Research

All Articles in the Category ‘Research’

MMR Vaccine Not Linked to Autism

A new study titled “Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among U.S. Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism” was published this week in the Journal of American Medical Association. The study found that receiving the MMR vaccine is not associated with an increased risk of autism, even when older siblings have autism. Dr. Bryan King, director of Seattle Children’s Autism Center and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, discusses this further on Seattle Children’s Hospital blog, On the Pulse.

Autism and Race

Based on Kanner’s observations of the children he worked with, autism was once thought to be a disorder that disproportionately affected families of higher socioeconomic status (Kanner, 1943). He noted that the parents of the children he described in his seminal work were highly educated, upper middle class, and of European-American descent. Subsequent studies failed to corroborate Kanner’s belief. The likely reason for Kanner’s finding was a result of bias caused by a greater access to diagnostic and treatment options for families with financial means.

In the 70 years since Kanner’s report we now know that autism clearly affects children from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds yet disparity continues to exist in services. Nowhere is this more Read full post »

Biomarkers and Autism

Baby Brain 2When people ask what I do for a living, I tell them I study “baby brains”. People are usually startled and a bit tickled by this phrasing, and I often have to clarify that I mean the in vivo brains of healthy and wiggly infants. This phrase is mostly accurate – I am a developmental cognitive neuroscientist who uses cool machines to measure brain and behavioral responses of newborns and older infants. But for me, “baby brains” are a jumping off point for my personal and scientific curiosity about how people learn about the world. Our bodies and brains are constantly changing and evolving as we grow from infancy into toddlerhood, childhood, those rough adolescent years, and (hopefully gracefully) into adulthood. Some individuals do not grow at the same pace as their peers, and we often identify these children and adults with developmental disorders, such as autism. Read full post »

Twins and Autism

Today we discuss the topic of twins and autism with Dr. Sara Jane Webb, Associate Professor at the University of Washington and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Seattle Children’s Research Institute

Lynn: If one identical (monozygotic) twin has autism, what is the likelihood the other will? If one fraternal (dizygotic) twin has autism, what is the likelihood the other will?

Dr. Webb: Concordance in ASD diagnosis (the probability that both will have it) is observed in monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs at rates of 60-90%, whereas rates among dizygotic (DZ) twins are estimated at 3-31%. (Bailey et al., 1995; Folstein & Rutter, 1977; Hallmayer et al., 2011; Ronald & Hoekstra, 2011; Rutter, 2005). The wide range for each reported rate may be attributable to differences in how ASD was defined and diagnostic measurement differences. That is, some studies used clinical diagnosis of autism as conceptualized in the 1970s and others used specific diagnostic criteria and Read full post »

Not Far From the Tree?

Kids with Autism and Their Parents

I recall a provider telling me, years ago, that kids with autism have parents who have traits of the disorder themselves. I didn’t question him but I did take offense at that statement. This was back when I was still wrestling with worries that I somehow contributed to or caused it for her. 

I also recall at her initial evaluation, as we were asked about our own developmental and family history, telling Dr. Cowan that I had been a painfully-shy, worry-wart child/teen/young adult. At annual conferences, my parents were told that I was a good student but I wouldn’t come out of my shell. I couldn’t decide if Sister Gregory thought I was a turtle or a nut and my mom couldn’t reconcile that at home I wouldn’t shut up but at school I barely spoke a word.  Read full post »