July 24 2013 Week In Review: Latest Research into Autism

CC BY-SA by Egan Snow

CC BY-SA by Egan Snow

Oxytocin of no benefit in autism therapy

A new contradictory study in the prestigious Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders has discovered that oxytocin hormone did not show any extra benefit over placebo in improving autism symptoms.The study found that oxytocin nasal sprays did not improve social skills, emotion recognition, behavioural adjustment or repetitive behaviours in the 38 boys that were recruited in the study. This study conducted at the University of New South Wales was led by Prof. Dadd and published on July 18th.

The study is controversial as it contradicts numerous small-scale studies conducted earlier that found some positive benefit of oxytocin on autistic symptoms like social memory and repetitive behaviour. Also, other research conducted with oxytocin on healthy people had shown increase in levels of eye-gazing, trust levels and emotion identification. Prof. Dadds said that there might be a subgroup of autistic children who might benefit from oxytocin, but who those are and how much would they benefit all needs to be determined before propagating it any further.

Autism supplement not necessarily healthy, research uncovers

A new study published by the University of Colorado Cancer Centre in the journal Hormones & Cancer showed that flavonoids might not be the healthiest thing to be fed randomly as supplemental food. Flavonoids luteolin and quercetin were tested by researcher Steven Nordeen and his team. Of these, luteolin is a common ingredient of supplements sold for paediatric group having ASD.

Steven found that luteolin blocked some of the effects of progesterone hormone and increased the effects of another hormone called oestrogen. Together this derails the endometrial cancer growth that was checked by progesterone and enhanced by estrogen. Also, since both these hormones affect breast cancer growth as well, Steven went ahead to suggest that the blood levels that the flavonoids might be reaching on consuming the supplements and the other changes that they might be bringing about in the body are yet unknown. He suggested that feeding pre-pubescent children on ASD with such highly active supplements might be detrimental and should be withheld until more conclusive research tells they are completely safe.

Treatment model not important in autism treatment of the young

A study team lead by Samuel Odom at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill uncovered that the kind of treatment model used for pre-schoolers diagnosed with an ASD was irrelevant as long as the therapy was delivered at an early age. This is a truly ground breaking study as it might completely eliminate the need for continuous and extensive research on furthering the kind of treatment models used for autistic children.

The costs of treating autistic children may be brought under significant control if the need for training teachers, staff and parents for delivering special services to ASD children is eliminated. The study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders compared the LEAP, TEACCH models and other non-specialised treatment models used with preschool ASD children. They found no model statistically outweighed the other two in terms of the improvement in skills of communication, severity of autism symptoms or the fine motor skills. They concluded that its perhaps the features common to all these models that really influenced a child’s development.


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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.