Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

369014-79 Looking This Way and That, and Learning to Adapt to the World

Expand Messages
  • schafer
    Sep 2, 2010
      
       
      Schafer Autism ReportRead this report online
          Large text, printer version

      Monday, August 16, 2010                      
                                   Reader Supported



      RESEARCH

      Looking This Way and That, and Learning to Adapt to the World


            By Charles Q. Choi, NY Times xrl.in/641u

         Miles Byrin Tani, 14 months, is fitted with a camera system 
         in an N.Y.U. lab.             Todd Heisler/The New York Times


            The infants and toddlers resemble cyborgs as they waddle and crawl around the playroom with backpacks carrying wireless transmitters and cameras strapped to their heads. Each has one camera aimed at the right eye and another at the field of view, and both send video to monitors nearby. When the video feeds are combined, the result is a recording in which red cross hairs mark the target of a child’s gaze.
            Scientists are using the eye-tracking setup to learn how children look at the world as they figure out how to interact with it. In the lab, children 5 months and older crawl and walk up, down and over an obstacle course of adjustable wooden slopes, cliffs, gaps and steps. And to add to the challenge, the subjects are sometimes outfitted with Teflon-coated shoes or lead-weighted vests.
            It may seem like the set for a new reality television show, but there are no prizes, except perhaps for the researchers. They hope to understand what prompts one child to respond to another, how infants coordinate their gaze with their hands and feet to navigate around obstructions or handle objects, and how these very young children adapt to changes, like those brought on by slippery footwear.
            The findings provided by these eye-trackers so far (the first light enough for children to wear) suggest that infants may be more capable of understanding and acting on what they see than had been thought. “Quick gazes at obstacles in front of them or at their mothers’ faces may be all they need to get the information they want. They seem to be surprisingly efficient,” said John Franchak, a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology at New York University.
            Although vision might largely seem effortless to us, in reality we actively choose what we look at, making about two to four eye movements every second for some 150,000 motions daily, said Karen Adolph, also a developmental psychologist at N.Y.U. “Vision is not passive,” she said. “We actively coordinate our eye movements with the motions of our hands and bodies."
            Eye-tracking studies have existed for more than a century, but the instruments involved were typically desk machines. The wearable eye-trackers that Dr. Adolph, Mr. Franchak and their colleagues use are based on devices developed over the last decade by Positive Science, a New York company, with money from the United States Naval Research Laboratory. They were designed to help scientists discover things like how combatants spot camouflaged targets in the field. Eye-trackers are currently being used in studies to learn the differences in how amateur and professional geologists scan landscapes and how people examine signs when looking for exits during emergencies.
            To adapt the eye-trackers for children, whose noses and ears are too small for the eyeglass-mounted versions employed with adults, the founder of Positive Science, Jason Babcock, used padded headbands, spandex caps and Velcro tabs to keep the cameras in place. The headgear weighs just 1.6 ounces, about as much as a pocketful of change. Since infants often fall headfirst, spotters hold straps attached to vests the children wear to prevent them from injuring themselves with the cameras, but the children are otherwise free to move.
            The scientists recruit parents and children for their work from maternity wards. Although a few toddlers could not be coaxed into donning the eye-trackers, so far the researchers have tested about 70 children with the devices.
      + Read more: xrl.in/641u





      DO SOMETHING ABOUT AUTISM NOW




      . . . Read, then Forward
      the Schafer Autism Report.
      $35 for 1 year - or free!
      www.sarnet.org


      • • •

      Abnormalities in Certain Genes May Cause Autism: Research

            News-Medical.net xrl.in/6426

             Together with colleagues from an international research group, autism researcher Christopher Gillberg of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has found in a new study that autism can be partially explained by abnormalities in certain genes. The group's results could, in the long run, pave the way for more appropriate treatments for autism.
            Prestigious journal Nature is publishing an article co-authored by Christopher Gillberg of the Unit for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, and member of the Autism Genome Project (AGP) research group.
            In the article the group reveals that a survey of 1,000 individuals with autism and 1,300 without showed that Copy Number Variants (CNVs) - sub-microscopic abnormalities in the chromosomes - are heavily over-represented in autistic people.
            "Some of these are inherited, while others have appeared for the first time in the person with autism," says Gillberg. "Several of the abnormalities affect the genes that we have previously shown to be linked to autism and psychological developmental disorders".
            The article stresses something that Gillberg and his colleagues have long asserted, namely that autism is partly down to a number of completely different genetic abnormalities, each of which occurs in just a small number of autistic people, but which together account for an increasing proportion of all cases, and that autism is an umbrella term for a large number of different neurobiological conditions that have the same symptom picture.
            The study also provides evidence that other genes that are important for synapse development and intra-cellular communication (communication between the nerve cells) play a role in the origin of autism in some cases. It is hoped that the link with synapse development and intra-cellular communication will pave the way for more appropriate treatment in the long term.
            "Only when we know what is actually causing the autism in each case can we customise a treatment involving medication and diet," says Gillberg.
            Gillberg is also one of the initiative-takers behind AGP, a group of 120 scientists from 11 different countries who have joined forces to identify the genetic factors underlying autism. He and his colleagues in the group also published, in Nature in 2003, 2007 and 2009, the first studies to show that the mutated genes that affect the early development of synapses also cause autism in some cases.
            Source : University of Gothenburg
            
