Spotted around the web: Sleep features, seizure genes, pandemic effects

Here is a roundup of news and research for the week of 17 January.

Research roundup

  • Cells expressing the oxytocin receptor gene variant A218T, which is linked to autism, are altered in their receptor activity and regulation of other genes, including 429 autism-related ones. Molecular Psychiatry
  • Autistic children and adolescents have unusual electroencephalographic features during sleep, which may influence memory consolidation. Sleep
  • A parent-led intervention for toddlers with autism or suspected autism appears to transfer well from the research setting to a community practice. Autism
  • Certain anomalies detected in fetal ultrasounds are associated with a subsequent autism diagnosis, according to a retrospective case-sibling-control analysis. Brain
  • A tool that measures social communication in autistic people, the Brief Observation of Social Communication Change – Minimally Verbal, appears to be useful in people with fragile X syndrome as well. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • A genome-wide association study of febrile seizures in children has identified seven new genes linked to the seizures and confirmed four previously recognized ones. Brain
  • An antisense strategy to increase sodium channel expression in interneurons — which is impaired in people with Dravet syndrome — reduces seizures and improves survival in a mouse model. Spectrum covered previous tests of the strategy in 2019 and 2020. Brain Research
  • Lego-based therapy is a cost-effective, social group intervention comparable to usual autism support, according to a trial of autistic schoolchildren in England. BMJ Open
  • Autistic children tend to have unusual profiles of gut microbes, but it is unclear which condition causes the other; in a short review, two authors posit that both may influence each other. Cell Reports Medicine
  • Autistic people’s brains respond less to voices than non-autistic people’s do, suggesting that altered sensory processing may contribute to social-communication difficulties. Human Brain Mapping

Science and society

  • Several studies over the past two years have found a mixed bag of pandemic-related effects on child development. Nature
  • Neurologist and autism specialist Rooman Ahad of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has written a picture book, “Amazing Abe Has Autism,” targeted for readers aged 3 to 6. University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • More attention to enrolling and retaining clinical trial participants is key to increasing the inclusion of racial and ethnic minorities, argues public health expert Bernadette Boden-Albala of the University of California, Irvine. Neuron
  • Outgoing National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins discusses the challenges of the job, such as interacting with the U.S. Congress and helping launch early-career scientists. Cell