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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brain Research News

Previous posts have noted how the media cover research on early detection. Here is an appropriately cautious story from HealthDay:
Electroencephalogram (EEG), a test that shows the electrical activity of the brain, might be used to spot autism in children, a new study suggests.
The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard University Medical School, looked at the synchronization of brain activity across different brain regions, as measured by EEG.
"These scientists used sensors to record electrical brain activity across many different regions on the scalp," explained Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer at the advocacy group Autism Speaks. "They then looked at the extent to which brain activity from one region was synchronized with brain activity from another region," a phenomenon known as "EEG coherence," said Dawson, who was not involved in the research.

The research was conducted at Boston Children's Hospital and was published online June 25 in the journal BMC Medicine.
The use of EEG-based testing may help diagnose autism in children and may improve early detection in infants, leading to more effective treatments and coping strategies, the researchers said.
The New York Times reports on the aftermath of the freezer failure, citing the example of a deceased ASD person whose brain was part of the collection.
Clare True’s was one of 150 specimens stored in a Harvard brain bank that was ruined because of a freezer failure, doctors acknowledged this month. The loss, while a setback for scientists studying disorders like Huntington’s disease,Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia, especially mortified those working on autism, for it exposed what is emerging as the largest obstacle to progress: the shortage of high-quality autopsied brains from young people with a well-documented medical history.
The malfunction reduced by a third Harvard’s frozen autism collection, the world’s largest. A bank maintained by the University of Maryland has 52, and there are smaller collections elsewhere. Altogether there are precious few, given escalating research demands. The loss at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center makes donations from parents like the Trues only more urgent.
“There’s just no question that human tissue is the gold standard for research, said Dr. Gerald D. Fischbach, a professor emeritus at Columbia and director of life sciences at theSimons Foundation, which promotes autism research. “You absolutely need it to answer some very basic questions.”
The Harvard fiasco, first reported by The Boston Globe, has accelerated efforts by advocacy groups to reach out to families who might donate, said Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation. “I made calls as soon as I heard what happened,” she said.
Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer at Autism Speaks — the group that administers the autism brain donations at the Harvard bank — and a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, said, “This is indeed a setback, but it has motivated us more than ever to rebuild this precious resource.”