      • • •

      NEWS

      Money for Autism Services Coming to Saskatchewan


            The province is doling out 2 and a half million dollars to support enhanced services for people with autism.
            One point 3 million dollars of it will come to the Saskatoon Health Region.
            Vice President of Community Services for the Region says the money will be used for a pilot project to support people and families affected by autism.
            Shan Landry says it's an opportunity to better link services and deliver care on the ground where it will make the most difference.
            In addition, the Ministry of Health will be providing one hundred thousand dollars that will be earmarked for the development of a certification program set to begin in January of 2011.

      • • •

      Humanoid Robot Nao Gets Emotion Chip

            By Tim Hornyak xrl.in/642t

             (Credit: University of Connecticut CHIP)

             If you think robots are heartless piles of plastic and silicon, you're correct. But soccer-playing humanoid robot Nao  has been evolving by developing "emotions" under a European project and is now being used in the U.S. in sessions to treat autistic children.
            Under the recently concluded Feelix Growing project--aimed at designing bots that can detect and respond to human emotional cues--researchers at the University of Hertfordshire's Adaptive Systems Group and other centers have been trying to get Nao to simulate human emotions.
            Researcher Lola Canamero and colleagues have been programming Nao--created by Aldebaran Robotics and used worldwide as a research bot--based on how human and chimpanzee infants interact with others. Working with a budget of some $3.2 million, the researchers have been trying to create robots that can be better companions for people.
            In a gushing report, the Daily Mail has hailed Nao as "the first robot capable of developing emotions and forming bonds with humans."
            Robot fans who remember Sony's robot dog Aibo, discontinued in 2006, will recall that it had a range of synthetic emotions and could "grow" emotionally according to how it interacted with its owner.
            It's no surprise that the researchers have also been experimenting with Aibo, including the cyberpup and Nao in a "robot nursery" designed to incubate emotional behaviors. Nao can so far express excitement, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, and pride, and supposedly has the "emotional skills" of a 1-year-old child.
            Using its facial-recognition skills, Nao can become attached to people who help it learn, just like a human infant. When confronted with an unfamiliar situation, or when neglected by its human caregiver, Nao can become agitated. It will remember past experiences it interprets as positive or negative.
            The Feelix Growing project concluded in May, involving eight universities and robotics firms including Aldebaran. Some researchers working with Nao see the robot as acting as a companion for elderly people, while others believe it can help kids with learning disabilities.
            Researchers at the University of Connecticut's Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention (CHIP) have begun using Nao with autistic children, and early results are intriguing.
            "Children with autism spectrum disorder typically feel more comfortable with robots than with other people initially, because robot interactions are simpler and more predictable and the children are in control of the social interaction," CHIP researcher Anjana Bhat was quoted as saying in a release.
            Nao's nascent emotional intelligence bodes well for its career on the soccer pitch--after all, it's the official platform for the standard league in RoboCup, the biggest robotics competition around.
            If nothing else, Nao's new emotions might help it become the best faker on the pitch.

      • • •

      PEOPLE

      Parents of Boy With Autism Map Out His Future as an Adult

      As Tyler Bell Grows Too Old for Government Support, Family and Friends Step In to Help

            Autistic salutatorian Eric Duquette gave a memorable
              speech to his classmates. ABC News.


