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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Community Newsletter: Polyneuro risk score; rat brain imaging protocol

by  /  2 April 2023
Speech bubble formed by a network of communication

Illustration by Laurène Boglio

Researchers raved this week about a new tool called a polyneuro risk score (PNRS) that can characterize brain-behavior relationships. The technique is analogous to a polygenic risk score, which is used to describe relationships between genes and traits.

In a thread detailing the work, which was published 28 March in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, study investigator Gracie Grimsrud of the University of Minnesota explained that the team used data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study to investigate the relationship between functional connectivity and three cognitive domains: general ability, executive function and learning and memory.

Grimsrud tweeted that the tool could address the “reproducibility crisis” in brain-wide association studies (BWAS), an issue Spectrum covered last year.

Study investigator Damien Fair called the new work a “tour de force” in a tweet urging his followers to check out the study.

Two fellow scientists from the University of Minnesota, who were not involved in the study, also chimed in. “I’ve been playing around with the BWAS/PNRS tool myself as well and definitely see the utility it can have for the field,” tweeted Ekom Eyoh.

“This technique allows scientists to get a single measure of cognitive function using only fMRI data. That’s pretty cool!” tweeted Robert Hermosillo.

Continuing the fMRI theme, another study that garnered attention this week debuted StandardRat, a standard protocol for imaging rat brains in controlled conditions.

More than 200 researchers examined data from 46 research centers to create the protocol, explained Joanes Grandjean of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour in an April 2022 thread describing the work.

The researchers published the protocol 27 March in Nature Neuroscience and made the code for it available on github.

Study investigator Noam Shemesh of the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown called the work a “landmark in the field.”

“This is what happens when a whole community takes action to improve itself,” tweeted study investigator Valerio Zerbi of EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

“Never underestimate the power of @grandjeanlab’s judgement to bring a field together,” tweeted study investigator Eilidh MacNicol of King’s College London.

Maximilian Friedrich of the University of Würzburg called the work a “crucial step” toward translational frameworks for brain-behavior studies. “Imagine the degrees of freedom of rodent connectomic imaging when in fact the lesions/stim sites can be introduced in a controlled way.”

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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