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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.

January 2022

Rethinking the origins of neurons: Q&A with Tomasz Nowakowski

by  /  20 January 2022

Excitatory and inhibitory neurons can derive from the same cellular source in the developing human brain, a new study suggests, overturning a 20-year-old hypothesis. Tomasz Nowakowski discusses the finding’s implications for autism research.

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Scans of mouse brain slices showing differences in oxytocin levels

Oxytocin alters brain activity to boost sociability in mice missing autism gene

by  /  20 January 2022

Infusions of the hormone oxytocin may make mice that model autism more social by normalizing their brain activity patterns.

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Micrograph of intestinal bacteria.

Infection in pregnant mice ups risk of gut problems in pups

by  /  18 January 2022

Infection during pregnancy can tweak a mouse’s gut microbiome in ways that have lasting effects on her pups’ immune system and increase their chances of gut inflammation, a new study suggests.

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Neuron-specific virus overcomes barriers to brain-related gene therapy

by  /  14 January 2022

A new viral variant can deliver genes exclusively to the brain, overcoming a key hurdle in treating neurological conditions using gene therapy.

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Normal mouse brain (left) vs brain in mouse lacking POGZ gene (right)

Top autism-linked gene boosts DNA accessibility during development

by  /  10 January 2022

Loss of the POGZ gene in mice makes certain genes inaccessible and prevents their expression.

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Cerebral cortex transcript

Alternate RNA versions of genes may shape autism

by  /  7 January 2022

Autism may involve different levels of RNA isoforms encoded by genes in the brain, which express many more proteins than previously thought.

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The connection between oxytocin and autism, explained

by  /  6 January 2022

Oxytocin, cemented in the popular imagination as the “love molecule,” could serve as a treatment for some autistic people who naturally have low levels of the hormone, researchers say.

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New method spotlights synaptic plasticity in living mice

by  /  5 January 2022

Mice that express a fluorescent synaptic receptor reveal the interactions between neurons in unprecedented detail.

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Visual stimulus of 4 circles with black and white stripes.

Visual task flags autistic people who respond to GABA agonists

by  /  5 January 2022

The investigational drug arbaclofen makes autistic people’s brains respond to a visual task more like non-autistic people’s brains do.

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December 2021

Trends in autism research 2021

 /  23 December 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, Spectrum recaps some of the biggest trends in autism science this year: studies of sex differences, noncoding regions of the genome and points of convergence, as well as efforts to improve screening and participatory research.

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