Study: Girls at risk for autism more attentive to social cues in faces than boys

Infant girls at risk for autism pay more attention to social cues in faces than infant boys, according to new research.

The study, conducted by researchers with the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn., is the first one known to prospectively examine sex-related social differences in at-risk infants, according to a news release. Findings are published in the March 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

This difference in observational skills could help protect female siblings of children with autism from developing the disorder themselves, according to lead author Katarzyna Chawarska, associate professor in the Yale Child Study Center and in the pediatrics department.

For the prospective study, Chawarska and her colleagues measured spontaneous social attention in 101 infants between the ages of 6 and 12 months who have older siblings with autism. The team also studied 61 infants with no risk of autism. High-risk siblings are about 15 to 20 times more likely to have autism than those without a history of autism in the family, Chawarska said in the release.

The infants were all shown a video of a woman smiling and cooing at them, while doing other activities like pointing to toys in different parts of the screen, and preparing a sandwich. The team tracked where the infants focused their gazes, and for how long.

“We found that the girls in the high-risk group displayed more attention to people and their faces than all other infants,” said Chawarska, who also director of the Early Social Cognition Laboratory at Yale. “This increased access to social experiences during a highly formative developmental period predicted fewer social impairments at 2 years of age. It is important to note however, that […]

By |March 7th, 2016|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments

New exoskeleton designed to be lighter, more agile

More than a decade of work by a team with University of California Berkeley’s Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory has paid off, as a new, lighter and more agile exoskeleton recently was unveiled, according to a news release.

The robotics lab, a team of graduate students led by mechanical engineering professor Homayoon Kazerooni, PhD, developed the original technology for the Phoenix, made by SuitX. According to the release, SuitX was spun off from the robotics lab; Kazerooni is the company’s founder and CEO.

Weighing 27 pounds, the Phoenix is lightweight, has two motors at the hips and electrically controlled tension settings that tighten when the wearer is standing and swing freely when walking, according to the release. Users can control the movement of each leg and walk as fast as 1.1 mph by pushing buttons integrated into a pair of crutches. The exoskeleton is powered for as long as eight hours by a battery pack worn in a backpack.

“We can’t really fix their disease,” Kazerooni said in the release. “We can’t fix their injury. But what it would do is postpone the secondary injuries due to sitting. It gives a better quality of life.”

Over the years, Kazarooni and his team have developed a series of exoskeletons. Their work began in 2000 with a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to create a device, now called the Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton or BLEEX, to help people carry heavier loads for longer. At that time, Kazerooni also realized the potential use for exoskeletons in the medical field, particularly as an alternative to wheelchairs, according to the release.

The team then started developing new devices to restore mobility for people who had become paraplegic.

In 2011, they made […]

By |February 29th, 2016|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments

Study: Telephone therapy initiative helps ease spine patients’ pain

Spine surgery patients at risk for poor recovery can benefit from cognitive-behavioral based physical therapy, according to Vanderbilt University Medical Center research.

This potential new model of care involves PTs conducting weekly, 30-minute telephone sessions with 80 patients. A recent study compared the model with educational support only.

In the Changing Behavior through Physical Therapy program, patients were encouraged to set achievable goals, taught relaxation exercises, instructed about pain distraction techniques, given direction on replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts and provided a self-management plan. Those patients scored significantly better on a lower back disability index six months after surgery than patients who received only educational support.

The CBPT program focused on patients who underwent lumbar laminectomies with or without fusion and who reported being fearful of movement before their surgeries.

“The fear is there before surgery because they have been in so much pain for so long they have restructured their lives so they don’t increase their pain,” Kristin Archer, PhD, DPT, the study’s lead author, said in a news release. “They have created a very small world for themselves. It might be if they go to work, they have to go home and not do anything else.”

The study, which was published in The Journal of Pain, is the first to assess the effects of a phone-based physical therapy intervention based upon cognitive behavioral therapy after spine surgery, according to the release.

Both the intervention group and the control group received the weekly, half-hour telephone sessions with a PT for six weeks. The intervention group scored 9.8 points better on the Oswestry Disability Index than the control group and 17 points better than what was reported before treatment.

Researchers deemed the scores for the intervention group clinically meaningful.

“The reason […]

By |February 26th, 2016|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments

Caregiver perceptions of needed ASD services differ by race, ethnicity

Among families of children with autism spectrum disorder, perceived need for medical and support services differ among caregivers of different racial and ethnic groups, even after adjusting for child and family socioeconomic and other characteristics, according to a new study.

These differences in turn might affect how caregivers prioritize and seek care for their children, according to investigators with Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson College of Health Professions in Philadelphia. Researchers hope the study’s findings, which were published Feb. 1 in a Pediatrics supplement, will inform family-centered communications and support.

