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Archive - May 2, 2018

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Algorithms Applied to EEG Results for Infants Accurately Predict Risk of Autism Spectrum DIsorder; “Stunning” Results May Provide Basis for Early Intervention

Autism is challenging to diagnose, especially early in life. A new study published online on May 1, 2018 in Scientific Reports shows that inexpensive EEGs, which measure brain electrical activity, accurately predict or rule out autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in infants, even in some as young as 3 months. The open-access article is titled “EEG Analytics for Early Detection of Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Data-Driven Approach.” "EEGs are low-cost, non-invasive and relatively easy to incorporate into well-baby checkups," says Charles Nelson, PhD, Director of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children's Hospital and co-author of the study. "Their reliability in predicting whether a child will develop autism raises the possibility of intervening very early, well before clear behavioral symptoms emerge. This could lead to better outcomes and perhaps even prevent some of the behaviors associated with ASD." The study analyzed data from the Infant Sibling Project (now called the Infant Screening Project), a collaboration between Boston Children's Hospital and Boston University that seeks to map early development and identify infants at risk for developing ASD and/or language and communication difficulties. William Bosl, PhD, Associate Professor of Health Informatics and Clinical Psychology at the University of San Francisco, also affiliated with the Computational Health Informatics Program (CHIP) at Boston Children's Hospital, has been working for close to a decade on algorithms to interpret EEG signals, the familiar squiggly lines generated by electrical activity in the brain. Dr. Bosl's research suggests that even an EEG that appears normal contains "deep" data that reflect brain function, connectivity patterns, and structure that can be found only with computer algorithms. The Infant Screening Project provided Dr.

Low Levels of Vasopressin Hormone in Cerebrospinal Fluid Possible Biomarker for Low Sociability Seen in Autism Spectrum Disorder

One of the characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder is reduced social ability. It's difficult to study the possible causes of social impairment in children, but a new study shows that rhesus macaques with low sociability also had low levels of the peptide vasopressin in cerebrospinal fluid, as did children with autism spectrum disorder. The study, by researchers at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) at the University of California (UC), Davis and Stanford University, was published online on May 2, 2018 in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The article is titled “Arginine Vasopressin in Cerebrospinal Fluid Is a Marker of Sociality in Nonhuman Primates.” "At this point, we consider vasopressin concentrations to be a biomarker for low sociability," said John Capitanio, PhD, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and a research scientist at the CNPRC. Dr. Capitanio studies the interplay between social behavior and health. Over several years, his team has assessed rhesus macaque monkeys born at the Center for sociability. The Center maintains large field corrals where the macaques live in extended large family groups with the same hierarchies and social behavior that they show in the wild.nAbout fifteen percent of the animals are classed as "low social": they spend less time interacting with others than most macaques. Dr. Capitanio has previously studied how this natural variation affects the course of infectious disease. Professor Karen Parker at the Stanford Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, principal investigator on the project, is interested in why children with autism spectrum disorder have deficits in social ability.