Spotted around the web: Ultrasound, microbial metabolites, profound autism

Here is a roundup of news and research for the week of 14 February.

Research roundup

  • An international group of scientists reports on worldwide efforts to diversify genome research, identifying key factors to improve equity and inclusion of non-European populations. Nature Medicine
  • Ultrasound may detect more fetal anomalies in babies later diagnosed with autism than in those who are not diagnosed, according to a study of 659 children. Brain
  • Reducing NRXN1-alpha expression in a mouse model of autism alters brain metabolism in the prefrontal cortex and reduces cognitive flexibility during a behavioral task. Autism Research
  • The genetic, developmental and neuronal mechanisms that give rise to autism are varied and intertwined, according to a new review of studies. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy
  • Children who contract infections severe enough to require specialized care before age 6 are more likely to be diagnosed with autism by age 12 than are children with uncomplicated infections. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Two new studies support the idea that microbial metabolites, absorbed in the gut, are neuroactive and contribute to autism behaviors. Spectrum reported on results with a potential therapeutic blocker in an animal model earlier this week. Nature Medicine
  • Pharmacologically induced brain activity reveals developmental changes in the balance of excitatory and inhibitory pathways during adolescence, which, when altered, may lead to psychiatric conditions. Science Advances
  • A new questionnaire — the Transition Readiness Scale — measures how prepared autistic adolescents may be to go to college. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Science and society

  • The increasing autism prevalence in the United States may be largely due to greater insurance coverage for therapies and shifting case-counting criteria, writes a medical student. Spectrum has a new book looking at autism prevalence numbers in detail. STAT
  • Nobelist Luc Montagnier, known for identifying the AIDS virus, has died at age 89; he also, controversially, advocated for antibiotic treatment of autism and against COVID-19 vaccines. The New York Times
  • As screenings, educational resources and specialty clinics for autism continue to grow and evolve in the U.S., navigating the piecemeal system of care is a struggle for families. Kaiser Health News
  • A former mentee memorializes Johns Hopkins University pediatrician and psychiatrist James Harris for his research on and clinical care of people with developmental disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
  • The editors of Cell write that only 17 percent of the journal’s submitting authors in 2021 were women, even though the potential pool of women authors is at least twice that number. Cell
  • Robert Califf has been confirmed as the new commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. STAT
  • The European Council of Autistic People calls the term ‘profound autism,’ recently proposed for use by the Lancet Commission, “highly problematic.” Spectrum hosted a webinar with the Commission’s co-chairs last week. European Council of Autistic People
  • All 50 U.S. states now extend Medicaid coverage for children’s autism treatment, as Texas makes the change. Disability Scoop
  • Oxytocin, often called the love hormone because of its roles in nurturing and pro-social behavior, also affects perception of social cues. Knowable Magazine

    Illustration of couple looking deeply into each other's eyes.
    Love tangle: Oxytocin plays complex and numerous roles in social behaviors.

    H. Bellery Desfontaines