Neuroscience

Boosting social functioning treatments for people with autism

A new study indicates the prevalence rates of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have now grown to 1 in 40, a jump from the rate of 1 in 65 published just two years ago. Indeed, ASD is now the fastest growing neurodevelopmental ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Getting to the bottom of anti-vaccine attitudes

A study that helps explain why anti-vaccine attitudes still persist, despite clear evidence on the benefits of immunization to public health has been selected by an international scientific committee to be given the Atlas ...

Neuroscience

Born to run: just not on cocaine

Cocaine is a highly addictive psychostimulant that induces complex molecular, cellular and behavioral responses. Despite various approaches and years of pre-clinical studies, effective, mechanism-based therapies to assist ...

Autism spectrum disorders

Study offers new insights into children with autism

It's a challenging proposition for anyone: Lie flat on your back, helmet covering half of your face, in a tight-quartered MRI capsule that would make even the non-claustrophobe jittery. Then try not to move for 45 minutes. ...

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Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood. It is one of three recognized disorders in the autism spectrum (ASDs), the other two being Asperger syndrome, which lacks delays in cognitive development and language, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (commonly abbreviated as PDD-NOS), which is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met.

Autism has a strong genetic basis, although the genetics of autism are complex and it is unclear whether ASD is explained more by rare mutations, or by rare combinations of common genetic variants. In rare cases, autism is strongly associated with agents that cause birth defects. Controversies surround other proposed environmental causes, such as heavy metals, pesticides or childhood vaccines; the vaccine hypotheses are biologically implausible and lack convincing scientific evidence. The prevalence of autism is about 1–2 per 1,000 people worldwide; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports approximately 9 per 1,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with ASD. The number of people diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically since the 1980s, partly due to changes in diagnostic practice; the question of whether actual prevalence has increased is unresolved.

Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child's life. The signs usually develop gradually, but some autistic children first develop more normally and then regress. Early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help autistic children gain self-care, social, and communication skills. Although there is no known cure, there have been reported cases of children who recovered. Not many children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, though some become successful. An autistic culture has developed, with some individuals seeking a cure and others believing autism should be accepted as a difference and not treated as a disorder.

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