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Spectrum Research News

Please find information on the research projects mentioned on the Research News section of our latest issue of The Spectrum, Volume 8, No. 2 (Winter 2012). Click on the links below to find out more about the specific studies included in this issue.


New genes contributing to autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders

SOURCE: Science Daily

Summary: Science Daily has published a recent report from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Teaching Affiliate of Harvard Medical School) on their website about new genes that have been found to contribute to the development of autism. According to researchers 22 new genes that may contribute to or increase the risk of autism have been uncovered. This study is part of larger and ongoing collaborative research, the Developmental Genome Anatomy Project (DGAP) that is investigating genes critical to human development.

More information about this report can be found here:


Genetic reach of autism may extend to half siblings

SOURCE: Washington University in St. Louis, US

Summary: Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis looked at a group of families where maternal half siblings of children with autism were known to have been raised in the same household. After investigating both family structures (i.e., families with full siblings and families with half-siblings) they reportedly found that 10% to 11% of full siblings had been diagnosed with autism in comparison to 5% to 7% of half siblings. Findings also suggested that it is not the size of the genetic anomaly that makes a difference but rather its location – specifically in biochemical pathways involved in brain development and neural connections. When looking at gene mutations, the study also found that the mutations may increase a carrier’s risk of developing autism by 5 to 20 times. This research showed that there seems to be a genetic link that extends through to half siblings of children with autism.

More information about this report can be found here:


DSM-IV vs DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for toddlers with Autism

SOURCE: Developmental Neurorehabilitation 15(3), 185-190.

Summary: There is currently much debate about what the proposed DSM-5 criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (due out in May 2013) will mean for individuals who are currently diagnosed with Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, or PDD-NOS. Importantly, there is also question around what the expected changes will mean for future rates of diagnosis. Already, a number of researchers have been applying the proposed criteria to individuals currently fulfilling requirements to meet a diagnosis, and results are mixed. This study is one of many that are beginning to emerge in the research literature. The researchers applied both DSM-IV and the proposed DSM-5 criteria to over 2500 toddlers at risk for a developmental disability. Results suggested that 47% fewer toddlers satisfied DSM-5 criteria than met criteria under DSM-IV. The authors suggested that far fewer people will qualify for autism services under the proposed new criteria.

The article can be found here: 

The American Psychiatric Association’s response to such reports of a dramatic drop in diagnoses can be found here:

Infant neural sensitivity to dynamic eye gaze is associated with later emerging autism

SOURCE: Current Biology, 22(4), 338-342

Summary: In a new study, UK researchers have found that measuring how a baby’s brain reacts to shifts in eye contact might help predict the development of autism symptoms from as young as six months. The results of the study may have significant implications on the early development of children with autism. As evidenced in the literature, early diagnoses can ensure early access to intervention for the best possible outcome for individuals with ASD. As most of the research in the field of ASDs has been done after the age of two years there is still very little known about the initial symptoms and signs. Interestingly, the study revealed that brains of young infants who will go on to develop autism already process social information in a different way.  

More information about this report can be found here: