Yesterday was a busy day at the IMFAR 2012 Preconference sessions. Although described as a Preconference the days events were packed with information and persons in attendance had to use their time carefully, whether they were suffering from jet lag or not, to maximize their participation. The highlights of my day at the Pre-Conference were:
1) IMFAR Press Conference Highlighting Key Studies. Introduced by INSAR President Helen Tager Flusberg with presentations by Steven Scherer, Dan Messenger, Nanit Gordon, Terry Bennett and Rebecca Landa. Dr. Tager Flusberg opened the press conference presentations with a brief overview of the IMFAR presentations during this second decade of IMFAR conventions. The presentations are the cutting edge or leading articles in autism research during the past year and have not been yet been presented for full review prior to publication in learned journals.
I will be writing more about each speaker's presentation when time permits. I was very interested in Dr. Nanit Gordon's presentation about Oxytocin's Impact on Social Cognitive Brain Function in Youth with ASD which seemed to follow directly from a presentation I heard earlier in a preconference session about parental behaviors and children's capacity to become members of the social group, understand complex social signals and develop social collaboration. I reference that session in paragraph 2). Dr. Gordon presented data including fMRI images showing the effect of Oxytocin on areas of the brain important to the aforementioned social capacities. Oxytocin was one of the response items to certain types of interaction, particularly parental interaction. My concern and my questions concerned whether if parental interaction increases a hormonal response, oxytocin, which improves capacity for at risk children to develop social capacity does that imply that our current research is indicating a return to the Bettelheim era when autism was blamed on cold, aloof mothers? Dr. Gordon and Dr. Helen Tager Flusberg both spoke with me after the presentations and assured me that was not the case ... the data does not support the view that parental personality or interaction, particularly mothers, plays a role in causing autism disorders in children. The aim of the research is to find treatments to help improve the social capacities of children with autism.
fMRI Images presented by Dr. Ilanit Gordon,of Yale, showing
effect of Oxytocin introduced by nasal spray on areas of the brain
important for social functioning. On the left are the images of
the days subject received the spray. On the right are images of
days when a placebo spray was used.
3) Autism Treatment Network and the information about health issues of particular interest to persons with, or parents of children with, autism disorders.
Many issues were covered including constipation, seizures, and sleep disorders. From the perspective of a parent of a son with severe autism disorder and developmental delays these are very important topics. Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network and the various speakers presented helpful practical information for families and health care practicioners including "Strategies to Improve Sleep in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders A Parent's Guide".
4) IPAD - Purdue Study on "Infusing Speech Output Into the Picture Exchange Communication System for Children with autism, Oliver Wendt, Ph.D., Ning Hsu, M.S., Rachel Casey, B.S. & Evan Mattice, B.S. Contact info was presented concerning the study for Oliver Wendt, firstname.lastname@example.org. Conclusions without getting too specific at this time included that "All participants mastered iPad intervention, but varied in ability to complete later protocol phase, which are replicable across settings."