Spectrum Newsletter - Issue 10

Issue 10 - July 2012

Spectrum informs ADDRP Newsletter subscribers about the latest ADDRP activities, reviews recent studies in the field of autism and developmental disorders, and lists any available educational opportunities through Lucille Packard Children's Hospital and Stanford University.


Welcome! This, the tenth issue of our newsletter, Spectrum, is being sent to provide you with updated information on the activities of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research Program at Stanford University. The research program is under the direction of Dr. Antonio Hardan. We appreciated the feedback that we received about our previous issues and look forward to hearing your input on this and future issues. We hope that you will find this newsletter helpful and informative. Please feel free to share this newsletter with family and friends.



Visit our website and "like us" on facebook! The website and group page on facebook contain important information about our research program and staff, details and descriptions on the wide number of research studies currently underway, information on how to participate in our studies, and links to other organizations and resources.

Educational events

Half-Day Conference on Saturday, August 4 from 9am to 12:30pm

The Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children’s Hospital Parent Education Program is offering a half day parent conference designed to provide parents and caregivers with information about reducing problem behaviors and building positve skills in the home setting. The program will be divided into two groups depending on child's age:

  • Managing Disruptive Behaviors and Building Social and Communication Skills
  • (for ages 2-5 years)
  • Managing Disruptive Behaviors and Building Emotion Regulation Skills
  • (for ages 6-18 years)

The program will begin at 9:00 am and end at 12:30 pm. The conference will be held at:

Stanford Child Psychiatry Building
Stanford University
401 Quarry Road
Stanford, CA 94305-6105

The cost is $30 per person. To register please go to the Stanford Child Psychiatry home page or contact Maura Chatwell at (650) 724-6327 or autism@lpch.org

other events

Autism Parent Support Group

Parents of children with autism face a unique set of challenges. Connecting with other families can be a valuable form of support. Topics for discussion will include:
  • Advocating for your child
  • Dealing with impact on family
  • Navigating school and learning issues
  • Investigating treatment options and resources
  • Upcoming meetings:
    Fall 2012 TBA

    For the latest information please go to http://childpsychiatry.stanford.edu/

    Issue 10, July 2012


    Maternal periconceptional folic acid intake and risk of autism spectrum disorders and developmental delay in the CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment) case-control study (Schmidt et al., 2012; University of California Davis).

    Periconceptional folate is essential for proper neurodevelopment. Maternal folic acid intake was examined in relation to the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental delay (DD). Families enrolled in the CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment) Study from 2003 to 2009 were included if their child had a diagnosis of ASD (n = 429), DD (n = 130), or typical development (TD; n = 278) confirmed at the University of California Davis Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute by using standardized clinical assessments. Average daily folic acid was quantified for each mother on the basis of dose, brands, and intake frequency of vitamins, supplements, and breakfast cereals reported through structured telephone interviews. Mean (±SEM) folic acid intake was significantly greater for mothers of TD children than for mothers of children with ASD in the first month of pregnancy (P1; 779.0 ± 36.1 and 655.0 ± 28.7 μg, respectively; P < 0.01). A mean daily folic acid intake of > 600 μg (compared with < 600 μg) during P1 was associated with reduced ASD risk (adjusted OR: 0.62; 95% CI: 0.42, 0.92; P = 0.02), and risk estimates decreased with increased folic acid (P-trend = 0.001). The association between folic acid and reduced ASD risk was strongest for mothers and children with MTHFR 677 C>T variant genotypes. A trend toward an association between lower maternal folic acid intake during the 3 months before pregnancy and DD was observed, but not after adjustment for confounders. In summary, periconceptional folic acid may reduce ASD risk in those with inefficient folate metabolism. The replication of these findings and investigations of mechanisms involved are warranted.

    Moderators, mediators, and other predictors of risperidone response in children with autistic disorder and irritability (Arnold et al., 2010; Ohio State University).