“Our team discovered a number of differences in perceived needs for medical, therapeutic and family support services,” first author Teal W. Benevides, PhD, MS, OTR/L, an assistant professor of occupational therapy in Jefferson College of Health Professions, said in a news release. “Our study suggests that future research should aim to understand how a family’s cultural beliefs and expectations impact care. Providers working with children with autism should identify caregiver beliefs about treatment to better tailor recommendations and referrals for service.”

For the study, the researchers examined 5,178 records in the 2005-06 and 2009-10 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs datasets to look for associations between racial and ethnic group and perceived service needs while controlling for certain factors.

After adjusting for child and family characteristics, the team’s analyses found:

Caregivers of Hispanic children reported less need for prescription medications compared with caregivers of white, non-Hispanic children with ASD.
Caregivers of black, non-Hispanic children with ASD reported less need for prescription medications and for child and family mental health services than caregivers of white, non-Hispanic children.
Both English-speaking Hispanic caregivers and black, non-Hispanic caregivers reported greater need for occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy than white, non-Hispanic caregivers.

“I […]

By |February 23rd, 2016|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments

Cognitive, physical function go downhill when seniors stop driving

Driving cessation nearly doubled the risk of depressive symptoms, while also contributing to diminished cognitive abilities and physical functioning for older adults, according to a new study.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City examined the health and well-being of older adults after they stopped driving. Findings, which showed their health worsened in several ways, were published Jan. 19 on the website of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

For older adults, driving a car is an important aspect of having control over one’s life. While 81% of the 29.5 million U.S. adults ages 65 and older continue to hold a license and get behind the wheel, age-related declines in cognition and physical function make driving more difficult, and many seniors reduce or eventually stop driving altogether.

“For many older adults, driving is more than a privilege; it is instrumental to their daily living and is a strong indicator of self-control, personal freedom and independence,” study senior author Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, professor of epidemiology at Mailman, said in a news release. “Unfortunately, it is almost inevitable to face the decision to stop driving during the process of aging as cognitive and physical functions continue to decline.”

Li, founding director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia, and a team of researchers reviewed and analyzed quantitative health-related data for drivers ages 55 and older from 16 studies that met eligibility criteria. They then compared results with data from current drivers. The study updates and builds on earlier findings with more than 10 additional years of empirical research.

Data showed older adults experienced faster declines in cognitive function and physical health after stopping driving. Driving cessation also was associated with […]

By |February 22nd, 2016|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments

Books honored for portrayal of people with disabilities

Four books for children and teens have won the American Library Association’s 2016 Schneider Family Book Awards, which honor an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience, according to a news release.

The awards were announced Jan. 11 during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Boston.

Recipients are selected in three categories: birth through grade school (ages 8 and younger), middle grade (ages 9-13) and teens (ages 14-18). Winners will receive $5,000 and a framed plaque, which will be presented in June during the ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, Fla.

The winner in the young children category is “Emmanuel’s dream: The true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah,” written by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls.

In the story, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, born with only one strong leg, sets out to ride a bike 400 miles across Ghana to raise awareness for the disabled. With the message of “being disabled does not mean unable,” the stunning mixed media art supports this uplifting and inspiring story, according to the release.

“Thompson and Qualls’ biographical picture book proves that ‘One leg is enough to do great things — and one person is enough to change the world,’” award chairwoman Alyson Beecher said in the release.

The book is published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York City.

“Fish in a Tree,” written by Lynda Mullaly Hunt and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, published by the Penguin Group, was one of two books that won the award for best middle grade title.

The book’s main character, Ally, moves through multiple elementary schools without learning to read by using her […]

By |February 19th, 2016|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments

Alzheimer’s plaques found in middle-aged people with brain injuries

People with brain injuries after head trauma might have buildup of the plaques related to Alzheimer’s disease in their brains, a new study suggests.

Findings are published in the Feb. 3 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

A corresponding editorial points out during the past decade the rate of ED visits related to traumatic brain injury has increased by 70%. The editorial also notes an estimated 3 million to 5 million Americans live with a TBI-related disability.

“The study is small and the findings preliminary; however, we did find an increased buildup of amyloid plaques in people who had previously sustained a traumatic brain injury,” study author David Sharp, MD, professor at Imperial College London, in the United Kingdom, said in a news release. “The areas of the brain affected by plaques overlapped those areas affected in Alzheimer’s disease, but other areas were involved. After a head injury, people are more likely to develop dementia, but it isn’t clear why. Our findings suggest a TBI leads to the development of the plaques, which are a well-known feature of Alzheimer’s disease.”

For the study, nine people with an average age of 44 who had a single moderate to severe TBI underwent PET and MRI brain scans. Their brain injuries had occurred between 11 months and 17 years before the start of the study. The participants were compared with 10 people who had Alzheimer’s disease and nine healthy participants.

