In 2016, the results of a trial led by Professor Jonathan Green from the University of Manchester showed long-term improvement of autism symptoms in children for the first time. But what if we could reduce the severity of these symptoms by acting even earlier? In National Autism Awareness Month, Jonathan describes why the results of his new collaborative study give cause for optimism.
Jonathan with one of his study participants. Image credit: Jonathan Green
Intense scientific work to understand autism and its causes has continued ever since it was first identified over 70 years ago. But good quality research to develop effective interventions has only really accelerated since the turn of the century.
My research focuses on helping parents of children with autism communicate with their child. We work with parents, using video feedback techniques, to help them understand and respond to their child’s communication style.
Oscar Marín. Image credit: David Tett
Last month we launched our new MRC Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders at King’s College London. The centre will be taking a wide-angle look at three very different, but linked, disorders: autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy. We spoke to its Director, Professor Oscar Marín, to find out more.
What do these disorders have in common?
Autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia and many forms of epilepsy are neurodevelopmental disorders. In other words, they all happen when the brain develops in a non-typical way. Changes in brain development, even when subtle, have long-term consequences on brain function. Read more
Declan Murphy (Copyright: King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry)
Professor Declan Murphy studies the link between abnormal brain development and autism. He spoke to Sarah Harrop about leading EU AIMS, the biggest individually-funded autism research project in the world and follow-on from his work on the major MRC-funded study UK AIMS.
Why do autism research?
Autism is much more prevalent than we once thought: we used to think it affected around one in 120 people but we now know it’s more like one in 80. Whether cases are increasing or we’re diagnosing it differently, we’re much more aware that autism must be addressed. Having autism significantly increases your risk for other serious mental health problems such as ADHD, depression and anxiety disorders.
We’re also beginning to understand the enormous cost of autism, both to the individual and to society. In terms of economic burden, it’s the most costly neuropsychiatric disorder currently in the US and the UK. Read more