By the Numbers: Black neuroscience audio system, mildly efficient CBT, autism’s diagnostic odyssey | Spectrum
Illustration by Laurène Boglio
Welcome to this month’s edition of the By the Numbers newsletter. At Spectrum, we do our best to summarize the latest in autism research. Sometimes the best summary is a chart or map. In this newsletter we put interesting new research results in a nutshell, which are conveyed most concisely through data visualizations.
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Since the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, the percentage of black moderators at neuroscience conferences has only increased by 3 percentage points, according to a new analysis.
“Unfortunately, it was about what I expected,” says study researcher Lewis Wheaton, associate professor of biological sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
For the study, Wheaton compared the proportion of black moderators at 18 neuroscience conferences held from May 2019 to late January 2020 with 18 meetings held between October 2020 and late May 2021. Only three conferences in the previous period had black moderators, and black scholars made up 1.2 percent of the total speakers. By the end of May 2021, these numbers had risen only marginally: 7 out of 18 conferences had black moderators, who made up 4.2 percent of the total.
The results appeared in Nature Neuroscience in November.
According to a meta-analysis of 19 randomized clinical trials, children with autism tend to find cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) less effective than their parents and clinicians in managing their anxiety.
The finding, based on data from 833 autistic children up to the age of 18, raises concerns about how clinical studies measure anxiety in young people and who benefits from CBT.
“The basic question we have to ask ourselves is, if it works, who will it work for?” Says Principal Investigator Shivani Sharma, Head of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK. “Because it’s really weird that there should be such a difference between the clinician’s ratings, the parent’s ratings, and then the person’s ratings, their own ratings.”
Studies show that talk therapy in non-autistic children is effective in treating anxiety and depression. It was also specially adapted for autistic children. The meta-analysis confirms that on average, CBT reduces anxiety in autistic children. However, it also underlines the wide range of variation in effect sizes between the studies. The results were published in BMC Psychology in October.
Autism diagnoses in the United States now precede developmental services and interventions, according to a new study based on parental responses.
The analysis included data from 2,303 autistic children, ages 2-17 years old, from the National Survey of Children’s Health, which asks parents questions about the children in their household. The selected participants, divided into three groups according to their age, either had an early intervention plan or had received special benefits to meet developmental needs.
In the oldest children, who were 12 to 17 years old at the time of the survey, the diagnosis was made at about 5½ years on average. Your first intervention or development aid took place around the age of 5.
In contrast, the youngest cohort aged 2 to 5 years was diagnosed at around 2½ years of age and began initial intervention or aid at around the same age.
The results are based on parents’ answers to a question: How old was your child when a doctor or other health care provider first said they had autism? – The results therefore likely tend to be of a younger age than if the researchers had used clinical diagnoses. The results were published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health in October.
Equal: The likelihood of obesity in autistic children ages 10-17 compared to non-autistic children. The analysis, published in October in the Disability and Health Journal, is based on 911 autistic and 26,246 non-autistic children. The data was adjusted for age, gender, race, geographic location, and household income. The results contradict previous studies of obesity in autistic children.
Half: The proportion that antipsychotic prescriptions for Medicaid-registered teenagers 21 years of age and younger in Philadelphia decreased between 2014 and 2018. However, about half of these prescriptions are still given for off-label conditions, particularly attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression. according to a study published in BMC Psychiatry in October.
6.4 percent: The percentage of children of women with diabetes who were later diagnosed with psychiatric conditions, including autism. The results, which are based on more than 2.4 million babies born in Denmark between 1978 and 2016, show an association between maternal diabetes and an increased risk of schizophrenia and intellectual disability. The analysis appeared on the JAMA Network Open in October.
36 percent: The increased likelihood of autism for a child with strabismus (misaligned eyes), based on data from more than 327,000 people with eye disorders in South Korea. Strabismus, which is treatable, has also been associated with an increased risk of developmental disorder and a decreased risk of tic disorder. The results appeared in Graefes Archives for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology in October.
25 percent: The proportion of children with tuberous sclerosis diagnosed with autism at a 36-month doctor’s appointment found a study of 138 children published in the Annals of Neurology in October.
75 percent: The proportion of autistic people covered by Medicaid who will receive behavioral therapy after their diagnosis. According to an analysis of the insurance claims for 36,000 people, this is slightly higher than for those with private insurance (72 percent). People with Medicaid policyholders also took at least one drug more often than those with private policy (62 percent versus 59 percent). The results appeared in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in October.
Quote this article: https://doi.org/10.53053/VWUQ5357