Saturday January 18, 2020

Study: iPhone App Effective for Screening Toddlers With Autism

An app-based approach can reach into underserved areas better and make it much easier to track an individual child's changes over time

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Study: iPhone App Effective for Screening Toddlers With Autism
Study: iPhone App Effective for Screening Toddlers With Autism. Pixabay

An iPhone app has shown to be effective and easy to use for screening young children with signs of autism, paving the way to broader, easier access to screening other neurodevelopmental disorders, according to researchers.

The “Autism & Beyond” app first administers caregiver consent forms and survey questions and then uses the phone’s “selfie” camera to collect videos of young children’s reactions while they watch movies designed to elicit autism risk behaviours, such as patterns of emotion and attention, on the device’s screen.

The videos of the child’s reactions are sent to the study’s servers, where automatic behavioural coding software tracks the movement of video landmarks on the child’s face and quantifies the child’s emotions and attention.

For example, in response to a short movie of bubbles floating across the screen, the video coding algorithm looks for movements of the face that would indicate joy.

An app-based approach can reach into underserved areas better and make it much easier to track an individual child’s changes over time, said Guillermo Sapiro, professor at Duke University in North Carolina.

Representational image.
Representational image. (IANS)

The app, described in journal npj Digital Medicine, can analyse emotional reactions in children as young as 18 months and without having to see a specialist in person, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Current screening for autism in young children is done in clinical settings, rather than the child’s natural environment, and highly trained people are needed to both administer the test and analyse the results.

But, “this technology has the potential to transform how we screen and monitor children’s development”, Sapiro said.

Also Read: Apple Approves Telegram App Update

For the study, 1,756 families with children aged from one to six years participated.

Parents completed 5,618 surveys and uploaded 4,441 videos.

Usable data were collected on 88 per cent of the uploaded videos, demonstrating for the first time the feasibility of this type of tool for observing and coding behaviour in natural environments. (IANS)

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Consumption of Soybean Oil May Affect Neurological Conditions: Study

Soybean oil diet may trigger genetic changes in brain

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Soybean oil
Soybean oil not only leads to obesity and diabetes but may also affect neurological conditions. Wikimedia Commons

Widely consumed soybean oil not only leads to obesity and diabetes but may also affect neurological conditions like autism, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety and depression, report researchers from University of California Riverside, including one of Indian origin.

In a study conducted on mice, the scientists found pronounced effects of the soybean oil on the hypothalamus where a number of critical processes take place.

The research team discovered nearly 100 genes – including the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin produced in hypothalamus — affected by the soybean oil diet.

Soybean oil  brain
In a study conducted on mice, the scientists found pronounced effects of the soybean oil on the hypothalamus where a number of critical processes take place. Pixabay

“The hypothalamus regulates body weight via your metabolism, maintains body temperature, is critical for reproduction and physical growth as well as your response to stress,” said Margarita Curras-Collazo, an associate professor of neuroscience and lead author on the study published in the journal Endocrinology.

The research team has not yet isolated which chemicals in the oil are responsible for the changes they found in the hypothalamus.

“But they have ruled out two candidates. It is not linoleic acid, since the modified oil also produced genetic disruptions; nor is it stigmasterol, a cholesterol-like chemical found naturally in soybean oil,” the study noted.

Identifying the compounds responsible for the negative effects is an important area for the team’s future research.

“This could help design healthier dietary oils in the future,” said Poonamjot Deol, first author on the study.

“If there’s one message I want people to take away, it’s this: reduce consumption of soybean oil,” Deol added.

Soybean oil brain
Consumption of Soybean oil may lead to autism. Pixabay

The team compared mice fed three different diets high in fat: soybean oil, soybean oil modified to be low in linoleic acid, and coconut oil.

They believe this discovery could have ramifications not just for energy metabolism,but also for proper brain function and diseases such as autism or Parkinson’s disease.

“However, it is important to note there is no proof the oil causes these diseases,” the authors wrote.

Te same research team found in 2015 that soybean oil induces obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and fatty liver in mice. Then in a 2017 study, the same group learned that if soybean oil is engineered to be low in linoleic acid, it induces less obesity and insulin resistance.

The team said the findings only apply to soybean oil — not to other soy products or to other vegetable oils.

“Do not throw out your tofu, soymilk, edamame, or soy sauce,” said Frances Sladek, a UCR toxicologist and professor of cell biology.

“Many soy products only contain small amounts of the oil, and large amounts of healthful compounds such as essential fatty acids and proteins”.

Also Read- Excessive Cardio Can Make you Gain Weight

This study utilized male mice. Because oxytocin is so important for maternal health and promotes mother-child bonding, similar studies need to be performed using female mice.

Coconut oil, which contains saturated fats, produced very few changes in the hypothalamic genes, said the researchers. (IANS)