A UT Dallas professor is studying the differences between the social impairments found in autism and schizophrenia to help develop better treatments for people with both disorders. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia are distinct disorders with unique characteristics, but they share similarities in social dysfunction. For many years, this similarity resulted in confusion in diagnosis. Many young people with ASD were thought to have a childhood version of schizophrenia, said Dr. Noah Sasson, assistant professor in the UT Dallas School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Sasson points out that clear differences exist between people diagnosed with schizophrenia and ASD. Symptoms of ASD can be seen from very early in life, while the onset of schizophrenia typically occurs in young adulthood.
There are a number of drugs and experimental conditions that can block cognitive function and impair learning and memory. However, scientists have recently shown that some drugs can actually improve cognitive function, which may have implications for our understanding of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. The new research is reported 21 February in the open-access journal PLoS Biology. The study, led by Drs. Jose A. Esteban, Shira Knafo and Cesar Venero, is the result of collaboration between researchers from The Centro de BiologĂ a Molecular Severo Ochoa and UNED (Spain), the Brain Mind Institute (EPFL, Switzerland) and the Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology (Faculty of Health Sciences, Denmark). The human brain contains trillions of neuronal connections, called synapses, whose pattern of activity controls all our cognitive functions.
The first prospective study of ethnic differences in the symptoms of autism in toddlers shows that children from a minority background have more delayed language, communication and gross motor skills than Caucasian children with the disorder. Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute concluded that subtle developmental delays may be going unaddressed in minority toddlers until more severe symptoms develop. While the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) does not differ across racial and ethnic groups, some studies have shown that children of African American, Hispanic and Asian descent are less likely to receive an early diagnosis of autism than Caucasian children. In this new study, Dr. Rebecca Landa, director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute, investigated whether the symptoms of autism in toddlers play a role in this disparity in diagnosis as part of her work to improve access, education and outreach to minority communities.
A major register study from Karolinska Institutet shows that children born to certain groups of immigrants had an increased risk of developing autism with intellectual disability. The study includes all children in Stockholm County from 2001 to 2007, and brings the question of the heredity of autism to the fore. "This is an intriguing discovery, in which we can see strong links between a certain kind of autism and the time of the mother's immigration to Sweden, " says principal investigator Cecilia Magnusson, Associate Professor of epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet. "The study is important, as it shows that autism isn't governed only by genetic causes but by environmental factors too." The study, which is published in the scientific periodical The British Journal of Psychiatry shows that children of immigrant parents, particularly from countries of low human development, are disproportionately likely to develop autism with intellectual disability, a connection that appears to be related to the timing of migration rather than complications in childbirth.
Children with autism spectrum disorders who also have serious behavioral problems responded better to medication combined with training from their parents than to treatment with medication alone, Yale researchers and their colleagues report in the February issue of Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. "Serious behavioral problems interfere with everyday living for children and their families, " said senior author on the study Lawrence Scahill, professor at Yale University School of Nursing and the Child Study Center. "Decreasing these serious behavioral problems results in children who are more able to manage everyday living." Scahill and his team completed a federally funded multi-site trial on 124 children ages 4 to 13 with autism spectrum disorders at three U.