The mission of the ARC is to understand the biomedical causes of autism spectrum conditions, and develop new and validated methods
for assessment and intervention. The ARC fosters collaboration between scientists in Cambridge University and outside, to accelerate
DSM-5 is now 'set in stone' and will be published in May 2013. Although this manual is primarily designed for creating a
common language for clinical practice, it is also often used in research settings to define the conditions to be studied.
Here we reflect on what the revision may mean for research, and for understanding the nature of autism.
Press release ...
Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) affect one per cent of the general population in Western countries. However, it is
unclear as to whether autism is as prevalent in China. A pilot study conducted by the University of Cambridge’s
Autism Research Centre and Cambridge Institute of Public Health suggests that autism in China is currently
under-diagnosed and may be in line with Western countries at one per cent. This collaboration will enable Cambridge,
CDPF and CUHK to determine whether a one per cent estimate also applies to China.
Recent ARC publications
Studies of prenatal exposure to sex steroid hormones predict autistic traits in children at 18 to 24 and
at 96 months of age. However, it is not known whether postnatal exposure to these hormones has a similar effect.
This study compares prenatal and postnatal sex steroid hormone levels in relation to autistic traits in 18 to
Autism spectrum conditions have a strong genetic component. Atypical sensory sensitivities are one
of the core but neglected features of autism spectrum conditions. GABRB3 is a well-characterised candidate gene
for autism spectrum conditions. In mice, heterozygous Gabrb3 deletion is associated with increased tactile
sensitivity. However, no study has examined if tactile sensitivity is associated with GABRB3 genetic variation in
humans. To test this, we conducted two pilot genetic association studies in the general population, analysing two
phenotypic measures of tactile sensitivity (a parent-report and a behavioural measure) for association with 43 SNPs
Enhanced perception of detail has long been regarded a hallmark of autism spectrum conditions (ASC), but its origins are unknown.
Normal sensitivity on all fundamental perceptual measures—visual acuity, contrast discrimination, and flicker detection is strongly
established in the literature. If individuals with ASC do not have superior low-level vision, how is perception of detail enhanced?
We argue that this apparent paradox can be resolved by considering visual attention, which is known to enhance basic visual sensitivity, resulting
in greater acuity and lower contrast thresholds.
This review examines the role of hormones in the development of social and nonsocial cognition and
the brain. Research findings from human studies designed to elucidate the effects of both prenatal and
postnatal exposure to hormones in children and young adults are summarized. Effects are found to be both
time and dose dependent, with exposure to abnormal hormone levels having a limited impact outside the
“critical window” in development.
Children’s assignment of novel words to nameless objects, over objects whose names they know (mutual exclusivity; ME)
has been described as a driving force for vocabulary acquisition. Despite their ability to use ME to fast-map words
(Preissler & Carey, 2005), children with autism show impaired language acquisition. We aimed to address this puzzle
by building on studies showing that correct referent selection using ME does not lead to word learning unless ostensive
feedback is provided on the child’s object choice (Horst & Samuelson, 2008). We found that although toddlers aged 2
at risk for autism can use ME to choose the correct referent of a word, they do not benefit from feedback for long-term
retention of the word–object mapping. Further, their difficulty using feedback is associated with their smaller receptive
vocabularies. We propose that difficulties learning from social feedback, not lexical principles, limits vocabulary
building during development in children at risk for autism.
Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are a set of pervasive neurodevelopmental conditions
characterized by a wide range of lifelong signs and symptoms. Recent explanatory models of autism propose
abnormal neural connectivity and are supported by studies showing decreased interhemispheric coherence in
individuals with ASC. The first aim of this study was to test the hypothesis of reduced interhemispheric coherence
in ASC, and secondly to investigate specific effects of task performance on interhemispheric coherence in ASC.
Empathy is the lens through which we view others’ emotion expressions, and respond to them. Inthis
study, empathy and facial emotion recognition were investigated in adults with autism spectrum
conditions, parents of a child with ASC and IQ-matched controls. Participants completed a self-report
measure of empathy (the Empathy Quotient[EQ]) and a modified version of the Karolinska Directed Emotional
Faces Task (KDEF) using an online test interface.
Early emerging characteristics of visual orienting have been associated with a wide range of typical and atypical
developmental outcomes. In the current study, we examined the development of visual disengagement in infants at
risk for autism.
Sex is an important factor in the prevalence, incidence, progression, and response to treatment of many
medical conditions, including autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases and psychiatric conditions. Identification of
molecular differences between typical males and females can provide a valuable basis for exploring conditions differentially
affected by sex.
Vision in people with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) is reported to be different from people
without ASC, but the neural level at which the differences begin to occur is not yet known. Here we examine two
variants of a vernier acuity task to determine if differences are evident in early visual processing.
Absolute pitch (AP) and synesthesia are two uncommon cognitive traits that reflect increased neuronal connectivity
and have been anecdotally reported to occur together in an individual. Here we systematically evaluate
the occurrence of synesthesia in a population of 768 subjects with documented AP.