Advances in Autism Research: Series II

A special issue of Brain Sciences (ISSN 2076-3425). This special issue belongs to the section "Developmental Neuroscience".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (5 August 2021) | Viewed by 34517

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Guest Editor
Department of Child Psychiatry and Psychopharmacology, IRCCS Stella Maris Foundation, 56018 Pisa, Italy; University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy
Interests: Autism; Neurodevelopmental Disorders; Psychology; Psychoterapy; Neurosciences; Precision Medicine
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent years, diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have significantly increased. According to the DSM-V, ASD are a heterogeneous set of neurodevelopmental disorders characterised by deficits in social communications and interaction, plus the presence of restricted interests and repetitive behaviours.

This Special Issue of Brain Sciences, titled 'Advances in Autism Research: Series II', which is the second edition of 'Advances in Autism Research', aims to present a collection of studies detailing the most recent advancements in the field of autism research. Authors are invited to submit cutting-edge research and reviews that address a broad range of topics related to ASD including the following: epidemiology, screening, early diagnosis, evidence-based intervention, comorbidities, new technologies (e.g., eye-tracking, EEG, ECG, MR, wearable sensors, VR, robotic research), adaptive behaviours, sensory profiles, language, cognitive priors, biomarkers, study protocol, ethical and legal issues related to ASD, autism and health, and the transition to adulthood. In particular, we aim to present advances in autism research that may have a significant translational effect on the field of clinical services.

We invite you read the Special Issue "Advances in Autism Research" at mdpi.com/si/34051

Dr. Antonio Narzisi

Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • epidemiology 
  • screening 
  • diagnosis 
  • intervention 
  • technologies

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Editorial

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3 pages, 187 KiB  
Editorial
Advances in Autism Research: Series II
by Antonio Narzisi
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(2), 332; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13020332 - 15 Feb 2023
Viewed by 1107
Abstract
“Advances in Autism Research: Series II” is a continuation of the important Special Issue (SI) published in 2020 that collected 50 articles [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research: Series II)

