Community Update: Lessons from lockdowns, screen skepticism, protein transport in the brain | Spectrum

Illustration by Laurene Boglio

Longer days in the northern hemisphere, longer discussions of autism research on Twitter – welcome to the first community newsletter of Spectrum this February.

Liz Pellicano, professor of education at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, rounded up 14 tweets full of COVID-19 lockdown lessons for autism education. The information, published in December, comes from a project led by Pellicano’s colleague – PhD student Melanie Heyworth – and a team of autistic and non-autistic researchers. A central message is that although the initial shift to remote learning was particularly difficult for students with autism, “after this initial period of transition, there were children with autism who would have thrived at home, both on the both personally and educationally,” Pellicano wrote.

“Fantastic paper,” tweeted the Autism Research Center at University College London in the UK.

Andrew Whitehouse, Angela Wright Bennett Professor of Autism Research at the Telethon Kids Institute and the University of Western Australia in Perth, spent 11 tweets deleting an article posted in JAMA Pediatrics last week claiming an association between screen time exposure in 1-year-olds and the diagnosis of autism.

“Almost every headline you read about this will be false,” he tweeted, then explaining the study’s shortcomings, including the fact that it was based solely on parent reports.

“Here we go again,” tweeted Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at the University of Oxford in the UK.

Spectrum posted its own quick review by Kristin Sainani, associate professor of epidemiology and population health at Stanford University in California.

Maybe a picture is worth 1,000 threads. The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., tweeted a picture this week to illustrate the discovery – by Scripps Research faculty Hollis Cline, Hahn Professor of Neuroscience, and John Yates III, Professor of Molecular Medicine – of a new type of intercellular communication in the brain, which could help explain transport defective proteins in conditions like autism. Spectrum profiled Cline last week.

Troubled by typos that seem to pop up out of nowhere every time you open a document to review it? David Mandell, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, tweeted a compelling theory.

That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you’ve seen in the area of ​​autism research, feel free to email

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