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New York autism studies find folinic acid benefit, exercise benefits

November 1, 2016

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

New York leads the way again—this time in autism research.

In a small pilot study by SUNY Downstate Medical Center funded by Autism Speaks, treatment with folinic acid—a naturally occurring form of folate—improved communication and eased autism symptoms in language-impaired children who have autism.

The gains were greatest in a subgroup of children who tested positive for an autoantibody that may partially block this vitamin from entering brain cells.

Folinic acid is a more metabolically active form of folate (also known as B9) than is folic acid, the synthetic form of folate found in many prenatal and children’s vitamins.

The findings appeared recently in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Meanwhile, researchers at Manhattan’s New York Medical College found that found that a four-month exercise program for schoolchildren with autism led to significant improvements in scores on a measure of social responsiveness, as well as gains in physical endurance.

Lead researcher Susan Ronan, DPT, PCS, assistant professor of clinical physical therapy, said in a release that the results “are encouraging and warrant further exploration in future research.”

The study was presented at the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy’s Association Section on Pediatrics (SoPAC) 2016 Annual Conference.

Autism gene mutation that slows brain activity uncovered

Scientists have pinpointed a gene mutation in a subset of people with autism that hinders the development of brain connections and slows brain activity.  The discovery could lead to new medications to treat autism at its core.

In some people with autism, researchers McMaster University in Canada have pinpointed mutations in a gene called DIXDC1. The mutations impair synaptic growth and reduce brain activity.

Synapses are structures that enable signaling between nerve cells.  Impairment of this signaling can disrupt normal functioning, which can lead to developmental and behavioral problems.

In detail, the researchers found that some individuals with autism possess mutations that cause the DIXDC1 gene to be “switched off,” meaning synapses remain immature and brain activity is reduced.

The researchers are hopeful that their findings, published in Cell Reports, will advance the development of new medications that treat the core symptoms of autism.

Vitamin D may benefit kids with ASD

A small study of just over 100 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) found that those given Vitamin D supplements over a four-month period showed significantly less hyperactivity and social withdrawal after four months than those getting a placebo. The study was published recently in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

U.S. Drop in Disability Bias Crimes: FBI

In 2014, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program recorded 95 criminal offenses nationwide that were related to disability bias.  But the federal agency’s 2015 data, culled from reports by some15,000 local law-enforcement agencies and released mid-November, reported 88, indicating a slight drop.

The drop in disability-related cases comes as the FBI indicated that the total number of bias crimes rose.  Overall, the agency documented 5,850 incidents in 2015—but among those victims, people with disabilities comprised only 1.2 percent.

Broken down further, offenses were motivated by a person’s physical disability in 52 cases, and by intellectual disabilities in 36 cases.