition training might actually be harming more than helping. The team of researchers headed by Marlene Behrmann published their ground breaking findings in Nature Neuroscience this week. They found that repetition actually harms transference of acquired knowledge and prevents applications to other situations. The experiment showed that individuals with autism were not just unable to utilize what they learnt in the first half of the experiment and apply it to the second half, in fact, the knowledge of the first interfered with the learning, probably as a consequence of excessive repetition of first. This is a drastic new finding that changes entirely the way learning for autism has been approached so far, demanding deeper research, quickly, for faster application.

Journal Reference: Hila Harris, David Israeli, Nancy Minshew, Yoram Bonneh, David J Heeger, Marlene Behrmann, Dov Sagi. Perceptual learning in autism: over-specificity and possible remedies. Nature Neuroscience, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nn.4129

Research links autism and obesity during pregnancy

Obesity as a disorder, has ripped at its seams, and rapidly achieved global pandemic proportions. More and more medical conditions are being associated with obesity. The newest to join this list is autism. A new study has found that obese women having elevated blood glucose levels were 50% more prone to having a child with autism. The study was conducted at Central South University, China. The study pooled in data from 2 lac people globally, analyzing findings from multiple other studies, linking autism and obesity in pregnancy. The findings have been published this week in the leading autism journal Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. The researchers suggested that the high blood sugar levels might be elevating blood glucose levels in the babies, leading to impaired development of the central nervous system and brain. Since the exact causes of autism still remain unknown, researches are trying every possible way to figure out a solid evidence for possible causes and arrive at potential therapeutic pathways.

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About Dr. Rachita Narsaria, M.D.

Dr. Rachita Narsaria is an physician with a passion for prose. Armed with an MD in Internal Medicine, she juggles between clinics and writing. When medicine gets overwhelming, poetry is her escape. Her maiden venture, Spellbound Inc., is a culmination of years of experience in creative writing.