Spectrum Newsletter - Issue 11

Issue 11 - November 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 eleventh 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.

ongoing 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:
    November 8, 2012 from 7-9 pm

    The support group will be held at the Child Psychiatry and Behavioral Science Building at 401 Quarry Road, Stanford, CA 94305. Parking is free after 4:00PM. Follow the signs in the lobby for room location. The group is facilitate by Annie Darrow, Paula Gani, Corinne Callan. Walk-ins are welcome! No fee to attend. (please note that the support group is not intended to servce as therapy or other mental health services)

    Issue 11, November 2012


    Early Behavioral Intervention Is Associated With Normalized Brain Activity in Young Children With Autism (Dawson et al., 2012; University of North Carolina).

    A previously published randomized clinical trial indicated that a developmental behavioral intervention, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), resulted in gains in IQ, language, and adaptive behavior of children with autism spectrum disorder. This report describes a secondary outcome measurement from this trial, EEG activity. Forty-eight 18-to 30-month-old children with autism spectrum disorder were randomized to receive the ESDM or referral to community intervention for 2 years. After the intervention (age 48 to77 months), EEG activity (event-related potentials and spectral power) was measured during the presentation of faces versus objects. Age-matched typical children were also assessed. The ESDM group exhibited greater improvements in autism symptoms, IQ, language, and adaptive and social behaviors than the community intervention group. The ESDM group and typical children showed a shorter Nc latency and increased cortical activation (decreased a power and increased y power) when viewing faces, where as the community intervention group showed the opposite pattern (shorter latency event-related potential [ERP] and greater cortical activation when viewing objects). Greater cortical activation while viewing faces was associated with improved social behavior. This was the first trial to demonstrate that early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized patterns of brain activity, which is associated with improvements in social behavior, in young children with autism spectrum disorder.

    Cognition in males and females with autism: similarities and differences (Lai et al., 2012; University of Cambridge).

    The male bias in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has led to females with ASD being under-researched. This lack of attention to females could hide variability due to sex that may explain some of the heterogeneity within ASD. In this study, the investigators examined four key cognitive domains (mentalizing and emotion perception, executive function, perceptual attention to detail, and motor function) in ASD, to test for similarities and differences between males and females with and without ASD (n=128 adults; n=32 per group). In the mentalizing and facial emotion perception domain, males and females with ASD showed similar deficits compared to neurotypical controls. However, in attention to detail and dexterity involving executive function, although males with ASD showed poorer performance relative to neurotypical males, females with ASD performed comparably to neurotypical females. The authors concluded that performance in the social-cognitive domain is equally impaired in male and female adults with ASD. However, in specific non-social cognitive domains, performance within ASD depends on sex. This suggests that in specific domains, cognitive profiles in ASD are modulated by sex.

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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.

    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

    Study of Memantine in Pediatric Autism

    This study is focused on whether the medication mematine can improve social responsiveness and communication skills in children with Autism. We are looking for children:

    • Between the ages of 6-12 years old.
    • With a diagnosis of autism, asperger's, or PDD-NOS.
    • Willing to provide a blood sample and complete IQ testing.

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

    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