Tag: autism

February/March 2017 Writing for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Prior to leaving my position at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute in early December 2016, I wrote the following stories which were later published in February and March 2017:

Ring Chromosome Study to Address Neurodevelopment and DNA Looping

Powering Up Mitochondria Could Boost Military and Civilian Health

Seeing the Unseen to Change the Picture for Lymphatic Disorders

Childhood Cancer Research Effort Shoots for the Moon

CHOP Expert Advises Blue Ribbon Panel for National Cancer Moonshot Initiative

Pooling Clinical Data Aids Patient-Reported Outcomes

Leading the Way by Harnessing ‘Big Data’ to Help Little Patients

Making Headway in Understanding Autism in the Brain

Dynamic Cancer Trial Closes the Loop Between Lab and Clinic

Entrepreneurial Spirit Revving Up Pediatric Research at CHOP

CHOP’s Innovative Spina Bifida Fetal Surgery Grows Up

December 2016/January 2017 Writing for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

I wrote the following stories published in December 2016 and January 2017 by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute:

Q&A with Sage Myers: How a National System of Health Data Can Improve Care

CHOP Research In the News: Hypertension, Cancer Survivors’ Parents, Breastfeeding, Antibiotics, Allergies

Frankly, My Dear, That’s Clear to an Expert: A Q&A on ‘Frank’ Presentations of Autism

Our 12 Top Stories Show Great Things Happened for Children’s Health in 2016

A Look Back at 2016: A Banner Year for Pediatric Research at CHOP

Researchers Find Compelling Preclinical Evidence for High-Risk Leukemia Therapies

Trio of Studies Shows Oral Antibiotics Are As Good As IV Antibiotics After Discharge

Neuroblastoma Genetics Study Seeks to Spell Out Structural Errors

Transformational Science: Q&A with Douglas Wallace, PhD, Winner of Franklin Medal

November 2016 Writing for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

I wrote the following articles published in November 2016 by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute:

Linking Patients and Data, Medicine and Science: CAVATICA Data Analysis Platform Launches

Untangling Attention Difficulties in Autism

Smart Robotic Toy Gym Could Identify Early Signs of Babies’ Developmental Delay

Cellular Energy Flaws Studied as Contributor to Schizophrenia

A ‘Critical Mass’ of Mitochondrial Disease Research Accelerates Treatment Quest

CHOP Research In the News: Body and Mind, Stayin’ Alive, ADHD Guidelines, Innovation Leadership

Q&A: How Pediatricians Can Help Suburban Families in Poverty

CHOP Research In the News: From Good Starts to Young Adult Transitions

CHOP Honors Superhuman Abilities of Clinical Research Coordinators

New Brain Study Tailored for Nonverbal Children on the Autism Spectrum

Originally published in Bench to Bedside, the CHOP Research monthly publication.

I composed this original article based on interviews with the investigators.

Excerpt:

The children who speak least — or not at all — are rarely represented in cutting-edge brain imaging research on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia aim to change that with a new study enrolling children with ASD who are minimally verbal or nonverbal.

“This is really an underserved community who have not been given the opportunity to participate in research,” said Timothy Roberts, PhD, vice chair of research in the Department of Radiology at CHOP and a professor of Radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “More importantly, the results of the research are not directly applicable to them, so even if we developed a drug for ASD impairments led by our biomarkers, we wouldn’t know if this treatment really was good for individuals with ASD with more limited verbal and cognitive ability.”

Dr. Roberts and colleagues from CHOP’s Center for Autism Research want to know whether certain aspects of neural rhythms and timing of neural firing that they found to be characteristic of ASD in previous studies, using noninvasive brain imaging called magnetoencephalography (MEG), are indeed common across the spectrum.

“When neural activity is happening, it produces electrical and magnetic fields,” said J. Christopher Edgar, PhD, a co-leader of the study and a clinical neuropsychologist and brain imaging researcher in the Department of Radiology at CHOP. “We use this machine to measure the magnetic field. We do that to look at brain function.”

The neural biomarkers that Dr. Edgar and Dr. Roberts have found correlate with the level of clinical impairment in the children they have studied to date, particularly in the realm of language ability.

“There is a scientific question: Does this correlation extend into this nonverbal and minimally verbal population in a continuous way, or is it a separate disorder?” Dr. Roberts said. “I suppose a fundamental question is: Is the autism spectrum continuous or discrete in terms of these brain markers?”

Researchers Ask How Children With Autism Communicate Pain

Originally published in Bench to Bedside, the CHOP Research monthly publication.

I composed this original article based on an interview with the investigator.

Excerpt:

When children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have acute medical needs, such as a broken bone or appendicitis, they are as likely to experience pain as any other child. But social and communication differences associated with ASD may cause clinical caregivers to miss cues showing that pain. This may compromise timely and accurate assessment and treatment. Recognizing this challenge, researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia conducted a qualitative study that suggests clinicians should be prepared to ask children on the spectrum about pain in different ways.

The interdisciplinary study team set out to learn more about how these youth express and describe the experience of pain. They enrolled participants with an ASD diagnosis who came to CHOP for surgery and whose verbal language proficiency was sufficient to complete interviews about their pain during their hospital stay after their operation. The results were published in January in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

Studying the Brain’s Fundamental Drum Beat to Understand Autism

Originally published in Bench to Bedside, the CHOP Research monthly publication

I composed this original article based on an interview with the investigator.

Excerpt:

A drum beat coordinating brain activity and thus organizing the music of life emerges from deep inside the human brain. This electromagnetic neural pulse —eight to 12 beats per second — is known as the resting-state alpha rhythm.

“Alpha rhythms may be the most fundamental brain rhythm, involved in coordinating brain processes from those as simple as hearing tones and those as complex as consciousness,” said  J. Christopher Edgar, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist and brain imaging researcher in the Department of Radiology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Researchers have known for some time that electromagnetic (neural) brain activity is different in individuals on the autism spectrum. In a series of recent studies, Dr. Edgar and colleagues have shown that the resting-state alpha rhythm is stronger among individuals on the autism spectrum, and that stronger alpha rhythms are associated with more severe clinical symptoms.

With a new grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Edgar will use state-of-the-art noninvasive brain imaging called magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanning to measure brain activities, including alpha rhythms, and magnetic resonance imaging to obtain structural brain measures in adolescents with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD). He aims to find out why that metaphorical drum beat, setting the pace for the activities of other players or different parts of the brain, sounds different in children on the autism spectrum.

Universal Autism Screening in Young Children Under Question

Originally published on Cornerstone, the CHOP Research Blog

I wrote the introduction and edited the body of this article based on a Q&A published by Medscape.

Excerpt:

Many parents and clinicians are in a bind between conflicting recommendations about autism. Newly issued recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPTSF) suggest that current evidence is not strong enough to justify universal screening for the condition in young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics takes an opposite stance and supports such screenings— typically a structured parental survey and short interview about a child’s behavior — for toddlers at 18 and 24 months of age.

How are autism experts weighing in about this conflict? Two experts from the Center for Autism Research at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, David Mandell, ScD, the center’s associate director, and Juhi Pandey, PhD, a pediatric neuropsychologist, participated in a Medscape Q&A to answer many key questions. In their in-depth conversation with the publication, Dr. Mandell and Dr. Pandey discussed the role of early autism screening compared to comprehensive clinical evaluation, as well as the value of early intervention for children who show signs of developmental delay on a screening.