Spotted around the web: Brain morphology; mild 22q11.2 effects; eugenics apology

Here is a roundup of news and research for the week of 30 January.

Research roundup  

  • Three-quarters of interviewed autistic adults say that genetic testing should be offered only to those who are able to consent. Spectrum covered the process of informed consent last week. Genetics in Medicine
  • Autistic people make more errors than non-autistic people in a face-recognition task, which may result from perceptual differences rather than memory problems. Autism Research 
  • Autistic children tend to have thinner gray matter and less surface gyrification than non-autistic children, and these brain differences correlate with language skills. Scientific Reports 
  • Pediatricians are more likely to dismiss autism as a diagnosis than are multispecialty diagnostic teams. JAMA Network Open 
  • Robot assistants configured with algorithms that recognize facial expressions can adapt to subtler actions of an autistic toddler. Frontiers in Robotics and AI 
  • Autistic people have higher rates of diabetes, dyslipidemia and heart disease than do non-autistic people. JAMA Pediatrics 
  • Copy number variants in the 22q11.2 chromosomal region occur in people who don’t have conditions such as autism, cardiac defects or psychiatric conditions, but who may have other mild traits. American Journal of Human Genetics 
  • Female mice that experience isolation during adolescence show increased social-approach behavior, which correlates with decreased activity of parvalbumin inhibitory circuits in the left orbitofrontal cortex, according to a preprint. bioRxiv 
  • A new MRI method can delineate the location and extent of oxygenation in the human placenta throughout pregnancy. Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology 
  • Repetitive behaviors increase with age in mice missing part of the SHANK3 gene, a model of autism. European Journal of Neuroscience 
  • Non-autistic people’s performance on the so-called director task worsens in a social situation compared with a non-social situation; autistic people’s performance is unchanged. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders

    Three images of placentas
    Compartmentalized imaging: Researchers study the placenta in three subsections — from left to right: the intervillous space, placental vessels and placental tissue.
  • Perineuronal nets — support structures made of extracellular matrix components — are overexpressed in the cerebellum in a mouse model of autism. Neuroscience 
  • A review of studies finds the coronavirus pandemic generally had a negative and often underestimated impact on autistic adults in terms of illness and disrupted services. Current Developmental Disorders Reports 

Science and society 

  • Neuroscientist Hongkui Zeng, director of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, is the 2023 recipient of the National Academy of Science’s Pradel Research Award, which recognizes mid-career excellence, for her work on the development and diversity of neural circuits. National Academy of Sciences 
  • The American Society of Human Genetics has formally apologized for past actions supporting eugenics, as well as other harms and injustices stemming from racism. Science 
  • Mike Graglia, co-founder of a research fund for people with mutations in the SYNGAP1 gene, describes his family’s bumpy path to a diagnosis for his son. Spectrum has covered family-led efforts to improve knowledge about and treatments for the syndrome. Newsweek 
  • The U.S. National Institutes of Health has called for increased inclusion of disabled people in its workforce and in its funded research. Nature 
  • Data-sharing mandates by funding agencies may be good for science, but they are also a burden on individual scientists. Science 
  • The coronavirus public health emergency in the United States is set to expire in May. Spectrum previously reported on how this transition may affect access to remote autism therapy. The New York Times 
  • Neuroscientist Christopher McBain has been promoted to director of intramural research at the Eunice Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. 
  • The Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has reinstated Eric Lander, who was forced out of his role as science adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden after a White House investigation found that he had bullied subordinates. The Chronicle of Higher Education