Tue, Mar 28, 2017 | updated 05:54 AM IST

Two tools boost effectiveness of behavioral therapy in autistic child

Updated: Nov 16, 2016 16:22 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Nov. 16 (ANI): In a recent study published in Translational Psychiatry and Scientific Reports, researchers identified two tools that can help a large number of children with autism spectrum disorder through behavioral therapy.

The first paper, "Brain Responses to Biological Motion Predict Treatment Outcome in Young Children with Autism," found that functional MRIs (fMRI) could predict which children will benefit from Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), one of a few evidence-based interventions for the condition, with near-perfect accuracy.

Researchers from the George Washington University and the Children's National Health System used fMRI to determine the functionality of four clusters in the brain that are involved in processing emotional information, social information, social attention and social reward. According to the study, children with higher functionality in those brain clusters benefitted more from PRT.

The behavioral therapy is currently effective in approximately 60 percent of children and is costly and time-intensive. Functional MRI could be used to identify the children most likely to respond to the treatment and may lead to follow-up research to better prepare those who would not.

"Parents want their children to receive the best treatment during this period, but it is not always clear how much a given treatment plan would benefit the children," said Daniel Yang, researcher at the GW Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute, assistant research professor of pediatrics at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences and Children's National, and one of the lead authors of the paper.

"Although more research is needed, the current research provides an important first step toward establishing objective biomarkers that can accurately predict treatment outcome in young children with autism."

The second paper, "Intranasal Oxytocin Enhances Connectivity in the Neural Circuitry Supporting Social Motivation and Social Perception in Children with Autism," examined the effect of the hormone oxytocin on the activity of social perception and reward brain circuits in children with autism spectrum disorder. This was one of the first investigations of its kind.

Researchers found that by administering oxytocin as a nasal spray before social experiences, children had stronger responses to the social information. The findings suggest that use of oxytocin treatment before behavioral therapy could help reinforce the reward system in the brain that motivates social behaviors. However, researchers stress that the treatment must be developed in conjunction with therapies designed to positively reward social behaviors, as heightened response to negative emotions can also occur.

"Although oxytocin is often referred to as the 'love' hormone, its effects actually depend on a child's social surroundings," said Allison Jack, assistant research professor of pharmacology and physiology at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences and a co-author of the paper. "Our study demonstrates that administering oxytocin to children with autism spectrum disorders has different effects on their brains depending on what type of environment they are exposed to. Only when children were experiencing positive social cues (like happy voices) did we see oxytocin having the effect that we would need it to have for therapeutic use, by increasing brain activity in the reward system."

While the researchers said the results are promising, they do not suggest that using intranasal oxytocin should be considered as a core treatment for autism. Rather, the oxytocin treatment could be a way to enhance behavioral methods that are specifically tailored to provide positive social experiences and rewards.

The sample sizes of both studies were small, but the results were striking. The findings have the potential to complement each other, according to one of the corresponding authors.

"This research moves us closer to our goal of developing precision treatments for people with autism -- getting the right treatment to the right person at the best time," said Kevin Pelphrey, Carbonell Family Professor in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, director of the GW Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute, a collaboration between GW and Children's National, and a co-author of both papers. "As we move forward from here, we will launch a new era -- brain imaging will become a routine part of a translational research chain. Brain imaging biological markers could be used, at the outset, to make treatment decisions related to dose, duration, intensity and specific behavioral treatment approaches, as well as decisions about which drugs to use to improve treatment response." (ANI)

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): Attention dog lovers! With just six months of training, a German Shepherd can accurately detect breast cancer, a study finds.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): A recent study has found that a sleepless night impairs your ability to interpret subtle expressions of happiness and sadness.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): When it comes to new moms' workout programs, less is more and so, according to a Kansas State University researcher, new moms may need a bit more flexibility and support to ease back into exercise after giving birth.

Full Story >>

New approach to diagnosing mental disorders

Updated: Mar 26, 2017 10:48 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): A consortium of psychiatrists and psychologists has proposed a new approach to diagnosing mental disorders.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): Boosting natural brain opioids may be a better way to treat anxiety, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Fecal transplant offers hope for autistic kids

Updated: Mar 26, 2017 09:37 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): In this new era of medical therapy dawning, fecal transplants are poised to help fight a range of conditions, from deadly superbugs to obesity and now, autism is in the firing line.

Full Story >>

Thiruvallur (Chennai) [India], Mar. 25 (ANI): A highly contagious viral disease of cattle and swine, Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) has affected Karani village on the outskirts of Tamil Nadu's Tiruvallur district.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Mar. 25 (ANI): The findings of the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 confirm what we all knew from clinical evidence - that hypertension has become a major health concern among the Indian population, with as many as 22% Indians hypertensive.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A prescription weight-loss medication can decrease the urge to use opiates such as oxycodone, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A team of researchers has discovered a new gene that is associated with Tau accumulation, which is one of the defining features of Alzheimer disease (AD).

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): All it takes is the flip of a protein "switch" within the tiny wire-like capillaries of the brain to increase the blood flow that ensures optimal brain function.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): Scientists have found that stem cell therapy repairs damaged lungs - raising hopes of a cure for the crippling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis.

Full Story >>

New method can cut dental implant failure

Updated: Mar 25, 2017 09:34 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A team of researchers has come up with a new method to reduce dental implant failure.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A team of researchers has come up with a fluorogenic probe that can detect the activity of multidrug-resistant pathogens in an assay system.

Full Story >>

Virus hydrophobicity can help purify vaccines

Updated: Mar 25, 2017 07:46 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A team of researchers has found that hydrophobic proteins on virus surfaces can help purify vaccines.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A team of researchers has shed light on why survivors of childhood brain tumours may be prone to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and early death.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Mar. 24 (ANI): Continuing its efforts to raise awareness on tuberculosis and its diagnosis, Division of Clinical Microbiology & Molecular Medicine Department of Laboratory Medicine, AIIMS, and BD (Becton Dickinson India) for the third consecutive year organized a symposium today on "challenges in diagnosis and eradication of tuberculosis".

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Mar. 24 (ANI): On the solemn occasion of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, Members of Parliament, policymakers, TB patients, survivors, and citizens of the civil society gathered at India Gate on Thursday, March 23 to pay tribute to the nearly five lakh lives lost due to this disease last year.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Mar. 24 (ANI): Emergence of multi drug resistant TB and complications aggravated by high rates of co-infection with HIV-AIDS has renewed the threat of TB epidemic in India. With widespread prevalence of the infection, children experience a serious risk of contracting Tuberculosis, especially if they are under-nourished.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Mar. 24 (ANI): Tuberculosis can affect any age, caste or class and it is one of the top 10 causes of death across the globe, ranking above HIV and malaria.

Full Story >>