A gluten-free, casein-free diet may lead to improvements in behavior and physiological symptoms in some children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to researchers at Penn State. The research is the first to use survey data from parents to document the effectiveness of a gluten-free, casein-free diet on children with ASD. "Research has shown that children with ASD commonly have GI [gastrointestinal] symptoms, " said Christine Pennesi, medical student at Penn State College of Medicine. "Notably, a greater proportion of our study population reported GI and allergy symptoms than what is seen in the general pediatric population. Some experts have suggested that gluten- and casein-derived peptides cause an immune response in children with ASD, and others have proposed that the peptides could trigger GI symptoms and behavioral problems.
Asperger's syndrome is a form of autism - it is a developmental disorder that impacts on the individual's ability to communicate and socialize, among other things. It begins in childhood and persists through adulthood and affects the way the person reaches "common sense" perceptions, as well as the way they process information related to other individuals. People with Asperger's syndrome find human interaction challenging, and may interpret creative thought and use their imagination in different way from others. Autism and Asperger's syndrome are both part of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). It is a range of related developmental disorders that affect people in many diverse ways and various degrees. However, people with Asperger's syndrome tend to have average or above-average vocabularies and reach speech milestones at the same time as children in the general population.
With the "Refrigerator Mother" notion about the cause of autism a distant and discredited memory, scientists are making remarkable progress in untangling the genetic roots of the condition, which affects millions of children and adults, according to an article in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News. C&EN is the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. In the story, C&EN Associate Editor Lauren K. Wolf points out that most people in the 1960s believed autism resulted from a lack of maternal warmth and emotional attachment. It was a hypothesis popularized by Austrian-born American child psychologist and writer Bruno Bettelheim. Now scientists around the globe are focusing on genes that have been implicated in autism and related conditions, collectively termed "autism spectrum disorders.
In a study published in the March 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Katherine Rice and colleagues, from the Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and Emory University School of Medicine, used eye-tracking technology to measure the relationship between cognitive and social disability in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and the ability of children with ASD to pay attention to social interactions. The study is the largest to date to observe children with ASD watching scenes of social interaction; 135 children, 109 with ASD and 26 without, all approximately 10 years old, participated. The children were shown movie scenes of school-age children in age-appropriate social situations. One set of analyses focused on the differences between children with ASD and typically-developing children, by closely matching a subset of those with ASD to typically-developing peers on IQ, gender, and age.
Impaired social function is a cardinal symptom of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). One of the brain circuits that enable us to relate to other people is the "mirror neuron" system. This brain circuit is activated when we watch other people, and allows our brains to represent the actions of others, influencing our ability to learn new tasks and to understand the intentions and experiences of other people. This mirror neuron system is impaired in individuals with ASD and better understanding the neurobiology of this system could help in the development of new treatments. In their new study, Dr. Peter Enticott at Monash University and his colleagues used transcranial magnetic stimulation to stimulate the brains of individuals with ASD and healthy individuals while they observed different hand gestures.