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Monday, August 26, 2013

Autism Study Planned for Rhode Island

The Framingham Heart Study is perhaps one of the most ambitious long-term studies in medical history. Begun in 1948 under the direction of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute it has been in operation for upwards of a half century. In collaboration with the community, researchers for the study have documented the cardiac-related conditions of more than 5,000 residents of a single Massachusetts town; an effort which has helped to identify major causative factors and characteristics of heart disease.

This year, the Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment (RICART) has launched a ground-breaking effort comparable in scope. Backed by a $1.2 mllion grant by a New-York based scientific research firm, The Simons Foundation, RICART is set to establish a State-wide autism registry and network. The project will link families and researchers in an effort "to spur important and innovative research on the causes and treatments for individuals with autism and related conditions," according to Stephen Sheinkopf, Ph.D., a clinical researcher at Women & Infants Hospital and co-director of the RI-CART project.

Over the next three years, the project aims to enroll over 1,000 children and adults with autism. With just over one million residents over 1,000 square miles, it is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are about 10,000 people with autism in Rhode Island.

For more information about the RICART project, visit the Women and Infants Hospital website.

Friday, August 9, 2013

New Study Suggests Autism Affects Male and Female Brains Differently

Male and Female Autism Study According to a new study, autism may affect the brains of men and women differently.

The study, conducted by scientists at the Autism Research Center at the University of Cambridge, UK, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the brains of 120 males and females with and without autism.

The tests found that the brain anatomies of females with autism were substantially different when compared to the brains of their male counterparts, while at the same time exhibiting traits more closely related to males without autism.

"What we have known about autism to date is mainly male-biased, said Dr Meng-Chuan Lai, the lead author of the study. "This research shows that it is possible that the effect of autism manifests differently according to one's gender."

The discovery may also relate to an idea known as the extreme male brain theory of autism, which hypothesizes that autism is actually an extreme version of the typical male brain profile.

"The key message is that researchers should not really assume that what we know about autism in males will always be applicable to females."

For more about the study, see BBC News Health.

For a full text of this study, see the June issue of the Oxford Journal of Neurology, Brain.