Community Newsletter: Autistic Motherhood, Synaptic Imbalance, Why Neurodiversity is Important for Researchers | Spectrum

Illustration by Laurène Boglio

Hello and welcome to the community newsletter! I’m your host, Chelsey B. Coombs,, Spectrumengagement editor.

Our first post of the week comes from Autism Research Laboratory in Sheffield at the University of Sheffield in the UK. The lab published a link to its new work in the journal Autism, “Intense Relationship and Love: The Experiences of Autistic Mothers.”

The study was small and included only nine autistic women with children aged 5 to 15 years. All nine had at least one child they believed to be autistic. But the study “represents the first systematic detailed analysis of the experiences of autistic mothers presented from their own perspective,” the researchers wrote.

Semi-structured interviews with women revealed that motherhood was enjoyable and beneficial to them and that they had strong ties to their children. But their experience also differed from the experience of neurotypical mothers, in part because it involved negotiating other people’s misunderstandings and condemning and rejecting. To better serve these women, professionals must learn how autism presents itself in adulthood and how women mask their traits, the researchers wrote.

Jodie Smitten, a graduate student at the University of Sheffield Hallam in the UK, highlighted the part of the newspaper that she considered “so touching”. It said, “The findings show that service providers would benefit from training, ideally led by autistic individuals, on how autism presents itself in adulthood, masking, potential mismatch between emotional experience and facial expressions, sensory needs (especially in pregnancy) , and the problem of double empathy. “

Amy Pearson, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sunderland in the UK, wrote that it was “a pleasure to see it in the press”.

Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University in Massachusetts, tweeted: “Why does all the best research on #autism come from the UK? I love this paper! “

Our next topic this week is from Laura Andreae, a senior lecturer in developmental neurobiology at King’s College London in the UK Summarized her new work published in Molecular psychiatry: “Synaptic imbalance specific for cell type and disturbed homeostatic plasticity in the cortical circuits of ASD-associated Chd8 haploinsufficient mice.”

The group wanted to study synaptic transmission in the prefrontal cortex of mice that lost one copy of the CHD8 gene. Mutations in CHD8 are strongly associated with autism. Mice had an imbalance in their excitatory and inhibitory transmission, as well as reduced neuronal output with reduced spontaneous burst – effects that varied according to cell type.

“These findings therefore directly imply a CHD8 mutation in a disorder of ASD-relevant circuits in the cortex,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

Andreae also posed the question in her thread: “Could the way neurons respond to network changes be a key differentiator for different mutations in the ASD risk gene ??!”

Wei Wen, a postdoctoral researcher at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, wrote that this was a “cool feature of the developmental deficits of homeostatic plasticity in the PFC of Chd8 +/- mice!”

The Grubb Lab, led by Matt Grubb, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at King’s College London, posted on Twitter that “It’s fantastic to see this wonderful story in the wild”.

Beatriz Rico, a professor of developmental neurobiology at King’s College London, wrote that the “beautiful” article was a “tour de force”.

Our last tweet is coming Kathy Leadbitter, a researcher at the University of Manchester in the UK, whose new paper, “Autistic Self-Advocacy and the Neurodiversity Movement: Implications for Research and Practice of Early Autism Intervention,” was published in Limits in psychology.

Writing this article, Leadbitter tweeted, “I felt like I took things off my chest!”

She and her colleagues believe that researchers and those involved in autism intervention must understand and connect with autistic self-advocates and the neurodiversity movement.

“There is a need for greater reflection and articulation about how intervention practices align with the neurodiversity framework and greater emphasis within intervention programs on natural development processes, coping strategies, autonomy, and well-being,” they write.

Lorcan Kenny, head of research at Britain’s national autism research charity, Autistica, recommended that people read the article “if you are an autism researcher interested in interventions or if you are an autistic person who is embarrassed by the word intervention.”

Nicola Stewart, a school counselor in the UK who works with autistic people, said it was “fantastic work that brings together current research and practice, calling for more autistic engagement”.

“It’s great that things are changing the way autism research is conducted and showing respect to autistic people,” he tweeted. Caroline Hearst, an autism education trainer at Autism Matters in the UK

Speech therapist specialist Dominique Hill He replied: “Reducing ‘autistic behavior’ does not necessarily improve an individual’s quality of life. Person-centered care is so important. “

That’s it for this week’s edition Spectrumcommunity newsletter. If you have suggestions for interesting posts on social media that you have seen in the field of autism research this week, feel free to email me at [email protected] See you next week!