Research

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18 pages, 566 KiB  
Article
Feasibility and Outcomes of the Early Start Denver Model Delivered within the Public Health System of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Italian Region
by Raffaella Devescovi, Vissia Colonna, Andrea Dissegna, Giulia Bresciani, Marco Carrozzi and Costanza Colombi
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(9), 1191; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11091191 - 10 Sep 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 2396
Abstract
The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is an evidence-based early intervention model for young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is crucial to investigate the feasibility of the ESDM in community settings in contexts that are culturally different from American universities in [...] Read more.
The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is an evidence-based early intervention model for young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is crucial to investigate the feasibility of the ESDM in community settings in contexts that are culturally different from American universities in which the model was originally developed. The aim was to further evaluate the effectiveness of the ESDM delivered within the Italian community setting at low intensity. We compared a group aged 19 to 43 months receiving the ESDM for 2 h per week over the course of 1 year with a concurrent, comparable, non-randomized control group receiving treatment as usual (TAU). Children were evaluated at baseline (T0) and after 6 months (T1) and 12 months (T2) of intervention. Feasibility was evaluated by parent and therapist questionnaires, retention rate, and therapist treatment fidelity. Both groups made similar gains in cognition and language abilities. The ESDM group made larger improvement in domains measured by the ESDM Curriculum Checklist, including communication, social skills, and maladaptive behaviors. Feasibility seemed well supported by retentions, therapists and parent satisfaction, and treatment fidelity. Our study further supports the feasibility of the ESDM implemented within the Italian public health system and suggests a better response in the ESDM-treated group than in the control group. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research: Series II)
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15 pages, 1396 KiB  
Article
The Effect of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Improving Psychological Well-Being in Parents of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Trial
by Flavia Marino, Chiara Failla, Paola Chilà, Roberta Minutoli, Alfio Puglisi, Antonino A. Arnao, Loris Pignolo, Giovambattista Presti, Francesca Pergolizzi, Paolo Moderato, Gennaro Tartarisco, Liliana Ruta, David Vagni, Antonio Cerasa and Giovanni Pioggia
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(7), 880; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11070880 - 30 Jun 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 5029
Abstract
Background: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has been demonstrated as effective in improving psychological well-being in several clinical domains, but there is no evidence regarding the parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Methods: In this randomized controlled trial, we evaluated the [...] Read more.
Background: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has been demonstrated as effective in improving psychological well-being in several clinical domains, but there is no evidence regarding the parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Methods: In this randomized controlled trial, we evaluated the efficacy of the ACT matrix behavioral protocol in comparison to the Parent Training (PT) program, measuring several primary and secondary outcomes prior to and following treatments. Twelve parents were randomly and equally assigned to two demographically matched groups wherein individuals underwent 24 weekly meetings of ACT protocol (experimental group) or conventional PT (control group). Results: Parents enrolled in the ACT protocol demonstrated significant improvement in psychological flexibility, awareness states, personal values in everyday life, and parental stress, whereas reduced scores were elicited in parents’ perceptions of their child’s disruptive behaviors. Conclusions: The results of this randomized controlled trial, if repeated with a large number of subjects, could open the way to include ACT protocols in daily practice to support the development of new parenting skills. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research: Series II)
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17 pages, 7402 KiB  
Article
Use of Empirical Mode Decomposition in ERP Analysis to Classify Familial Risk and Diagnostic Outcomes for Autism Spectrum Disorder
by Lina Abou-Abbas, Stefon van Noordt, James A. Desjardins, Mike Cichonski and Mayada Elsabbagh
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(4), 409; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11040409 - 24 Mar 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2024
Abstract
Event-related potentials (ERPs) activated by faces and gaze processing are found in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the early stages of their development and may serve as a putative biomarker to supplement behavioral diagnosis. We present a novel approach to the [...] Read more.
Event-related potentials (ERPs) activated by faces and gaze processing are found in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the early stages of their development and may serve as a putative biomarker to supplement behavioral diagnosis. We present a novel approach to the classification of visual ERPs collected from 6-month-old infants using intrinsic mode functions (IMFs) derived from empirical mode decomposition (EMD). Selected features were used as inputs to two machine learning methods (support vector machines and k-nearest neighbors (k-NN)) using nested cross validation. Different runs were executed for the modelling and classification of the participants in the control and high-risk (HR) groups and the classification of diagnosis outcome within the high-risk group: HR-ASD and HR-noASD. The highest accuracy in the classification of familial risk was 88.44%, achieved using a support vector machine (SVM). A maximum accuracy of 74.00% for classifying infants at risk who go on to develop ASD vs. those who do not was achieved through k-NN. IMF-based extracted features were highly effective in classifying infants by risk status, but less effective by diagnostic outcome. Advanced signal analysis of ERPs integrated with machine learning may be considered a first step toward the development of an early biomarker for ASD. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research: Series II)
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14 pages, 2816 KiB  
Article
Mini-Basketball Training Program Improves Social Communication and White Matter Integrity in Children with Autism
by Kelong Cai, Qian Yu, Fabian Herold, Zhimei Liu, Jingui Wang, Lina Zhu, Xuan Xiong, Aiguo Chen, Patrick Müller, Arthur F. Kramer, Notger G. Müller and Liye Zou
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(11), 803; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10110803 - 31 Oct 2020
Cited by 26 | Viewed by 4295
Abstract
Impairments in social communication (SC) represent one of the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While previous studies have demonstrated that exercise intervention improves SC in children with ASD, there is currently no neuroscientific evidence supporting its benefits. Therefore, we evaluated the [...] Read more.
Impairments in social communication (SC) represent one of the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While previous studies have demonstrated that exercise intervention improves SC in children with ASD, there is currently no neuroscientific evidence supporting its benefits. Therefore, we evaluated the outcomes of a long-term exercise intervention on SC and white matter integrity (WMI) in children with ASD, and further explored the neural mechanism of exercise intervention on SC in these children. Twenty-nine children aged 3–6 years with ASD were assigned to either exercise group (n = 15) or control group (n = 14). The exercise group received a scheduled mini-basketball training program (5 sessions per week, forty minutes per session) for 12 consecutive weeks, while the control group was instructed to maintain their daily activities. Groups were assessed before and after intervention on SC and WMI. SC scores were lower in the exercise group post-intervention. Compared with the control group, WMI of the exercise group showed higher fractional anisotropy in the body of corpus callosum, fornix, right cerebral peduncle, left posterior limb of internal capsule, right retrolenticular part of internal capsule, left anterior corona radiate and left superior fronto-occipital fasciculus; lower mean diffusivity in the left anterior corona radiate and the bilateral corticospinal tract. Furthermore, increased WMI was associated with lower scores on a measure of social cognition in the overall sample. This study is the first to provide evidence that exercise intervention improves SC and white matter integrity in children with autism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research: Series II)
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16 pages, 2648 KiB  
Article
Comprehensive Analysis of RNA-Seq Gene Expression Profiling of Brain Transcriptomes Reveals Novel Genes, Regulators, and Pathways in Autism Spectrum Disorder
by Md Rezanur Rahman, Maria Cristina Petralia, Rosella Ciurleo, Alessia Bramanti, Paolo Fagone, Md Shahjaman, Lang Wu, Yanfa Sun, Beste Turanli, Kazim Yalcin Arga, Md Rafiqul Islam, Tania Islam and Ferdinando Nicoletti
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(10), 747; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10100747 - 17 Oct 2020
Cited by 36 | Viewed by 7078
Abstract
Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with deficits in social communication ability and repetitive behavior. The pathophysiological events involved in the brain of this complex disease are still unclear. Methods: In this study, we aimed to profile the gene expression [...] Read more.
Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with deficits in social communication ability and repetitive behavior. The pathophysiological events involved in the brain of this complex disease are still unclear. Methods: In this study, we aimed to profile the gene expression signatures of brain cortex of ASD patients, by using two publicly available RNA-seq studies, in order to discover new ASD-related genes. Results: We detected 1567 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) by meta-analysis, where 1194 were upregulated and 373 were downregulated genes. Several ASD-related genes previously reported were also identified. Our meta-analysis identified 235 new DEGs that were not detected using the individual RNA-seq studies used. Some of those genes, including seven DEGs (PAK1, DNAH17, DOCK8, DAPP1, PCDHAC2, and ERBIN, SLC7A7), have been confirmed in previous reports to be associated with ASD. Gene Ontology (GO) and pathways analysis showed several molecular pathways enriched by the DEGs, namely, osteoclast differentiation, TNF signaling pathway, complement and coagulation cascade. Topological analysis of protein–protein interaction of the ASD brain cortex revealed proteomics hub gene signatures: MYC, TP53, HDAC1, CDK2, BAG3, CDKN1A, GABARAPL1, EZH2, VIM, and TRAF1. We also identified the transcriptional factors (TFs) regulating DEGs, namely, FOXC1, GATA2, YY1, FOXL1, USF2, NFIC, NFKB1, E2F1, TFAP2A, HINFP. Conclusion: Novel core genes and molecular signatures involved with ASD were identified by our meta-analysis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research: Series II)
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Review