            By John Donvan xrl.in/641r

            Tyler Bell starts his day just like anyone else: He brushes his teeth, takes a shower and makes breakfast. But because of his severe autism, the 17-year-old Bell needs help doing these simple tasks.
            From the moment the alarm goes off at Tyler's Pennington, N.J. home, he relies on his mother, Liz Bell, to teach him the basics, step-by-step, using checklists to get him through the day.
            "This is your to-do list for things that most of us don't need to do lists for, but he needs every day," said Liz Bell. One list, "Tyler's Shaving Routine," includes steps like "fill the sink with warm water" and "wet my face."
            Since Tyler was diagnosed at an early age, his parents have fought for him to receive help from educators and therapists through programs mostly paid for by the state. But there is a serious catch coming -- in four years, Tyler will turn 21 and the government support will end.
            Very few resources exist for adults with autism, leading many of them to live life in isolation. The Bells want to avoid that fate for their son, but they worry what his future will be like when they're no longer there to offer support.
            "I don't know a parent who doesn't go through that kind of emotional feeling of what happens if I go before my child does," said Peter Bell, Tyler's father and a senior official at Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism advocacy group.
            Tyler's Supporters Map Out His Future The Bells decided they needed to plan for the day when they are gone and Tyler will have to fend for himself. For two weekends, they gathered those in their community who were connected with Tyler -- neighbors, teachers and friends -- to map out his future, literally.
            On a wall-sized piece of white butcher paper, the Bells graphically depicted where Tyler has been in his life and where he might end up, listing outcomes, both good and bad. The diagram outlined areas where Tyler needs the most help and what will happen to Tyler if he does or does not get that assistance.
            A nightmare scenario on the map envisions a future in which Tyler is "alone," with "no friends," and subject to physical harm. But everyone in the room dedicated themselves to helping Tyler reach the most positive outcome.
            Young Man with Autism Becomes Adult? The group gathered in the Bells' living room took turns adding to the map and discussing ways that they could each offer support. Despite his difficulty communicating, Tyler had clearly touched all of their lives.
            "I love Tyler and want to be one of the unconditional people in his life," said Heather, a family friend.
            "Tyler, you have the right to a very bright future," said another.
            Those encouraging words offer real comfort to the Bells, who know they cannot be there forever.
            "One of the reasons we live in a very small town is we want everyone to know who he is -- so that they can watch out for him," said Peter. "It sounds like a cliche, but it does take a village."
            The Bell family is now building that village for their son who will soon be a man.
            + Watch "World News" for more on this story tonight on ABC.  xrl.in/641r
            
      • • •



      The
      Autism Community
      Supports the
      Schafer Autism Report




      . . . Read, then Forward
      the Schafer Autism Report.
      $35 for 1 year - or free!
      www.sarnet.org
      Parenting And Autism

            By Michael E. Young, The Dallas Morning News xrl.in/641z

         Ashlyn Polvado, 9, who has autism, hugs the family dog
          in Keller, Texas.    MCT / Mona Reeder


            Dallas — Her day might begin at 2 or 3 in the morning, when her 9-year-old autistic daughter, Ashlyn, wakes up next to her. And from that moment on, Jackie Polvado’s life is a full-out sprint.
            “Ashlyn still sleeps with me because it’s the only way we can get any sleep. But I’ve been up day and night, like when my daughter was up for 48 hours, screaming,” said Polvado of Keller, Texas.
            “It’s exhausting, and there’s no end in sight."
            For families with children with “autism spectrum disorders” — a range of developmental disabilities that cause social, communication and behavioral problems — each day can be emotionally overwhelming, stress-filled and isolating.
            Family and friends shy away. The child’s behavior can leave parents prisoners, trapped at home. If they venture out, passersby stare, wondering why the child isn’t under control.
            “Sometimes, the parents think they’re admitting failure when they ask for help,” said Shanel Tarrant-Simone, ‘I’m the parent; the single mother of twin 10-year-old autistic sons. “ I should know how to deal with it.’
            “But no parent is equipped to do this."
            “The resources are there — there aren’t enough of them, and they cost money, but there is help,” she said.
            But day in, day out, many families with autistic children say they struggle on alone.
            “We don’t have other friends coming and offering to baby-sit our children,” said Clay Boatright of Plano, Texas, with wife Carole the parents of three daughters, including autistic 10-year-old twins. “They don’t have friends inviting them over for sleepovers. What we have is people saying, ‘Wow, that must be " tough.’
            Unfortunately, the number of ASD cases is soaring. Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say almost 1 percent of children have autism or another ASD.
            Dr. Catherine Karni, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and medical director of the outpatient clinic at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, said some of the increase can be explained by a broader definition of the autism spectrum, which includes Asperger’s syndrome, Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.
            “So you have severely autistic children and others with something that doesn’t show the full symptoms of autism,” Karni said.
            More awareness of autism and better diagnostic tools also increase the numbers.
            “But most likely, there is an increase in prevalence. We don’t know how much, or why. We believe there is a genetic component — all the research points to that, and this tends to aggregate in families,” she said.
            Some speculate that environmental pollution can be a contributor. Others blame childhood immunizations, though research hasn’t shown any clear correlation, Karni said. Certain metals that used to be a part of vaccines have been removed, but cases of autism continue to increase.
            With the causes unclear, there is no cure. “We have different treatments. We have behavioral treatments. We use medications in psychiatry that might help with specific symptoms,” Dr. Karni said. “But they don’t cure autism."
            Early diagnosis and treatment are the best ways to bring improvements, Dr. Karni said.
            “Our clinic goes down to 12 months of age, because the earlier the diagnosis and intervention, the better the result,” she said.
            “It’s a small window of opportunity — a child’s first five years — because of the plasticity of the brain at that age,” she said. “After the fifth year, the results are not as good."
            But getting an early diagnosis can be difficult.
            Tarrant-Simone’s sons were born prematurely, but were home within 11 days and showed all the normal signs of progress except for speaking.
            “At 12 months, it just wasn’t coming along,” she said. But when she pointed it out to their pediatrician, she was told, “They’re boys; they’re preemies."
            “You’re a mom — you know something is wrong with the child,” she said, “but they were doing all this other stuff — smiling, laughing, interacting with each other. So a lot of the concerns I raised were just swept under the rug."
            Polvado’s daughter was social, too, and developmentally advanced. She had no problems with language. “Her first ” her mom said. But there were mild signs at an early word was ‘cat,’ age — she hated the sound of laughter, even as an infant.
      + Read more: xrl.in/641z

