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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Community newsletter: Brain map; communication guide

by  /  16 October 2022
Brain with a two-dimensional world map applied to its surface against a burnt pink background.
Jorg Greuel / Getty Images

Twitter is full of distracting rabbit holes, but these two threads guided us through some riveting details, holding our attention and the attention of many others.

“GoogleMaps for the brain!” tweeted Bratislav Misic, associate professor and Canada research chair of the Network Neuroscience Lab at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in a thread where he describes his and his colleagues’ toolbox for contextualizing human brain maps called neuromaps.

Neuromaps promise to “enable researchers to systematically share, transform, and compare brain maps,” the team wrote in a paper published 6 October in Nature Methods.

“Neuromaps is an indispensable tool for understanding and rigorously annotating your imaging data. Hard to imagine how we made do without it!!” tweeted Ted Satterthwaite, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“This is such an *incredibly* useful tool for human neuroscience! Integrating structural, genetic, functional, neurotransmitter, etc. maps,” tweeted Brad Voytek, associate professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego.

“So greatful for @rossdavism(!), my lab, and all neuromappers for what turned out to be a very collaborative + fun project,” tweeted Justine Hansen, a graduate student studying neuroscience at Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital in Canada. Hansen also shared a link to a blog post describing her role in the project, which is, as she puts it, is a handy tool for letting her parents know what it is she does.

The next thread we dove deep into features a guidebook for communication.

“How can we reduce the vast health inequities that autistic people face?” Gemma Williams, a research fellow at the University of Brighton in England, asked.

She answered with 10 recommendations to improve communication with autistic people in health-care settings, the output of a project co-produced with 17 people in the autism community, “including autistic healthcare users, autistic health professionals, researchers and non-autistic health professionals.”

“This is very relevant to my research on assessing for dementia in autistic people. Dementia clinicians will be seeing autistic people in their clinics but may not be considering that,” tweeted Lynsey Stewart, a psychology research assistant at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

“That’s exactly it- autistic people are autistic across their whole lifespan but many older folk missed diagnoses when they were young,” Williams replied.

Amid thanks, Twitter user Healthevents Ltd pointed out, “Communication is a two way process. Until you understand & respect each other nothing good can happen.”

Holly Radford, a psychology student at the University of Portsmouth in England, called the recommendations excellent, tweeting that they “would benefit many other groups of people too.”

Echoing the sentiment of the many other tweets we couldn’t fit here, Iris Warchall, a physical therapist in Oakland, California, issued an imperative: “If you are a healthcare provider, you NEED to read this!”

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That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to [email protected].

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