Spotted around the web: Brain imaging replicability; CRISPR-edited neurons; sex-based variability in mice

Here is a roundup of news and research for the week of 13 March.

Research roundup

  • Studies that correlate trait differences with changes in brain activity or structure do not require large sample sizes if the effect is large enough, researchers argue in response to a study Spectrum covered last year. The original study’s authors reply that associations based on small samples still require confirmation in better-powered studies. Nature
  • Pathological demand avoidance (PDA) is not a diagnosis or an autism subtype, a review of the research concludes. Spectrum has previously covered PDA and autism. Zeitschrift für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie
  • Having a child with autism has been linked to the particulate matter levels in and around the home during pregnancy, in a cohort of more than 40,000 births in Sweden. Scientific Reports
Map displaying levels of air pollution across southern Sweden.
Mapping pollution: The likelihood of having an autistic child is linked to particulate matter levels across southern Sweden.
  • Applied behavior analysis improves intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior in autistic children but does not affect language skills, trait severity or parental stress, according to a review of studies. BMC Psychiatry
  • Autistic adults and adults with autism traits have an increased likelihood of experiencing gastrointestinal issues and co-occurring psychological problems. Autism
  • CRISPR gene-edited neurons can model the co-expression of genes often found in postmortem brains of autistic people and point to synaptic function as a convergence point. Cell Genomics
  • Girls tend to have better social cognition and understanding of social causality than boys do, a difference that holds true in autistic girls and boys. Molecular Autism
  • People with disabilities, including autism, are less likely to undergo cervical cancer screening than those without disabilities, though it’s not clear which disabilities contribute to that disparity. Spectrum covered the gap in 2018. Journal of Cancer Education
  • Most women diagnosed with autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder as children still meet diagnostic criteria for one condition, although 34 percent switched from ADHD to autism. Journal of Attention Disorders
  • When autistic people watch non-autistic people work on a creative building task — and vice versa — they copy each other less than when they are paired with someone of the same neurotype. Autism

Science and society

  • Male mice exhibit more variable behavior than females, contrary to long-standing assumptions that females’ fluctuating hormones affect their behavior and experimental results, according to a new study. The New York Times
  • Autism researchers continue to debate terms such as “profound autism” and “disorder.” Autism Research
  • Raphael Mechoulam, a medicinal chemist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel who was known as the “father of cannabis research,” has died at age 92. American Friends of the Hebrew University
  • Researchers who work with laboratory animals may experience guilt, anxiety and depression, sometimes called compassion fatigue. Science
  • An analysis of the lay summaries that appear in the journal Autism Research finds that they are more readable than traditional abstracts but still not accessible to most lay readers. Autism Research