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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Author

Laura Dattaro

Senior News Writer

Laura Dattaro is a senior reporter for Spectrum, where she covers genetics, mental health, public policy and other areas of autism research. She proposed and writes the Null and Noteworthy newsletter, a monthly recap of studies with null results and replications. She joined Spectrum in 2020. Dattaro has worked as a science journalist and editor for 10 years and has written for the Columbia Journalism ReviewPopular MechanicsSlate and The New York Times, among other publications. Before joining Spectrum, she also worked as associate producer for the World Science Festival. Dattaro has an M.A. in science and health journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. in English and music from the University of Delaware. You can find her on Twitter at @LauraLauraDat or reach out to her at [email protected].

Contact Info

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December 2021

Birdsong-related DNA sequences tied to autism-linked genes

by  /  6 December 2021

Genes that appear to play a role in some birds’ ability to learn songs are frequently mutated in autistic people.

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Illustration of hybrid objects: part light bulb, part lab vial, some in blue and some in red to signify null and replicated results

Null and Noteworthy: Quality of life, IACC discussion, mixed results on interventions

by  /  2 December 2021

In this edition of Null and Noteworthy, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee grapples with “groundbreaking” research and two reviews of interventions come to conflicting conclusions.

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November 2021
A gloved-hand holds up a vial against a background of colorful lights that represent a sequenced genome.

Genetic effects stack up in some people with autism

by  /  23 November 2021

Rare variants that alter the expression of genes in the brain contribute to autism in people who also have a rare autism-linked mutation, according to a new study.

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Pink, blue and purple illustration shows a cell with mitochondria.

Mitochondria: An energy explanation for autism

by  /  22 November 2021

People with autism have more mutations than others do in both mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA that affects mitochondrial function.

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Stylized illustration combines flat color and 3D forms make up a mitochondria with human heads inside it.

Meet the ‘mitomaniacs’ who say mitochondria matter in autism

by  /  22 November 2021

Clues that problems with mitochondria contribute to autism have been accumulating for decades. In the past five years, a mutant mouse and a flurry of findings have energized the field.

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Gene therapy for rare form of autism may treat another

by  /  11 November 2021

A MECP2 gene therapy for Rett syndrome eases repetitive behaviors, anxiety and hyperactivity in a mouse model of Pitt-Hopkins syndrome.

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Dispatches from SfN 2021: Mitochondria, Rett therapy and oxytocin

These short reports from Spectrum journalists highlight some of the autism-related findings that caught our attention at the meeting this past week.

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Three mice sniffing each other.

Reversing mutations in top autism-linked gene makes adult mice more social

by  /  10 November 2021

Treatments that counteract the effects of an SCN2A mutation in mice increase the animals’ sociability in adulthood, according to a new unpublished study.

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October 2021

How an understudied trait has skewed autism studies for decades

by  /  27 October 2021

Many autistic people have a little-known trait called alexithymia, defined as having difficulty identifying one’s own emotions. New research suggests that the overlap has been confounding studies of emotional issues in people with autism for decades.

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Illustration: a 3D DNA molecule sits on a gridded background, with yellow paper rays arrayed around it.

Subset of autism cases linked to mutations in noncoding genome

by  /  20 October 2021

Autism involves mutations in noncoding portions of the genome in at least 3 percent of people with the condition. The mutations occur in regions that help regulate known autism-linked genes.

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