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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Community Newsletter: Powering neuroimaging studies, neurodiversity and Nigerian autism screening

by  /  20 March 2022
Speech bubble formed by a network of communication

Illustration by Laurène Boglio

In honor of #BrainAwarenessWeek, we’ll kick off this edition of the Community Newsletter with some tweets about what scientists still need in order to reliably link behavior with brain structure or function.

Specifically, Scott Marek, psychiatry instructor at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, tweeted a thread about his new analysis in Nature — a “dream come true”— that shows that certain types of neuroimaging studies lack statistical power. Spectrum covered the paper on Wednesday.

Within the thread, Marek quotes the paper, writing that “there is no one-size-fits-all for neuroimaging studies.”

“Go big or stay home!” tweeted Kevin Mitchell, associate professor of developmental neurobiology and genetics at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, in summary.

But Mitchell was careful to emphasize in response to Timothy Verstynen, associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that “many fMRI study designs are not subject to this sample size issue.”

The findings are not a setback for neuroimaging but rather a “breakthrough,” the study’s co-senior investigator Nico Dosenbach, associate professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis, told Spectrum. “Recognizing why something isn’t working is always a critical step for making it work.”

Andrew Whitehouse, professor of autism research at the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, Australia, hailed the vision behind another new paper this week that presents “an early, supportive and neurodiversity-affirming pathway for autistic children.”

The approach is a “nice integration of developmental models, trial evidence, carer support, neurodiversity and global perspectives,” tweeted Tony Charman, chair of clinical child psychology at King’s College London in the United Kingdom.

And it offers “an important path to the future,” tweeted Helen Tager-Flusberg, professor of anatomy, neurobiology and psychology at Boston University in Massachusetts.

And Rosa Hoekstra, reader in global perspectives on neurodevelopmental disorders at King’s College London, congratulated Muideen Bakare, psychiatrist at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Enugu State, Nigeria, and Andy Shih, senior vice president of public health and inclusion at Autism Speaks, on their work on the Nigerian Autism Screening Questionnaire, published in Autism this month. She notes in a response that the tool is available for all who are interested in the supplementary materials.

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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