    The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Units on Pediatric Psychopharmacology (RUPP) Autism Network found a large effect size (d=1.2) in favor of risperidone on the main outcome measure in an 8-week double-blind, placebo-controlled trial for irritability in autistic disorder. This paper explores predictors of response including moderators and mediators of this effect. Intention-to-treat (ITT) analyses were conducted with suspected moderators and mediators entered into the regression equations. MacArthur Foundation Network subgroup guidelines were followed in the evaluation of the results. Only baseline severity moderated treatment response: Higher severity showed greater improvement for risperidone but not for placebo. Weight gain mediated treatment response negatively: Those who gained more weight improved less with risperidone and more with placebo. Compliance correlated with outcome for risperidone but not placebo. Higher dose correlated with worse outcome for placebo, but not risperidone. Of nonspecific predictors, parent education, family income, and low baseline prolactin positively predicted outcome; anxiety, bipolar symptoms, oppositional-defiant symptoms, stereotypy, and hyperactivity negatively predicted outcome. Risperidone moderated the effect of change in 5'-nucleotidase, a marker of zinc status, for which decrease was associated with improvement only with risperidone, not with placebo. In summary, the benefit-risk ratio of risperidone is better with greater symptom severity. Risperidone can be individually titrated to optimal dosage for excellent response in the majority of children. Weight gain is not necessary for risperidone benefit and may even detract from it. Socioeconomic advantage, low prolactin, and absence of co-morbid problems nonspecifically predict better outcome. Mineral interactions with risperidone deserve further study.

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    Below we have highlighted just a few of our studies that we are recruiting for. For a complete list of all currently recruiting research studies please visit our new website at autismdd.stanford.edu

    Oxytocin treatment trial for social deficits in children with autism

    Stanford University researchers are currently recruiting children with autism to participate in a research study which tests the effects of intranasal oxytocin on social functioning.
    In order to participate in this research study your child must:
    • Be diagnosed with autistic disorder.
    • Be between the ages of 6 and 12 years.
    • Be willing to take an oxytocin nasal spray for at least 4 weeks and provide blood samples.
    • Be willing to participate in behavioral and cognitive testing.
    • Have no serious medical problems.

    You will also receive generalized results regarding your child's cognitive and behavioral assessments. Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

    New Clinical Trial for Adults with Autism

    This study explores the safety and effectiveness of Pregnenolone, a neuroactive steroid medication to improve behavioral deficits in adults with Autism.

    To be eligible for this study you must:
    • Be between the ages of 18 and 45.
    • Have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
    • Be willing to provide blood and urine samples.

    There is no cost to participate in this research study. Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

    Children and Adolescents are Needed to Participate in Research Studies

    We are actively recruiting children who are typically developing or who have one of several neuropsychiatric diagnoses for many of our studies. We are looking for individuals who are or who have one of the following:

    • Typically Developing
    • Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis
    • Developmental Disability diagnosis
    • ADHD diagnosis
    • Same-Sex Twins
    • Born Prematurely

    Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

    ICATS - Imaging California Autism Twins Study

    This study compares twins with Autism Spectrum Disorder to typically developing twins.
    Subjects must be a same-sex twin pair:
    • Where one or both have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
    • Where both are typically developing and in good medical health.
    • Between ages 3-14 years old.
    • Willing to complete behavioral testing and a brain-imaging scan.

    Each twin will receive $100 for completion. Please contact us at (650) 723-7809 if you are interested.

    Linking Autism, Preterm Birth and Hormonal Status

    We are interested in the relationship between hormones and sex steroids in children with autism. We are looking for children (typically developing or with ASD diagnosis):

    • Between the ages of 3-12 years old.
    • Born preterm or full term.
    • Willing to provide a blood sample and complete IQ testing.

    Participants receive up to $50 for completing the study. Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

    Autism and ADHD Study

    Researchers at Stanford University are recruiting individuals with ASD, ADHD, and typically developing children.

    We are looking for children who:

    • Are between ages of 2-18 years old
    • Are in good medical health
    • Are willing to provide blood, saliva and urine samples

    Each participant will receive $50 upon completion of the study. Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

    Emotional Reactivity and Regulation in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

    This study looks at how youth with autism experience their emotions, and to what extent they use emotion regulation strategies to change specific emotions and thus alter the way they feel about a given situation. We hope that our research will lead to changes in increasing the effectiveness of current autism therapies.

    In order to participate in this research study your child must:

    • Between the ages of 8-21 years old in good medical health with or without an ASD diagnosis
    • Be willing to participate in psycholophysiological and neuroimaging experiments
    • Be willing to come to Stanford Hospital and Psychophysiology Lab up to four times

    Each participant will be paid $30 for each completed session. For more information please call (650) 353-5777

    Editorial Staff:
    Sean Berquist, BS
    Antonio Hardan, MD
    Mrigendra Steiner, MA

    Let us know what you think!
    Comments and suggestions are welcome. 

    Send feedback to autismdd@stanford.edu.

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    Autism & Developmental Disabilities
    Research Program
    Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
    401 Quarry Rd., Stanford, CA | 94305-5719
    Website: autismdd.stanford.edu Email: autismdd@stanford.edu
    Research: 650-736-1235 | Clinical Services: 650-723-5511