Scientific understanding and medical treatments for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have advanced significantly over the past several years, but much remains to be done, say experts from the Center for Autism Research at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who published a scientific review of the field today.
"We summarized many new findings by autism researchers throughout the world, and give our perspective on the current state of the science in autism spectrum disorders," said lead author Susan E. Levy, M.D., a developmental pediatrician and medical director of the Regional Autism Center at Children's Hospital. "We hope our review will be a useful reference for healthcare professionals working with ASD patients and families."
The article appears in the British journal The Lancet, published online on Oct. 12. Levy co-authored the review with Robert T. Schultz, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist and director of the Center for Autism Research at Children's Hospital, and David S. Mandell, Sc.D., a psychiatric epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Some recurrent themes of the review are the expanding knowledge of early brain development, and the importance of early diagnosis of ASDs, accompanied by intensive early treatment. The researchers also recognize the important role of parent involvement in early recognition of ASDs and in reinforcing their child's behavioral treatments at home. They also endorse research on methods for supporting families to reduce parental stress.
As evidenced by a long history of family and twin studies, ASDs are the neuropsychiatric disorder most affected by genetic factors. The authors review recent studies performed with the help of sophisticated gene-analyzing tools, and cite the finding earlier this year that a significant percentage of ASD patients have DNA alterations in a genetic area that affects how neurons interconnect in the brain. Combined with other
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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia