Autism
*Autism is a range of complex neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by varying degrees of impairment of communication and social abilities.

Root Cause: Exact causes of autism are still being researched. Some believe its genetics while others believe the environment plays a big role in autism. The debate is still ongoing and not one gene has been shown to cause autism.

Affected Areas: The brain structure and shape is affected, autistic brains are shown to be larger. Post mortem brain tissue fails to fully develop properly in brains affected by autism. Mitochondria diseases have also been linked to autism; this is when the mitochondria can’t turn sugar and oxygen into energy so the cells can’t function properly. Genes associated with visual information, attention, and memory have abnormal levels compared to controls (Ginsberg, 2012).

Historical Background: Autism is a spectrum disorder and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Eugen Bleuler a psychiatrist first used the word to describe a schizophrenic patient in 1908. Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner were the pioneers in the autism research during the 1940s (Mandal, 2014).

Symptoms: Avoiding eye contact, wanting to be alone, repeating certain behaviors over and over again, and having trouble adapting to routines when they are changed are common symptoms. Being unaware when people are talking to them but they respond to other sounds, having a lack of empathy, and have problems starting and keeping a conversation going can also be symptoms of autism.

Treatment: There is currently no cure or medication to directly treat symptoms of autism. Speech and occupational therapy are used to help individuals with autism. Medications are used to treat related problem such as depression, anxiety, aggression, and high energy levels.

Current Research: Current research is focusing on the role heritability, mutations, and the environment has on autism. Researchers are also focusing on early identification of brain and behavioral signs underlying autism so those can be targeted for effective treatments. The goal is to provide early diagnosis, treatment, and support for individuals and their families dealing with autism. Research on what mothers can do during pregnancy to reduce the risk of having a child with autism is currently being researched as well.



References

Alberts, B., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Raff, M., Roberts, K., & Walter, P. (2008). Molecular biology of the cell (5th ed.). New York: Garland Science.

Common Gene Variants Account for Most Genetic Risk for Autism. (2014, July 20). Retrieved October 6, 2014, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2014/common-gene-variants-account-for-most-genetic-risk-for-autism.shtml

Ginsberg, M. R., Rubin, R. A., Falcone, T., Ting, A. H., & Natowicz, M. R. (2012). Braintranscriptional and epigenetic associations with autism. PLoS One, 7(9), e44736.

Mandal, A. (2014, January 14). Autism History. Retrieved October 6, 2014, from http://www.news-medical.net/health/Autism-History.aspx

Stevens, H. E., Smith, K. M., Rash, B. G., & Vaccarino, F. M. (2010). Neural stem cell regulation, fibroblast growth factors, and the developmental origins of neuropsychiatric disorders. Frontiers in neuroscience, 4.