Environment Influences Autism Susceptibility More Than Previously Thought

The largest and most rigorous twin study of its kind to date has found that shared environment influences susceptibility to autism more than previously thought.

The study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, found that shared environmental factors — experiences and exposures common to both twin individuals — accounted for 55% of strict autism and 58% of more broadly defined autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Genetic heritability accounted for 37% of autism and 38% of ASD. Random environmental factors not shared among twins play a much smaller role.

Autism and environment

Improving Mental Health By Thinking Globally

Mental health experts are calling for a greater world focus on improving access to care and treatment for mental, neurological, and substance use (MNS) disorders, as well as increasing discoveries in research that will enable this goal to be met.

The Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health Initiative, led by the National Institutes of Health and the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases, has identified the top 40 barriers to better mental health around the world. Similar to past grand challenges, which focused on infectious diseases and chronic, noncommunicable diseases, this initiative seeks to build a community of funders dedicated to supporting research that will significantly improve the lives of people living with MNS disorders within the next 10 years.

Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health

New Website, Videos Provide Important Diabetes Resources

New videos to help people make lifestyle changes and cope with the demands of diabetes were announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP). The series of three-to five-minute videos, which can be found at www.YourDiabetesInfo.org/HealthSense, address topics such as setting goals to improve health, living with diabetes, finding the support you need, as well as segments on diabetes prevention and physical activity.

NDEP Diabetes HealthSense

NIH and Non-profits Sign Research and Development Agreement

The National Institutes of Health today announced an agreement with two non-profit organizations to accelerate the development of potential clinical therapies for rare blood cancers.

The cooperative research and development agreement has been established as a shared commitment to move therapies for rare blood cancers into clinical proof-of-concept studies so that promising treatments can eventually be commercialized. The agreement is among the University of Kansas Medical Center, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), the NIH Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) program and the Hematology Branch within the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

The Learning Collaborative

Moderate Levels of Secondhand Smoke Deliver Nicotine to the Brain

Exposure to secondhand smoke, such as a person can get by riding in an enclosed car while someone else smokes, has a direct, measurable impact on the brain — and the effect is similar to what happens in the brain of the person doing the smoking. In fact, exposure to this secondhand smoke evokes cravings among smokers, according to a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Secondhand smoke

The study, published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, used positron emission tomography (PET) to demonstrate that one hour of secondhand smoke in an enclosed space results in enough nicotine reaching the brain to bind receptors that are normally targeted by direct exposure to tobacco smoke [1]. This happens in the brain of both smokers and non-smokers.