"The data collected in this study begin to solve the problem of not having a way of measuring these neurological mechanisms in mice," Garner said. "Previously we were not able to measure this fundamental disease process in autism, trichotillomania (hair pulling), obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, Tourette's syndrome, traumatic frontal brain lobe injury and a host of other human mental disorders for which set shifting is an important monitoring tool."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.4 per 1,000 children have autism or another autism spectrum disorder, making these disorders about as common as Type I juvenile diabetes. This rate is higher than for other childhood disabilities, including Down's syndrome, cancer, cerebral palsy, hearing loss and vision impairment.
Although the number of children diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically over the past 12 years, the upward spiral may be due to better, more widespread understanding and diagnosis of the mental impairment, CDC experts said. Trichotillomania, which affects 3.4 percent of women, and some other disorders are even more prevalent.