This morning I have gathered two really interesting articles about the diagnosis and treatment of autism and ADHD. The first has been popping up on many of my autism newsfeeds as big news for autism diagnosis. Apparently, researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital have developed an EEG test that can be used to diagnostically identify autism in children as young as 2. The implications of this new test have already led experts to speculate that the 1 in 88 number that made headlines this past spring will be raised to 1 in 100 as more children are diagnosed with neurotypical controls rather than autism spectrum disorders. The next article concerns the treatment of ADHD. Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and University of Iceland have found that the timing of ADHD medication administration can greatly impact its ultimate educational benefits. The complete study will be published in the July 2012 print version of the journal Pediatrics and promises to make a huge impact in how ADHD is treated in the school in the near future. EEG Test to Identify Autism in Children From a Medical News Today Press Release The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has recently increased to one in 100. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine demonstrates that EEG can distinguish between children with autism and neurotypical controls. Autistic children showed a reduction in short range connectivity indicating poor function of local brain networks, especially in the left hemisphere regions responsible for language. However these children had increased connectivity between regions that were further apart indicating a compensatory mechanism. Autism is characterized by impaired communication, including language and social skills, and often includes rigidity of interests, or repetitive, ritualistic behavior. While MRI studies have reported differing results, EEG measurements of brain activity have been more consistent. Researchers from Harvard Medical School compared EEG measurements of almost 1000 children with and without autism. Data was collected using 24 electrodes on the scalps of awake and alert subjects and results adjusted for events known to confound EEG results such as blinking, head movement or drowsiness. Dr Frank Duffy and Dr Heidelise Als who performed this research at the Boston Children's Hospital explained, "EEG coherence is used to assess functional connectivity within the brain. Across all the age groups we tested, a set of 40 coherence measurements reliably and consistently distinguished between children with ASD and their controls." The EEG results showed widespread differences in brain connectivity. Specifically short distance coherence (between adjacent electrodes) was reduced in the children with ASD, especially in the left frontal regions associated with language. Conversely long distance coherence was increased, suggesting a compensatory mechanism. In addition to behavioral assessments, the use of EEG-based testing may help reliably diagnose autism in children, and may assist early detection in infants, allowing for more effective therapies and coping strategies. Mount Sinai Researcher Finds Timing of ADHD Medication Affect Academic Progress From a EurekAlert Press Release A team of researchers led by an epidemiologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and University of Iceland has found a correlation between the age at which children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) begin taking medication, and how well they perform on standardized tests, particularly in math. The study, titled, "A Population-Based Study of Stimulant Drug Treatment of ADHD and Academic Progress in Children," appears in the July, 2012, edition of Pediatrics, and can be viewed online on June 25. Using data from the Icelandic Medicines Registry and the Database of National Scholastic Examinations, the researchers studied 11,872 Icelandic children born between 1994 and 1996. The children started medication for ADHD at different times between fourth and seventh grades. The findings showed that children who began drug treatment within 12 months of their fourth-grade test declined 0.3 percent in math by the time they took their seventh-grade test, compared with a decline of 9.4 percent in children who began taking medication 25-to-36 months after their fourth-grade test. The data also showed that girls benefited only in mathematics, whereas boys had marginal benefits in math and language arts. "Children who began taking medications immediately after their fourth-grade standardized tests showed the smallest declines in academic performance," said the study's lead author Helga Zoega, PhD, Post Doctoral Fellow of Epidemiology at Mount Sinai's Institute for Translational Epidemiology. "The effect was greater in girls than boys and also greater for children who did poorly on their fourth grade test." Stimulants are widely used in the United States as a therapeutic option for children with inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity associated with ADHD. The medications are less frequently used in Europe, although their use in Iceland most closely resembles the U.S. Long-term follow-up studies of stimulant use and academic performance are scarce, according to the researchers.
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