Spotted around the web: Interneurons’ birthplace, alexithymia in autism, activating neurons with ultrasound

Here is a roundup of news and research for the week of 7 February.

Research roundup

  • A review of studies finds that alexithymia — difficulty recognizing and describing one’s own emotions — appears to be common in autistic children and adolescents, although assessment methods are problematic. A 2021 Spectrum story explored how alexithymia has confounded autism studies for years. Autism
  • A developmental structure, the medial ganglionic eminence, known to produce inhibitory interneurons that migrate through the brain, functions until birth in people. Science
  • Baby siblings of autistic children show different electroencephalographic responses to known versus unknown faces, similar to infants with non-autistic siblings. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Rats missing the autism-linked gene CNTNAP2 have altered neuronal activity in the auditory cortex. Cerebral Cortex
  • A new study protocol assesses deep brain stimulation in autistic children who show self-injurious behaviors. Pilot and Feasibility Studies
  • An expert panel has overhauled the developmental milestone checklists used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pediatrics
  • Genetic counseling for adolescents puts more focus on communicating risk and less on how adolescents adapt to learning about their genetic condition, according to a new review. JAMA Pediatrics
  • A new method called sonogenetics enables researchers to activate certain neurons with ultrasound. In 2019, Spectrum reported on an ultrasound method to detect gene expression in cells. STAT
Conceptual illustration showing 3D blurred neurons.
Sound trigger: Neurons engineered to carry an ultrasound-sensitive protein can be activated with ultrasound waves.

Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock
  • Intensive outpatient, caregiver-assisted group therapy in children and adolescents with autism and emotional dysregulation may improve reactivity and flexibility, according to a small study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Science and society

  • The Autism Society of America is offering virtual listening sessions on the continuing debate over applied behavior analysis; panelists include parents, clinicians and autistic people. Spectrum has covered the common but controversial therapy in depth. Disability Scoop
  • Mental health specialists who have autism say their unique strengths help them in their work of helping others, even as they hide their diagnosis because of stigma. The Guardian
  • A team of autism researchers reflects on the legacy of the late Michael Rutter. Spectrum published a remembrance of Rutter in November. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
  • A bill introduced in the Nebraska state legislature would require screening for autism when children enter kindergarten. Lincoln Journal Star
  • The Australian government hires autistic people for careers in public service through its Aurora Neurodiversity Program, which substitutes a training and assessment phase in place of traditional job applications and interviews. The Mandarin