Skip to main content

Spectrum: Autism Research News

Spotted around the web: Antidepressants, closing prevalence gaps, cannabis for autism

by  /  12 March 2021

March 8th

Research roundup

  • Sensory processing skills improve over time in some autistic children and worsen in others; monitoring may help clinicians better understand individual variability. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Mice lacking the NRXN1a gene, which has been linked to autism, display changes in neuronal function that differ by circuit. Cell Reports
  • The BAF complex, which regulates the 3D structure of a cell’s genome and is implicated in autism, may serve as a switch, causing developing brain cells to stop multiplying and start maturing. Genes & Development
  • Autistic adults, to an even greater degree than non-autistic adults, have experienced more symptoms of anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. Molecular Autism
  • Evidence for the association between antidepressants and autism is thin, and it seems to hold whether a woman takes the medications prior to or during pregnancy, suggesting the link has little to do with the medications themselves. Current Neuropharmacology
  • Increasing numbers of Black children are being diagnosed with autism in the United States, and at a younger age, according to data collected from 2014 to 2019. JAMA Network Open
  • Pups born to mice fed a high-fat diet during pregnancy have altered brain function, particularly in reward pathways, that persists into adulthood. Translational Psychiatry
  • Toddlers who screen positive for autism but whose parents are young, Hispanic and don’t have private insurance, are less likely to receive a diagnostic evaluation than those with older, non-Hispanic, insured parents. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics
  • Early diagnosis of autism may occur when children show early communication difficulties, whereas diagnosis seems to be delayed in children with aggressive behaviors. BMC Pediatrics
  • Intellectual disability may be the biggest risk factor for dying from COVID-19. NEJM Catalyst

Science and society

  • The Ohio Medical Board is considering, for the third year in a row, whether to add autism to the list of conditions approved for medical marijuana use; read more about cannabis and autism in Spectrum’s explainer. Spectrum News 1
  • The Autism Society of America has lobbied media outlets to call April “Autism Acceptance Month,” instead of “Autism Awareness Month.” Autism Society
  • Easterseals Southern California, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, teamed up with a textile company to create a sensory-friendly face mask for people with autism or other disabilities. Forbes
  • A U.S. court has ruled that health insurer UnitedHealth Group broke federal law by refusing to cover applied behavior analysis as a therapy for autism. Reuters