Research

All Articles in the Category ‘Research’

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 »

Autism 200 Series 2015 Line Up

autism 200

This month kicks off a brand new line up of Autism 200 Series lectures for 2015. This month’s lecture will be held Thursday, January 15, 2015, at Seattle Children’s Hospital in Wright Auditorium from 7 to 8:30 p.m.. These classes are designed for parents, teachers and caregivers. The topics associated with the majority of classes are applicable to all age ranges and for a wide variety of children diagnosed with autism.

Join clinical psychologist, Raphael Bernier and speech pathologist, Jim Mancini, from the Seattle Children’s Autism Center for our annual “State of Autism in 2015” presentation. They will discuss: advances in research from genetics to broccoli sprouts; changes to statewide systems including DDA, updates on ABA and neurodevelopmental therapy coverage and trends affecting the statewide education; and how has autism spectrum disorder been covered in the Read full post »

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Down syndrome

Most people have heard of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Down syndrome (DS) but many do not know that a child can have both. Today we discuss this dual diagnosis in an interview with providers and parents of children with both ASD and DS. 

Lynn: What do we know about the genetics of ASD and DS? Are kids with DS any more at risk for ASD than others? How common is the dual diagnosis? 

Raphael Bernier, PhD: You know, Lynn, I think what gets tricky when we talk about the genetics of ASD and DS is that the DS diagnosis is made (or can be confirmed) by genetic testing which reveals the presence of the third chromosome 21. In contrast, the ASD diagnosis is made strictly on behavioral observation. There are currently no genetic tests for ASD. 

However, we’ve made massive gains in our understanding of the genetics of ASD in just the past 10 years so this does provide some insight into the relationship between ASD and DS. For example, a couple of genes that keep popping up as ASD risk genes are located on chromosome 21 in the DS critical region suggesting a genetic connection between ASD and Read full post »