Autism 101

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Decisional capacity and informed consent, explained

To include more autistic people in research, here's what scientists need to know about informed consent procedures for study participants who have impaired decision-making capacity.

By Emmet Fraizer
23 January 2023 | 7 min read
Illustration of a pregnant woman seated next to a large diagram of the brain featuring chromosomes, bacteria and other microbes.
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The link between maternal infection and autism, explained

Having an infection during pregnancy is tied to a small increase in the chances of having an autistic child, but the connection may not be causal.

By Charles Q. Choi
13 December 2022 | 7 min read
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Pathological demand avoidance in autism, explained

Some clinicians say the term describes a subtype of autism, but others dispute its validity and say it is harmful to the autistic community.

By Peter Hess
11 August 2022 | 6 min read
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DNA methylation in autism, explained

How chemical tags called methyl groups position themselves on genetic sequences may hint at some of the causes of autism.

By Anna Goshua
13 December 2021 | 5 min read
Illustration shows a woman whose mouth is covered by a cloud and whos eyes are covered by a cloud.
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Double empathy, explained

The double empathy theory challenges the idea that social difficulties are specific to autism and suggests that problems arise from a mismatch in perspective between autistic and non-autistic people.

By Rachel Zamzow
22 July 2021 | 8 min read
Playful clay chromatin strand is not plugged in, there fore, not turned on
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Autism’s link to chromatin remodeling, explained

Many of the genes strongly linked to autism are involved in the remodeling of chromatin, the complex of DNA and proteins that makes up chromosomes. Scientists are just beginning to understand why.

By Giorgia Guglielmi
6 July 2021 | 6 min read
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Autism genetics, explained

The more scientists dig into DNA, the more intricate its contribution to autism seems to be. Here, we unravel the complex genetics of autism.

By Nicholette Zeliadt
28 May 2021 | 5 min read
Baby in utero surrounded by pills, on bright blue background
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The link between vitamins, supplements and autism, explained

Too little — or too much — of certain substances during pregnancy may increase the odds of having a child with autism. Here we explain what scientists know about these associations.

By Peter Hess
14 April 2021 | 6 min read
The illustration shows two plates of food, one full of a variety of foods, and another with a few foods arranged in a particular way.
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Anorexia’s link to autism, explained

People with anorexia are more likely to be autistic than those without the eating disorder, but the interplay between the two conditions is complex.

By Laura Dattaro
7 December 2020 | 7 min read
four brain areas marked with flags: Cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, cerebellum
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Brain structure changes in autism, explained

Autistic people have distinct patterns of brain development, which sometimes result in differences in brain structure. Here's what we know about those differences.

By Angie Voyles Askham
15 October 2020 | 6 min read

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How to teach this paper: ‘Behavioral time scale synaptic plasticity underlies CA1 place fields,’ by Bittner and Milstein et al. (2017)

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By Ashley Juavinett
24 June 2024 | 11 min read
Portrait of Kaspar Podgorski standing in his lab wearing a helmet with a climbing rope over his shoulder.

Climbing to new heights: Q&A with Kaspar Podgorski

The optical physiologist tracks neural computations inside the lab and scales sheer rock faces outside—even after a life-changing fall.

By Elissa Welle
21 June 2024 | 8 min read
Research illustration groups genes by their effects on brain cell types.

Giant analysis reveals how autism-linked genes affect brain cell types

Genes that predispose people to autism account for a large portion of the neuronal and glial cell changes seen in those with the condition.

By Charles Q. Choi
20 June 2024 | 5 min read