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10 pages, 391 KiB  
Review
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Review
by Justyna Podgórska-Bednarz and Lidia Perenc
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(7), 916; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11070916 - 11 Jul 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 4785
Abstract
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder determined by a complex of factors (genetic and environmental). On a pathophysiological basis hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been suggested as an effective therapeutic method in ASD, and thus many parents/guardians attempt to treat [...] Read more.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder determined by a complex of factors (genetic and environmental). On a pathophysiological basis hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been suggested as an effective therapeutic method in ASD, and thus many parents/guardians attempt to treat their child with ASD using this method. Therefore, this review aimed to verify the significant therapeutic value of this method for individuals with ASD. The literature review included all articles from the last 5 years (2015–2021) that met the inclusion criteria—both original papers and literature reviews. None of the 10 literature reviews indicated that HBOT was a clearly effective form of therapy in the case of ASD. Two out of four papers presenting the results of the intervention studies also did not recommend the use of this form of therapy in children with ASD. The results of the other two studies were not entirely relevant to the purpose of this review because one study had no control group, while the other study focused solely on auditory processing disorders. A review of the literature on whether HBOT as a therapy significantly affects the symptoms of ASD does not confirm its effectiveness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research: Series II)
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17 pages, 2936 KiB  
Review
Documentary Analysis of the Scientific Literature on Autism and Technology in Web of Science
by Noemí Carmona-Serrano, Jesús López-Belmonte, José-Luis Cuesta-Gómez and Antonio-José Moreno-Guerrero
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(12), 985; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10120985 - 14 Dec 2020
Cited by 24 | Viewed by 4370
Abstract
The objective of the study is to track the progression of the scientific literature on autism and the technology applied to this disorder. A bibliometric methodology has been used, based on a co-word analysis. The Web of Science database was chosen to perform [...] Read more.
The objective of the study is to track the progression of the scientific literature on autism and the technology applied to this disorder. A bibliometric methodology has been used, based on a co-word analysis. The Web of Science database was chosen to perform the analysis of the literature. A unit of analysis of 1048 publications was configured. SciMAT software was used mainly for document analysis. The results indicate that the first studies appeared in 1992, but it was not until 2009 that the research volume increased considerably. The area of knowledge where these studies were compiled was rehabilitation, which marks the truly therapeutic nature of this type of study. One of the authors with the most studies, as well as the most relevant research, was Sarkar, N. Manuscripts were usually research articles written in English. It could be concluded that research in this field of study focused mainly on interventions carried out through the use of technological resources, with students or young people who present with ASD. This line of research, although not the only one, was the most relevant and the one that had aroused the most interest among the scientific community. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research: Series II)
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Other

5 pages, 231 KiB  
Perspective
A Neuro-Phenomenological Perspective on the Autism Phenotype
by Antonio Narzisi and Rosy Muccio
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(7), 914; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11070914 - 10 Jul 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2327
Abstract
In the current paper, we present a view of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) which avoids the typical relational issues, instead drawing on philosophy, in particular Husserlian phenomenology. We begin by following the recent etiological perspectives that suggest a natural predisposition of a part [...] Read more.
In the current paper, we present a view of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) which avoids the typical relational issues, instead drawing on philosophy, in particular Husserlian phenomenology. We begin by following the recent etiological perspectives that suggest a natural predisposition of a part of individuals with ASD towards hypersensitivity and the reduced influence of cognitive priors (i.e., event schemas). Following this perspective, these two characteristics should be considered as a sort of phenomenological a priori that, importantly, could predispose people with ASD towards a spiritual experience, not intended in its religious meaning, but as an attribute of consciousness that consists of being aware of and attentive to what is occurring in the present moment. Potential clinical implications are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Autism Research: Series II)
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