The new year is already bringing new research into autism spectrum disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and down syndrome. From an eye scanner that could potentially guide early ASD diagnoses to new findings in down syndrome genetics, here’s a glimpse at some of the most popular topics that are trending this month in the world of neurobehavioral health:
Research Shows Women May Be Underrepresented in TBI Studies
Recently, The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center led a study examining the differences in symptoms between male and female veterans with traumatic brain injuries.(1) Researchers had previously observed that nearly 100% of studies on traumatic brain injuries in military personnel and veterans focused on males. Ultimately, the team did find that female veterans with traumatic brain injuries do present symptoms differently than male veterans. For instance, females tended to have more severe symptoms following a concussion.(2) This awareness could impact diagnosis and treatment.
The researchers hope that these results will lead to additional studies on the male and female differences in TBIs and contribute to a more balanced understanding of traumatic brain injuries.(1)
New Empathy Findings May Help Further Understanding of ASD
Individuals with conditions such as autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia are often incorrectly believed to be unable to experience empathy, even as current research shows that it is most likely that people with these conditions simply have difficulty expressing empathy.(3) A new study from UCLA is helping researchers more thoroughly understand how certain conditions affect a person’s empathy.(4)
Usually, when participating in an empathy research study, people with ASD or another condition are asked to answer questionnaires regarding their experiences with empathy. For someone with severe ASD, responding to a questionnaire can be extremely difficult. This makes accurately understanding how severe ASD or similar conditions affect empathy to be impossible. Explained the study’s senior author, Dr. Marco Iacoboni, to Science Daily, “Assessing empathy is often the hardest in the populations that need it most.” (4)
Dr. Iacoboni’s team at UCLA recently found that MRI scans of the brain can be used to predict a person’s empathy level, potentially eliminating the need for such questionnaires and tests in the future. The researchers looked at the resting activity in the regions of the brain that are associated with empathy and used an artificial intelligence device to collect more subtle data patterns.(4)
“If we can demonstrate that their brains have the capability for empathy, we can work to improve it through training and the use of other therapies,” explained Dr. Iacoboni of the research. (4)
Scientists Are Learning More About the Genetics of Down Syndrome
In new research from University College London, certain regions of chromosome 21 (the extra copy of the chromosome that is carried by individuals with Down syndrome) were associated with decision and memory problems. This growing genetic understanding could potentially lead to more knowledge about how the learning differences in Down syndrome occur, as well as potential therapies.(5)
An Eye Scan Might Help Predict ASD in Young Children
An early autism spectrum disorder diagnosis means earlier intervention, but ASD has long been considered too difficult to diagnose before the age of 2. A new retina scanning device, however, might serve to change this. This non-invasive, hand-held device has been developed to pick up on the electrical signals within the eye that are connected to the differences in the brain development of a person with ASD.(6)
Dr. Paul Constable of Flinders University explained to EurekAlert, “Very early diagnosis means not only can children receive important interventions, but families are empowered to get the necessary supports in place, come to terms with the diagnosis, and make informed decisions.” (6)
The teams researching the eye scanning device are conducting more studies in children with autism spectrum disorder. They hope that the scan can eventually be used to detect ADHD, as well as other neurodevelopmental conditions as well. (6)
Neurobehavioral Associates Diagnoses Neurodevelopmental Differences
If you’re concerned about neurodevelopmental or learning differences, Neurobehavioral Associates can help. We provide complete neuropsychological assessments to people of all ages with neurobehavioral needs. Our assessments will distinguish between one or more diagnoses, offer support recommendations, and establish an intervention plan.
We’re located in Columbia, Maryland and have an extensive referral network. We also regularly attend IEP meetings in local schools. Contact our expert team today for more information on our neurobehavioral services.
- Walter, K. (2020, February 20). Females Underrepresented in Traumatic Brain Injury Studies. Retrieved February 25, 2020, from https://www.mdmag.com/medical-news/females-underrepresented-traumatic-brain-injury-studies
- Kim, L. H., Quon, J. L., Sun, F. W., Wortman, K. M., Adamson, M. M., & Harris, O. A. (2018, December 1). Traumatic brain injury among female veterans: a review of sex differences in military neurosurgery in: Neurosurgical Focus Volume 45 Issue 6 (2018). Retrieved February 25, 2020, from https://thejns.org/focus/view/journals/neurosurg-focus/45/6/article-pE16.xml
- Brewer, R. (2016, July 13). People with Autism Can Read Emotions, Feel Empathy. Retrieved February 25, 2020, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/people-with-autism-can-read-emotions-feel-empathy1/
- Empathy can be detected in people whose brains are at rest. (2020, February 18). Retrieved February 25, 2020, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200218152307.htm
- Novel insight into chromosome 21 and its effect on Down syndrome. (2020, January 28). Retrieved February 25, 2020, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200128114620.htm
6.EurekAlert. (n.d.). Autism eye scan could lead to early detection. Retrieved February 25, 2020, from https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-02/fu-aes022020.php