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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.

October 2021
Illustration of large globe shaped like a brain sitting in center of room and showing Latin America prominently.

Diversifying autism brain banks: Q&A with Verónica Martínez-Cerdeño

by  /  25 October 2021

The postmortem brain tissue available for autism research is overwhelmingly from people of Western European heritage. Verónica Martínez-Cerdeño and her colleagues are working to change that.

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Autism-linked gene SYNGAP1 molds synaptic plasticity, learning

by  /  21 October 2021

Even partial loss of the gene impairs the mouse brain’s ability to respond to sensory experiences, which may explain why people with SYNGAP1 mutations tend to have learning difficulties and a high pain tolerance.

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Illustration: microbes clumped together forming the shape of a brain. The microbes are pink, blue, aqua, and red. Set against a dark blue background.

Despite flurry of findings, doubts dog gut microbes’ role in autism

by  /  19 October 2021

The possibility of microbial treatments for autism has inspired a burst of research and nascent clinical trials, but new research suggests these efforts rest on shaky scientific ground.

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Black CDKL5 mice in a lab setting--three mice in a cage.

Brain stimulation improves memory in autism mouse models

by  /  15 October 2021

Jolting a bundle of nerve fibers deep in the brain restores learning and memory in mice with mutations of the autism-linked gene CDKL5.

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‘Light beads’ method images activity across the mouse brain

by  /  12 October 2021

The new technique can record hundreds of thousands of neurons firing nearly simultaneously across big swaths of brain tissue in living mice.

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How traits relate to brain activity may differ between autistic boys, girls

by  /  11 October 2021

Scientists should heed these differences when considering resting-state brain activity as a biomarker for autism, the researchers say.

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Two colorful mouse neurons seen side by side on black, one has a mutation.

Precocious neurons may stunt brain growth in rare form of autism

by  /  5 October 2021

The first animal model of MYT1L syndrome suggests that fast-maturing neurons lead to the unusually small brains, social deficits and other traits seen in people with the condition.

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September 2021
Cells in the cerebral cortex.

Atlas maps gene activity, accessibility in developing brain

by  /  30 September 2021

A new resource profiles gene expression and the accessibility of DNA in single cells across the developing human cerebral cortex and may help scientists decipher the effects of noncoding mutations linked to autism.

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Researcher hands on three brain images taken at different ages, of different conditions.

The search for a link between autism and neurodegenerative conditions

by  /  28 September 2021

Autistic people have a higher-than-average chance of developing a neurodegenerative condition, according to a few studies. Some scientists are searching for proof — work that could also improve care for older autistic adults.

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A concerned man holds his toddler close

Severe infection may raise odds of autism in some children

by  /  17 September 2021

Mock viral infections impair social memory in mice with a mutation tied to autism, and autistic boys are more likely than their non-autistic peers to have had serious infections early in life.

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