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Tag: Autism

Recipe For Hope Campaign

After a long break from blogging, I am back! During this break, I visited my family in India and as always the trip was awesome. Getting back to blogging, there’s lots of catching up to be done as lots have happened in the science world over the past month. Without any further delay lets get started.

During the past few years lots of research has been done in understanding Autism, but still lots more to be done and good research needs funding. Along with research, its also important to raise awareness about autism spectrum related disorders and help out families affected by autism. Autism Science Foundation aims to achieve these objectives and needs support of generous donors. During this season of giving, you have got an opportunity to be part of Autism Science Foundation’s RecipeForHope campaign. Visit their website and helpout in whatever way you can. Happy Giving!!

Leave a Comment December 10, 2010

Learning While Sleeping- Infants Can Do That

How do infants learn so fast? When do they get time to gather all the new information from the surroundings when most of the time they are sleeping soundly? Well, the new study by researchers at Univ of Florida and Columbia University have found some answers to these questions. Newborns sleep 16-18 hours during the day but even when they are asleep, they keep gathering information from the surroundings semi-consciously and even keep learning from the new information- the new study suggests. So, while you think the baby is fast asleep, it’s learning too. Talk about multi-tasking!

“We found a basic form of learning in sleeping newborns, a type of learning that may not be seen in sleeping adults,” said Dana Byrd, a research affiliate in psychology at UF who collaborated with a team of scientists.“Sleeping newborns are better learners, better ‘data sponges’ than we knew,” she said. [UF News]

In the new study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dana Byrd and colleagues studied the learning behavior of sleeping infants. All the 26 infants in the study were 10-73 hours old. Researchers played simple tones/beeps followed by gentle puff of air on their eyelids. Infants responded to the puff of air by squeezing their eyes. After 20 minutes of repeated experiment, majority of the infants (24 out of 26) squeezed their eyes when the beep was introduced, even without the presence of air puff. This shows that the infants learnt to relate the beep with the air puff and responded to it in anticipation of the airpuff, and all this they learnt during the sleep, in just 20 minutes!! Also a change in brain activity was measured using EEG confirming the learning process. This new study can be useful in understanding and identifying developmental disorders  including autism and dyslexia.“This methodology opens up research areas into potentially detecting high risk populations, those who show abnormalities in the neural systems underlying this form of learning,” Byrd said. “These would include siblings of individuals with autism and siblings of those with dyslexia.”[UF News]. Here is abstract of the new study:

Newborn infants must rapidly adjust their physiology and behavior to the specific demands of the novel postnatal environment. This adaptation depends, at least in part, on the infant’s ability to learn from experiences. We report here that infants exhibit learning even while asleep. Bioelectrical activity from face and scalp electrodes was recorded from neonates during an eye movement conditioning procedure in which a tone was followed by a puff of air to the eye. Sleeping newborns rapidly learned the predictive relationship between the tone and the puff. Additionally, in the latter part of training, these infants exhibited a frontally maximum positive EEG slow wave possibly reflecting memory updating. As newborns spend most of their time sleeping, the ability to learn about external stimuli in the postnatal environment during nonawake states may be crucial for rapid adaptation and infant survival. Furthermore, because eyelid conditioning reflects functional cerebellar circuitry, this method potentially offers a unique approach for early identification of infants at risk for a range of developmental disorders including autism and dyslexia.

Fifer et al.

Also thanks to Flickr user peasap for this awesome picture of his daughter and allowing it to be used under Creative Commons License.

Leave a Comment May 19, 2010


Here is a very cute, real-life interview between a 12 -year old Joshua Littman, who has Asperger Syndrome, and his mother Sarah. You will enjoy this beautiful Mother-Son conversation. This conversation is a part of the movement called StoryCorps with a simple idea of sharing and recording life-stories of everyday people; basically a conversation between two people who are important to each other and preserve these stories for everyone to listen. Till now about 50,000 such stories have been recorded and is weekly broadcast on NPR’s Morning Edition. Some of these stories will be made into animations and will be broadcast as a documentary on PBS during Aug-Sep 2010. The above Q&A is one of those animated stories. Here is synopsis by PBS about this animation as well us upcoming documentary:


The groundbreaking public radio project StoryCorps will enter into the world of television for the first time with a series of animated shorts that will air on POV later this summer. Q&A is a three-minute film featuring the audio recording of Joshua Littman, a 12-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome, interviewing his mother, Sarah. Joshua’s unique questions and Sarah’s loving, unguarded answers reveal a beautiful relationship that reminds us of the best — and the most challenging — parts of being a mother. (4 minutes)

Millions of Americans currently listen to StoryCorps award-winning radio broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition. By pairing the voices and stories from its radio segments with imaginative new animations, StoryCorps will produce six of its most beloved stories to follow long-form POV documentaries in August and September. Q&A will be broadcast after The Edge of Dreaming.

1 Comment May 6, 2010

Autism Research

Autism related disorders are on rise. CDC reports that currently in US about 1% of the kids are affected by Autism and this number has increased in recent years. Data suggests that boys have more tendency to have Autism than a girl. Increase in number may also be attributed to more awareness among parents and physicians in diagnosing Autism and separating Autism related disorders from other disabilities. Today is Autism awareness day and I found this interesting article on Autism Speaks website which mentions important Autism related research advances in past year. Here is the link.      Photo:Autism Speaks

1 Comment April 2, 2010

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of mind

A very motivating talk by Dr. Temple  Grandin who was diagnosed  with Autism in childhood and is noted for her animal welfare works and autism advocacy. Recently an HBO film titled ” Temple Grandin” was released based on her life and work.

Leave a Comment February 25, 2010

Autism and Animal Therapy

I was reading about Autism and came across these videos about animal therapy and how it helps autistic kids in communicating. I have personally visited one of the Autism centers in India and have seen how they use animal therapy to help  out autistic kids. The organization “Prasanna Autism Center “ in Pune is doing incredible job in raising awareness about Autism in India. Hats off to people like Mrs Godbole (founder of Prasanna Autism center) who are true heroes and doing real grass root level work. I hope maybe one of the Asha chapters can support their activities, would be a great learning experience for the volunteers.

1 Comment February 25, 2010


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