      • • •

      Father, Stepmother Arrested For Alleged Neglect

      xrl.in/6422


            Miami WSVN - Two parents have been arrested after being accused of child neglect.
            According to police, the victim, a 7-year-old autistic boy, was rushed to Miami Children's Hospital due to irregular breathing, Sunday night. A doctor who treated the child noticed that the 7-year-old was severely malnourished and had an untreated skin condition.
            On Sunday, Miami Police arrested the child's father, 30-year-old Roberto Fortin, and stepmother, 31-year-old Yoselin Aguirre.
            Fortin and Aguirre were charged with child neglect. Police said, the 7-year-old was 30 pounds underweight and had untreated scabs on his body.

      • • •

      TREATMENT

      Fish Oil May Curb Depression
      Among Teen Boys


      By Lynne Peeples xrl.in/640y

            Reuters Health - Eating more oily fish like sardines, salmon and yellowtail could help teenage boys feel less blue, suggests a new Japanese study.
            The same does not appear to hold for teen girls, however.
            Omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, are found predominantly in oily fish. Because these nutrients are thought to play a role in brain function, many researchers have wondered whether increased consumption could lower the risk of depression. But studies of such an association among adults have yielded inconclusive results.
            Until now, investigators had yet to look for the potential link in youth, a population also prone to the debilitating problem. So Kentaro Murakami of the University of Tokyo and colleagues analyzed the diets and rates of depression in more than 6,500 Japanese junior high school students between the ages of 12 and 15.
            Overall, 23 percent of the boys and 31 percent of the girls suffered from symptoms of depression, including feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and sleep disturbances, they report in the journal Pediatrics.
            Based on questionnaires of food intake, and adjusting for factors including age and parents' education level, the investigators found that boys who ate the most fish -- the top fifth based on total consumption -- had a 27 percent lower odds of being depressed compared to those ranked in the bottom fifth.
            Similar differences were seen when looking specifically at the EPA and DHA content of the fish consumed.
            Meanwhile, no effect of fish oil on depression was seen among the girls.
            The investigators admit that the differing effect of fish oil between boys and girls is difficult to explain, although they point to a few possibilities such as a stronger genetic role for depression in women compared to men.
            They also caution that their findings do not provide enough evidence to determine if fish oil actually lowers the risk of depression. It might be, for example, that those who are depressed eat less fish.
            Although more research is needed to confirm a cause-and-effect link, the researchers conclude that boosting the intake of fish, EPA and DHA "may be an important strategy for the prevention of depression."
            SOURCE: link.reuters.com/veh73n Pediatrics, September 2010.
           
