Research Summaries

POND studies

Richer than we thought: neurophysiological methods reveal rich-club network development is frequency- and sex-dependent

The brain’s “rich-club” is a group of tightly connected regions. These regions work closely together to communicate and connect information from different parts of the brain, and are involved in different kinds of thinking processes. Early research has shown that the organization of rich-club changes with age, but there is still a lot to learn about how such changes happen in different brain waves, what the patterns are across the lifespan, or if there are differences between males and females.

Identifying replicable subgroups in neurodevelopmental conditions using resting-state fMRI data

Observable traits and mental processes in neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder, show a lot of overlap. This research identifies subgroups of children and youth, both with and without neurodevelopmental disorders, who share common brain characteristics and replicated the findings in an independent data set.

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Shared or Unique Neurocognitive Profiles?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) and autism spectrum (ASD) disorders are common conditions that often occur together and can be characterized by differences in mental processes like the ability to stop what one is doing, holding information in working memory or switching from one action to another. This research makes direct comparisons between the thinking patterns of individuals with ADHD and ASD in both speciality clinics (research) and the community. 

Cross-Diagnosis Structural Correlates of Autism-Like Social Communication Differences

Autism (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can present social communication differences. Many different biological processes can underlie such differences, but we don’t know whether specific diagnoses tell us about what biological processes are involved for each person.

Genomic Architecture of Autism from Comprehensive Whole-Genome Sequence Annotation

To better understand autism, researchers conducted the largest whole-genome sequencing study to date in autistic children and youth, along with non-autistic parents and siblings. Whole-genome sequencing is a technology that identifies the entire DNA blueprint of living things. 

Mental Health Profiles of Autistic Children and Youth During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The pandemic has taken a toll on mental health for children. Autistic children and youth in particular face specific challenges with mental health that affect quality of life. This research used advanced methods to group autistic children in different categories (subgroups) based on shared attributes and looked at their differences in mental health characteristics. The research also looked for elements linked to a child’s mental health including child, parent, and system factors that can be used to improve health outcomes.

Studying Social Deficits Across ASD, ADHD, and OCD

Children use social skills to communicate and interact with others. Poor social skills, known as social deficits, include limited social communication and interaction skills, among others. Social deficits are a defining characteristic of some neurodevelopmental disorders. The researchers in this study investigated the underlying biology of social deficits in children with different neurodevelopmental disorders. This study included various disorders because of the increasing recognition that different neurodevelopmental disorders have similar symptoms and characteristics.

Heterogeneity in genetic tests marketed for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is diagnosed by experienced professionals who look at a child’s behaviour and development. What causes ASD is complex, but there is increasing evidence that genes play an important role. To investigate the genetic contribution to a child’s ASD diagnosis, clinicians can order genetic tests marketed for ASD. These tests look for genetic differences in a list of genes that are thought to be associated with ASD.

Children with ADHD, ASD and OCD show similar changes to connections within their brain

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and autism spectrum disorder develop connections between areas in their brain differently. Changes to brain connections show similarities across these neurodevelopmental disorders and are linked to children’s independent living skills.

TAOK2 gene causes autism-related changes to brain development and behaviour

The TAOK2 gene is involved the development of the brain and its cells. Specifically, changes to this gene affect how brain cells communicate with each other. This study reveals that TAOK2 is a risk gene for neurodevelopmental disorders.

The Oxytocin Receptor and Social Abilities Across Neurodevelopmental Disorders

The two most common variants of the oxytocin receptor were associated with greater severity of social skills deficits in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, while the same variants were associated with reduced levels of social skills deficits in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Genetic Variants Affect Brain Connections in Some People with ASD

Researchers found DIXDC1, a gene that affects the way brain cells can communicate with each other, is “turned off” in some people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, affecting memory and social communication.

Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders Share Problems Identifying Emotions

Children and youth with neurodevelopmental disorders showed problems recognizing the emotional and mental states in others, but to varying degrees. These difficulties seemed to be related to the severity of their social communication deficits.

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