Adult assessment; fragile therapy; neuron nirvana and more

An interview for diagnosing adults on the spectrum clears its first hurdle, a fragile X drug eases multiple features of the syndrome in a mouse model, and a brain bank chronicles the beautiful diversity of neurons.

By Emily Willingham
17 November 2017 | 3 min read
This article is more than five years old.
Neuroscience—and science in general—is constantly evolving, so older articles may contain information or theories that have been reevaluated since their original publication date.
  • An accurate autism diagnosis can be elusive for adults. Researchers have proposed a brief interview for assessing autism in adults. It’s called the Developmental, Dimensional and Diagnostic Interview-Adult Version. An early evaluation of the instrument suggests that it captures 95 percent of adults with autism without mistakenly flagging many individuals who are not on the spectrum. The results were published 7 November in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
  • Fragile X syndrome researchers already know that blocking the enzyme phosphodiesterase-4 eases learning and memory problems in animal models of the syndrome. In a fragile X mouse model, daily doses of a drug that inhibits this enzyme also improve social interaction, neuron structure, hyperactivity and nesting behavior. The effects last even after dosing ends, according to results published 7 November in Scientific Reports.
  • Alert the neuron geek in your life to this compendium of beautiful images reflecting the remarkable diversity of neurons. These and other neuronal forms most beautiful are part of a database of human and mouse neurons that the Allen Institute for Brain Science has developed. Researchers lifted the approximately 100 cells in the database from the brains of people undergoing surgeries, harvesting them from living brain-tissue samples that otherwise would have been thrown away, Science News reported 9 November.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a pill that creates a digital record when a person takes it. The pill also includes a form of aripiprazole, which is approved for irritability in children with autism.

    The pill, called Abilify MyCite, has an embedded sensor that, when swallowed, alerts a skin patch, which relays the information to a smartphone. The digital tracking is intended to help people recall whether they have taken their pill.

    The FDA noted in its approval announcement, however, that no evidence yet confirms that the tracking improves medication adherence.

  • Autism researchers who work with children must interact with the children’s parents, of course. Study investigators have specific requirements for including families, such as having a child of a certain age, or who scores within a certain range on a cognitive test. But what do parents want from autism research? Findings published 10 November in Autism suggest that half of parents want a therapeutic component. Many parents are leery of brain scans, and 85 percent want access to information and data from the research.
  • Problems with sex bias have long dogged study design in the field of neuroscience. Alas, the problem persists. Although more neuroscience publications now mention the sex of study animals, an increasing number also include only male animals. Even research designs that involve both sexes often do not add sex as a variable in analyses, according to findings published 3 November in eNeuro.
  • Autism researcher Brian O’Roak has been named as one of 11 recipients of a BRAINS grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The $2.5 million grant was announced 12 November at the 2017 Society for Neuroscience meeting, according to a statement from Oregon Health and Science University, O’Roak’s institution. O’Roak’s lab focuses on TBR1, a possible ‘master regulator’ of a network of autism-related genetic variants.
  • Do you have a new paper coming out? Are you making a career move? Did you see a study or news story that you want to share? Send your news tips to [email protected].