Abstract: Among epigenetic factors leading to increased prevalence of juvenile neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism spectrum disorder, exposure to metals, such as lead (Pb) have led to conflicting results. The aim of the present study was to determine the levels of Pb in the urine of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared with typically developing children (TD) age- and sex-matched, and to analyze any association between core symptoms of ASD, special diets, supplements intake or prescription drugs and the concentration of Pb. The study was performed in a group of children with ASD (n = 35, average age 7.4 ± 0.5 years) and TD (n = 34, average age 7.7 ± 0.9 years). Measurement of lead in urine was performed by atomic absorption spectrometry; symptoms of ASD were analyzed by diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DMS-IV) using the questionnary ADI-R. Careful clinical evaluation was also undertaken and statistical analysis was done taking into account any possible confounding factor.
Abstract: A considerable number of cognitive processes depend on the integration of multisensory information. The brain integrates this information, providing a complete representation of our surrounding world and giving us the ability to react optimally to the environment. Infancy is a period of great changes in brain structure and function that are reflected by the increase of processing capacities of the developing child. However, it is unclear if the optimal use of multisensory information is present early in childhood or develops only later, with experience. The first part of this review has focused on the typical development of multisensory integration (MSI). We have described the two hypotheses on the developmental process of MSI in neurotypical infants and children, and have introduced MSI and its neuroanatomic correlates. The second section has discussed the neurodevelopmental trajectory of MSI in cognitively-challenged infants and children. A few studies have brought to light various difficulties to integrate sensory information in children with a neurodevelopmental disorder. Consequently, we have exposed certain possible neurophysiological relationships between MSI deficits and neurodevelopmental disorders, especially dyslexia and attention deficit disorder with/without hyperactivity.
Abstract: Folate is a water-soluble vitamin that is critical for nucleotide synthesis and can modulate methylation of DNA by altering one-carbon metabolism. Previous studies have shown that folate status during pregnancy is associated with various congenital defects including the risk of aberrant neural tube closure. Maternal exposure to a methyl supplemented diet also can alter DNA methylation and gene expression, which may influence the phenotype of offspring. We investigated if higher gestational folic acid (FA) in the diet dysregulates the expression of genes in the cerebellum of offspring in C57BL/6 J mice. One week before gestation and throughout the pregnancy, groups of dams were supplemented with FA either at 2 mg/kg or 20 mg/kg of diet. Microarray analysis was used to investigate the genome wide gene expression profile in the cerebellum from day old pups. Our results revealed that exposure to the higher dose FA diet during gestation dysregulated expression of several genes in the cerebellum of both male and female pups. Several transcription factors, imprinted genes, neuro-developmental genes and genes associated with autism spectrum disorder exhibited altered expression levels. These findings suggest that higher gestational FA potentially dysregulates gene expression in the offspring brain and such changes may adversely alter fetal programming and overall brain development.
Abstract: Oxytocin (OT) is a nonapeptide hormone that is secreted into the brain and blood circulation. OT has not only classical neurohormonal roles in uterine contraction and milk ejection during the reproductive phase in females, but has also been shown to have new pivotal neuromodulatory roles in social recognition and interaction in both genders. A single administration of OT through nasal spray increases mutual recognition and trust in healthy subjects and psychiatric patients, suggesting that OT is a potential therapeutic drug for autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and some other psychiatric disorders. Although the mechanism is not well understood, it is likely that OT can be transported into the brain where it activates OT receptors to exert its function in the brain. However, the amount transported into the brain may be low. To ensure equivalent effects, an OT analog with long-lasting and effective blood-brain barrier penetration properties would be beneficial for use as a therapeutic drug. Here, we designed and synthesized a new oxytocin analog, lipo-oxytocin-1 (LOT-1), in which two palmitoyl groups are conjugated at the amino group of the cysteine9 residue and the phenolic hydroxyl group of the tyrosine8 residue of the OT molecule. To determine whether LOT-1 actually has an effect on the central nervous system, we examined its effects in a CD157 knockout model mouse of the non-motor psychiatric symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Similar to OT, this analog rescued anxiety-like behavior and social avoidance in the open field test with the social target in a central arena 30 min after intraperitoneal injection in CD157 knockout mice. When examined 24 h after injection, the mice treated with LOT-1 displayed more recovery than those given OT. The results suggest that LOT-1 has a functional advantage in recovery of social behavioral impairment, such as those caused by neurodegenerative diseases, autism spectrum disorders, and schizophrenia.
Abstract: Language and face processing develop in similar ways during the first year of life. Early in the first year of life, infants demonstrate broad abilities for discriminating among faces and speech. These discrimination abilities then become tuned to frequently experienced groups of people or languages. This process of perceptual development occurs between approximately 6 and 12 months of age and is largely shaped by experience. However, the mechanisms underlying perceptual development during this time, and whether they are shared across domains, remain largely unknown. Here, we highlight research findings across domains and propose a top-down/bottom-up processing approach as a guide for future research. It is hypothesized that perceptual narrowing and tuning in development is the result of a shift from primarily bottom-up processing to a combination of bottom-up and top-down influences. In addition, we propose word learning as an important top-down factor that shapes tuning in both the speech and face domains, leading to similar observed developmental trajectories across modalities. Importantly, we suggest that perceptual narrowing/tuning is the result of multiple interacting factors and not explained by the development of a single mechanism.