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Autistic toddlers seem more likely to have a brain area linked with facial recognition and emotions, University of North Carolina researchers reported. This brain abnormality, known as an enlarged amygdala, appears to be tied to the ability to share attention and experiences with others, said the report, which was published in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. The study comes on the heels of a report published online last week in the journal Nature that found that the inheritance of abnormal mutations of two common genes can raise the risk for developing autism. “[This study] adds clarification to a potential fundamental brain mechanism underlying social deficits in autism. It provides potential insights into how this behavior develops,” said lead researcher Dr. Joseph Piven, a professor of psychiatry. “We found enlargement of the amygdala in very young children with autism at 2 years of age, and followed up again at ... keep reading »
Time Magazine interviewed Jenny McCarthy, the former Playboy model and host of MTV’s The Jenny McCarthy Show, who has since become a best-selling author who writes about autism. Her seven-year old son Evan, who developed autism early in life, is the catalyst for her writing career, and she’s now working on her fifth book, coauthored with autism specialist Dr. Jerry Kartzinel — titled Healing and Preventing Autism. McCarthy, an advocate for safer vaccines, has long argued that autism rates have climbed with infant vaccination rates, saying Evan was “handed to [her] pre-vaccinated with a Band-Aid on his foot.” She talks about managing the frustration of being a mother to an autistic child, and how parents can balance their child’s special needs against the needs of their other children. Read the full interview at Time keep reading »
Wednesday’s New York Times Well column, written by Tara Parker-Pope, talks about celebrities and mental health. It’s a timely topic, as Ms. Pope points out. Lately, celebrities from Britney Spears to Dennis Quaid have spoken out on behalf of medical conditions in an effort to raise awareness, which in turn, also makes good tabloid copy. As many of you might have picked up on, there’s more prevalance of disabilities on primetime TV, particularly non-verbal learning disabilities. Grey’s Anatomy (perhaps in an effort to boost lagging ratings) has just introduced a surgeon, Virginia Dixon, who has Asperger’s Syndrome — a form of high-functioning autism — and a popular resident, Izzie Stevens, may have a brain tumor. Boston Legal’s Denny Crane is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Several other primetime characters are also suspect of falling somewhere along the autism spectrum, including Dr. Temperance Brennan of Bones, two children of Vic ... keep reading »
The Black Balloon, a movie opening today in New York City and Los Angeles, is about an Australian family who has a severly autistic son, Charlie, and must find ways to cope with his emotions and antics. Calling the movie “harrowing,” New York Times movie critic Stephen Holden asks: “Would you be able to cope? … Would you find in yourself the seemingly infinite reserves of love and patience possessed by the Mollisons, the movie’s itinerant, highly stressed army family who have just moved to the suburbs of Sydney? Maybe not.” The Black Balloon stars Luke Ford as Charlie, the autistic teenager; Rhys Wakefield as his brother Tommy, and the Oscar-nominated Toni Collette as their mother. With a tag line “Normal is Relative,” The Black Balloon is a story about fitting in, discovering love and accepting your family, no matter the price. keep reading »