For immediate release
Advancing Understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder’s Possible Causes and Treatments
Nov 15, 2016SAN DIEGO — Studies released today reveal new understanding of autism spectrum disorder, outlining potential causes and mechanisms behind the disease and highlighting novel treatment strategies promoting social behavior. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2016, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
In the United States, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder has been increasing; 1 in 68 children were diagnosed with the disorder in 2010, and the prevalence remained the same for 2012. It’s characterized by problems in two core domains: social interactions and repetitive behavior. However, no treatments improve these core impairments.
Today’s new findings show that:
- Rats exposed to commonly used pesticides mirror symptoms seen in autism, suggesting a possible link between pesticides and neurodevelopmental disorders (Jill Silverman, abstract 776.02, see attached summary).
- Giving the hormone oxytocin to pregnant prairie voles just before they give birth promotes maternal bonding and increases sociability of the offspring (William Kenkel, abstract 387.05 see attached summary).
- A new therapy increases the level of the social hormone oxytocin and reduces the social impairments observed in a mouse model of autism (Elena Minakova, abstract 572.09, see attached summary).
- Transplanting embryonic stem cells into the adult brain of a rat model of autism improves symptoms by increasing inhibition in the brain, providing a possible treatment strategy (Daniel Lodge, abstract 47.13, see attached summary).
- Children with autism may overproduce synaptic connections in the amygdala, a region involved in sociability and emotion, suggesting a possible neurobiological explanation for the impairments associated with the disease (Cynthia Schumann, abstract 31.18, see attached summary).
The research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as other public, private, and philanthropic organizations worldwide. Find out more about autism spectrum disorder at BrainFacts.org.