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Spectrum: Autism Research News

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The Brain

Charting the structure and function of the brain’s many circuits may unravel autism’s mysteries.

April 2010

Scientists finger neurexin 1 defects in autism

by  /  20 April 2010

Several studies in the past year in people, mice and honeybees have tied autism to a protein that helps neurons communicate. Problems with the protein, neurexin 1, are associated with a wide range of autistic behaviors, such as impaired social interactions, anxiety and problems with learning and memory.

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Autism not a fundamental problem of attention, study says

by  /  16 April 2010

Toddlers with autism pay less attention to faces than do healthy controls, but both groups give equal attention to objects, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The findings challenge the idea that individuals with autism have a generalized problem with attention, suggesting instead that they struggle with attending specifically to social stimuli, researchers say.

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Measuring expression

by  /  14 April 2010

To examine protein interactions inside brain cells, scientists typically zero in on one gene at a time. A new method described in today’s Nature simultaneously measures expression of the whole genome.

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Psychiatry’s new game plan

by  /  12 April 2010

Writing in Science, leading scientists call for a 10-year, $2 billion international scheme that would combine the latest in genetics and animal research to combat psychiatric diseases.

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Rett gene found to control genome structure in neurons

by  /  9 April 2010

The protein that is mutated in Rett syndrome controls the expression of other genes by changing the way DNA packs into a cell, rather than turning genes on or off, according to a study published in Molecular Cell.

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Autism symptoms emerge in infancy, sibling study finds

by  /  6 April 2010

At 6 months of age, babies who will later develop autism begin to lose some of their social skills and continue to regress until age 3, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

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Mapping the brain

by  /  5 April 2010

The human brain holds a mind-boggling 100 billion neurons. Mapping their connections is the lofty goal of the Human Connectome Project, a $30 million scheme sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

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March 2010

Autism and fragile X feature immune signatures

by  /  30 March 2010

Scientists have identified distinct blood signatures of cytokines — proteins that control communication between cells of the immune system — in individuals with fragile X syndrome and autism.

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Delay found in development of fragile X brains

by  /  26 March 2010

Young mouse models of fragile X syndrome show a significant lag in the development of synapses, the connections between neurons, according to a study published in Neuron. The findings suggest that a similar mistiming may be responsible for the sensory problems — such as hypersensitivity to touch and sound — sometimes seen in people with fragile X syndrome.

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Learning opportunities

by  /  23 March 2010

There are several short periods during development in which our brains are ‘plastic’ — meaning that neuronal connections appear and disappear depending on how much they are used. Researchers may have found a way to reopen those learning windows.

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