Dramatic increase in autism prevalence parallels explosion of research into its biology and causes

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Comments on the articles by Katsuaki Suzuki et al. (see record 2013-16351-009), Christine Ecker et al. (see record 2013-16351-010) and Heather E. Volk (see record 2013-16351-011). Ecker et al. use new analysis methods with magnetic resonance imaging data to elucidate the nature of increased cortical volume in autism. They examine both cortical thickness and surface area, parameters contributing to cortical volume that have different genetic and developmental bases. icroglial activation can occur as a result of brain insult and, as Suzuki et al. indicate, may reflect both neurotoxic and neuroprotective effects on the brain. Abnormal microglial activation could be a cause of or response to the atypical neural development associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In the third article on autism published in this issue, Volk et al. examine the relationship between traffic-related air pollution and autism in 279 autism cases and 245 controls. Although this is not the first study to report an association between air pollution and autism risk, the present study is notable for its regional measurement of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. These articles point to an urgent need for more research on prenatal and early postnatal brain development in autism, with a focus on how genes and environmental risk factors combine to increase risk for ASD. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

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  • Geraldine Dawson

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