The PET scans used a marker that detects plaques in the brain. The MRI scans used diffusion tensor imaging to detect damage to brain cells that occurs after a TBI. Both the people with brain injuries and the people with Alzheimer’s disease had plaques in […]

By |February 16th, 2016|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments

Survey: More than 1 in 20 U.S. children have dizziness, balance problems

More than 1 in 20 (nearly 3.3 million) children between the ages of 3 and 17 have a dizziness or balance problem, according to an analysis of a large-scale, nationally representative survey of these problems in U.S. children.

Prevalence increases with age, with 7.5% of children ages 15-17 and 6% percent of children ages 12-14 having any dizziness or balance problem, compared with 3.6% of children ages 6-8 and 4.1% of children ages 3-5, the analysis found. The research was led by investigators at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health. The team also included Helen S. Cohen, EdD, OTR, from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, and from Rose Marie Rine, PhD, PT, from Marshall University, Huntington, W.Va.

Researchers found girls have a higher prevalence of dizziness and balance problems compared with boys, 5.7% and 5%, respectively. They also found non-Hispanic white children have an increased prevalence of dizziness and balance problems (6.1%) compared with Hispanic (4.6%) and non-Hispanic black (4.3%) children. The findings were published online Jan. 27 in The Journal of Pediatrics.

“These findings suggest that dizziness and balance problems are fairly common among children, and parents and providers should be aware of the impact these problems can have on our children,” James F. Battey Jr., MD, PhD, NIDCD director and a pediatrician, said in a news release. “Parents who notice dizziness and balance problems in their children should consult a healthcare provider to rule out a serious underlying condition.”

Previous estimates of dizziness and balance problems in children have ranged from 5% to 18% and have been based on limited, foreign, population-based studies. To better understand the prevalence of these problems among U.S. children, a […]

By |February 15th, 2016|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments

Study strengthens evidence linking ASD to maternal obesity, diabetes

Using electronic medical records and birth information, scientists have been able to find more evidence supporting a link between autism spectrum disorder and pregnant mothers with obesity and diabetes, according to a news release.

The findings from researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center are reported in a study posted online Jan. 29 ahead of publication by the journal Autism Research. An estimated 1 out of 45 children is affected by ASD, according to the CDC. Genetics, environment and the interaction of both are suspected. The increasing prevalence of ASD also happens to mirror increases in obesity and diabetes, the researchers noted.

“Although previous studies report a link between maternal obesity and diabetes during pregnancy to autism, we demonstrate that electronic medical data can verify and establish the extent of this link across large populations,” study senior author Katherine Bowers, PhD, MPH, a member of the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Cincinnati Children’s, said in the release.

“Without placing any burden on study participants or the costs of developing an epidemiologic study from scratch, we can use the vast amounts of data already collected for clinical purposes to conduct broad population-based studies on this link to autism,” she said in the release. “We are very excited about the future studies we can do with this ability.”

According to study data, pregnant mothers with obesity or gestational diabetes were 1.5 times more likely to have a child with ASD. The increased risk of ASD for pregnant mothers with both obesity and gestational diabetes was two-fold, results showed. The findings fit into an increasing body of evidence that obesity and gestational diabetes might be associated with the development of autism.

The team, which included Bowers, her colleagues and collaborators in […]

By |February 12th, 2016|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments

Many young people unaware of stroke symptoms, would delay seeking help

Patients younger than 45 might underestimate the urgency of stroke symptoms and most say they would delay going to the hospital for help, according to a national survey by Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

“Timely treatment for stroke is probably more important than for almost any other medical problem there is,” David Liebeskind, MD, professor of neurology, director of Outpatient Stroke and Neurovascular Programs and director of the Neurovascular Imaging Research Core at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said in a news release. “There is a very limited window in which to start treatment because the brain is very sensitive to a lack of blood flow or to bleeding, and the longer patients wait, the more devastating the consequences.”

Physicians refer to the three hours after a person experiences the first stroke symptom as the golden window, or the period of time patients need to receive care to restore blood flow to the brain and minimize or reverse damage.

For the survey, researchers asked more than 1,000 people nationwide what they would be likely to do within the first three hours of experiencing weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking or difficulty seeing, all common symptoms of a stroke. Among those younger than 45, only about 1 out of 3 said they would be very likely to go to the hospital, with 73% saying they would likely wait to see whether their symptoms improved.

“That’s a real problem,” Liebeskind said in the release. “We need to educate younger people about the symptoms of stroke and convince them of the urgency of the situation, because the numbers are going up.”

Since the mid-1990s, the number of adults ages 18-45 discharged from U.S. hospitals after suffering a stroke has jumped as much as 53%, […]

By |February 9th, 2016|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments