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Illustration by Laurène Boglio

Community Newsletter: COVID-19 commentary, cortical MAGICC, IACC Advances

Researchers put new findings about COVID-19 and neurodevelopmental conditions in context, tweet about new ways to analyze cortical neuroanatomy and adapt “how it started, how it’s going.”

Before we jump into the ‘science on social media’ pool this Sunday, happy Juneteenth and Father’s Day to our readers in real life.

Ok, onward. A commentary about a JAMA Network Open paper made a splash on Twitter this week. The commentary was posted by the Science Media Centre, a charity in the United Kingdom dedicated to providing evidence-based science information to the public and policymakers.

“Please see comment by me and others before retweeting this,” tweeted Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at Oxford University in the U.K., offering a link to the commentary and a tweet about the JAMA paper stating that “infants exposed in utero to #COVID19 almost 2x more likely to have developmental disorders.”

“This study provides some evidence that women who tested positive for COVID-19 had babies with neurodevelopmental problems. There is no evidence that the association is causative,” wrote Dimitrios Siassakos, professor in obstetrics and gynecology at University College London, in the commentary.

When Spectrum explored this same question in a feature in March, experts told us what Bishop concluded in her comments to the charity: “As the authors note, the main implication is that it would be worth doing a large prospective study of older children using standard, quantitative measures of neurodevelopment to investigate the question of whether maternal COVID in pregnancy affects the offspring.”

“JAMA open hunting for alt metrics?” tweeted Phillip Richmond, staff scientist at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital Research Institute in Canada.

The investigators were “clear [the study] had limitations and was preliminary,” Bishop replied, but it was unclear why the journal not only published the paper but gave it a press release.

Brandolini’s law in action,” tweeted Maarten van Smeden, associate professor of epidemiology at University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Just a quick housekeeping note: Here at Spectrum, we are interested in publishing more quick commentaries on autism-related papers. For example, we were surprised in February when JAMA Pediatrics published a study linking autism to screen time — and we published a brief essay by Kristin Sainani, associate teaching professor of statistics at Stanford University, highlighting why it was difficult to draw any conclusions from those results. If you are a researcher and you see a paper you’d like to comment on, send your thoughts to [email protected].

Our preprint watch spotted a new look at cortical development across various scales in bioRxiv. The paper shows how MAGICC — Multiscale Atlas of Gene expression for Integrative Cortical Cartography — can connect dense expression maps, gene sets and annotations, tweeted Konrad Wagstyl, honorary researcher in cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychiatry at University College London.

Wow beautiful,” tweeted Sofie Valk, research group leader in cognitive neurogenetics at the Max Planck Institute in Sachsen, Germany.

During the first week in June, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee announced its 2020 Summary of Advances, featuring the “top 20 most significant autism research articles of 2020.”

To celebrate the inclusion of Project AIM in the top 20, Micheal Sandbank, assistant professor of special education at the University of Texas at Austin, who led the effort, resuscitated the “how it started, how it’s going” meme, tagging her colleagues Kristen Bottema-Beutel, associate professor of special education at Boston College in Massachusetts, and “twitterless Tiffany Woynaroski.” Woynaroski is assistant professor of hearing and speech sciences at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

So proud of Michael Sandbank,” tweeted Bottema-Beutel along with champagne and ‘tada’ emojis.

A brief thread detailed new findings on social attention in autistic women. The paper describes different patterns, including one that shows how autistic women have “their own age-related change of face-looking over time that may indicate that there is a sensitive time window of learning (something related to faces) that do not overlap with non-autistic females,” tweeted co-investigator Teresa Del Bianco, postdoctoral researcher of brain and cognitive development at the Birkbeck, University of London in the U.K.

Great paper!” tweeted Clare Harrop, assistant professor of allied health sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “All the things this nerd likes :)”

Nerd minds think alike!” Del Bianco replied.

That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to [email protected].

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