Latest research news from the Autism Research Centre
This new study for the first time shows areas of the human brain where gray matter volume is influenced by fetal
testosterone (FT). Some areas that were larger in males than females showed a positive association with FT. That is, individuals
with the highest levels of FT had the largest volumes, while those with less FT had smaller volumes. This particular area, the
right temporoparietal junction (TPJ) has been functionally implicated in mentalizing/theory of mind processes and our other
recent study showed it is hypoactive in autism (Lombardo et al., 2011, Neuroimage). Other areas where gray matter volume was
larger in females compared to males showed a negative association with FT. Here, individuals with the most FT had the smallest
volumes whereas those with the least FT had the largest. Two regions were implicated here: an area involved in language processing,
planum temporale/parietal operculum, and an area linked to self-regulation, the posterior lateral orbitofrontal cortex.
This new study extends our earlier finding that FT is also associated with rightward asymmetry in the (white matter) corpus
callosum (Chura, Lombardo et al., 2010, Psychoneuroendocrinology), in showing that FT has a critical organizational effect
on later structural brain development in humans.
Siblings of individuals with autism have over 20 times the population risk of autism. Evidence of comparable, but less marked,
cognitive and social communication deficits in siblings suggests a role for these traits in the search for biomarkers of
familial risk. However, no neuroimaging biomarkers of familial risk have been identified to date. Here we show, for the first
time, that the neural response to facial expression of emotion differs between unaffected siblings and healthy controls with
no family history of autism.
New research published today in the journal Molecular Autism has found that depending on which variations of the cannabinoid receptor (CNR1)
gene a person carries influences the amount of time people look at happy faces. The CNR1 gene is involved in the brain’s reward circuitry (and gets
its name because it codes for the molecule that cannabis attaches itself to) and expressed primarily in the regions of the brain involved in
Press release [PDF]
The Transporters DVD teaches young children with autism to recognize emotions. Developed and evaluated by the ARC in collaboration with Culture Online, it has
just been translated into German by the University of Zurich.
A new study from Cambridge University has for the first time found that autism diagnoses are more common in an IT-rich region.
The researchers predicted that autism spectrum conditions (ASC) would be more common in populations enriched for 'systemizing', which is the drive to analyse how systems work, and to predict, control and build systems. These skills are required in disciplines such as engineering, physics, computing and mathematics.
Download full press release [PDF]
Download persbericht in het Nederlands [PDF]
A new study from Cambridge University has for the first time found that female-to-male transsexual people have a higher than average number of autistic traits. The Medical Research Council (MRC) funded study, published today in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, has important implications for the clinical management of biological girls with gender incongruence that persists into adulthood, and for the 'extreme male brain' theory of autism.
Press release [PDF]
New evidence for hormone dysregulation in autism
ARC scientists found that a precursor to testosterone, androstenedione, is elevated in both males and females with autism/Asperger Syndrome. This is a sex hormone and has relevance for the androgen theory of autism.