      • • •

      COMMENTARY

      Autism Explosion Half Explained,
      Half Still A Mystery


            By Jim Giles, New Scientist.  xrl.in/6424

            Why have the numbers of autism diagnoses ballooned in recent decades? Researchers have long claimed that changes to the way the condition is diagnosed are the main cause. But now a series of a studies have shown that diagnostic changes alone cannot account for the increase. They suggest that other causes, perhaps environmental factors, are also contributing to the rise in cases.
            "These studies give me the feeling that there must be a true increase in the number of children affected," says Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Rockville, Maryland.
            The studies are the work of sociologist Peter Bearman at Columbia University in New York and colleagues. They have spent three years trying to disentangle the causes of the roughly sevenfold increase in autism rates seen in many developed nations over the past 20 years. They have identified three factors that are driving up autism rates, but found that these account for only half of the observed increase.
            Better diagnosis Diagnostic changes are the most important influence. After 1987, the definition of autism used in California was broadened several times. Bearman and his colleague Marissa King examined the medical records of around 7000 Californian children with autism and found that one in ten had initially been diagnosed with mental retardation. Extrapolated to the state as a whole, they estimate that this change in diagnosis created almost 5000 extra cases of autism between 1993 and 2005, or 26 per cent of the increase of recorded over that period.
            Greater awareness Social influence accounts for another big chunk of the overall increase. Parents are more aware of the disorder than they used to be, and so those whose children who have mild forms of autism have become more likely to seek out diagnosis.
            Bearman and his colleague Ka-Yuet Liu quantified this effect. They first estimated how the chances of a child being diagnosed with autism increase if he or she lives close to a child that has already been diagnosed. They then plotted the addresses of children with and without autism in California to calculate the number of children who had grown up close to a child diagnosed with the condition. They were then able to calculate the fraction of extra cases that would have been diagnosed as a result of social interactions. They put this figure at 16 per cent.
            Older parents The final contribution to the rise in diagnoses comes from demographics. Couples in California are having children later in life, as they are in much of the rest of North America and Europe. That is pushing up autism rates, because autism is triggered by genetic mutations that older parents are more likely to pass on to their children.
            Bearman and King calculated that these older parents are responsible for 11 per cent of the extra autism cases.
            Missing a piece of the puzzle Autism experts say Bearman's work is notable because it provides a powerful overview of the potential causes. "Bearman is giving us the answers we've been looking for," says Michael Rosanoff at Autism Speaks, a New York-based charity that funds autism research.
            Not all the answers, however. Together, the three effects account for roughly half the extra cases. So what is behind the other half? "I wish we knew," says Rosanoff. "There are many factors being explored, but not one leading theory." Childhood vaccines, which some parents blame for the increase, have been ruled out by epidemiological studies.
            Insel says that environmental factors are most likely to be behind the rise, although research to pin down which are to blame will take years.
      + Read more: xrl.in/6424

            Note: The opinions expressed in COMMENTARY are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Schafer Autism Report.


      Send your LETTER

      Today's SAR newslist
      is human compiled and provided through the support of
      paid subscriptions.

                         - THANK YOU -

      $35 for 1 year - or free!
      www.sarnet.org
       



        In This Issue:





































      RESEARCH
      Looking This Way and That, and Learning to Adapt to the World

      Abnormalities in Certain Genes May Cause Autism: Research

      NEWS

      Money for Autism Services Coming to Saskatchewan

      Humanoid Robot Nao Gets Emotion Chip

      PEOPLE
      Parents of Boy With Autism Map Out His Future as an Adult

      Parenting And Autism

      Father, Stepmother Arrested For Alleged Neglect

      TREATMENT
      Fish Oil May Curb Depression Among Teen Boys

      COMMENTARY
      Autism Explosion Half Explained, Half Still A Mystery
       



         







      DO SOMETHING ABOUT AUTISM NOW



      . . . Read, then Forward
      the Schafer Autism Report.
      $35 for 1 year - or free!
      www.sarnet.org















      Now's the perfect time to order your free Puzzle Piece kits and launch an autism awareness campaign in your community. When we raise the funding necessary, ARI will see that important research is done, including the large-scale, independent study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children
      Click here.















      The
      Autism Community
      Supports the
      Schafer Autism Report



      . . . Read, then Forward
      the Schafer Autism Report.
      $35 for 1 year - or free!
      www.sarnet.org




      Biomedical Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders
      Scientific References and Abstracts
      www.autismbiomed.com

       

      Copyright Notice: The above items are copyright protected. They are for our readers' personal education or research purposes only and provided at their request. Articles may not be further reprinted or used commercially without consent from the copyright holders. To find the copyright holders, follow the referenced website link provided at the beginning of each item.                           

      Lenny Schafer editor@...                                              The Schafer Autism Report is a non-profit corporation
      Vol. 14 No. 79                                                                           Unsubscribe here: www.sarnet.org/frm/unsub2.htm