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Early autism therapy changes brain activity

Intensive early behavioral therapy, considered by many autism experts to be the best in developing language and thinking skills, might also help normalize brain activity in children with autism when they look at faces, and improve their social skills, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of California Davis’ MIND Institute looked at 48 children diagnosed with autism between 18 and 30 months old. Half of the children were randomly selected to receive a form of intensive early behavioral therapy called the Early Start Denver Model for 20 hours a week for two years, while the other half received other forms of intervention. After two years, the researchers used electroencephalograms to measure the brain activity of children with autism, as well as of children without autism, while they watched faces and toys.

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The majority of the autistic children treated with the Early Start Denver Model showed greater brain activation when looking at faces rather than objects, a response common to children without autism. The opposite was found among the kids with autism who received other interventions.

The autistic children with increased brain activity at the sight of faces also had better social and behavioral skills. The study is the first to find underlying changes in brain function along with behavioral changes after early therapy.

BOTTOM LINE: Early behavioral intervention may help normalize certain brain activity in children with autism and improve social skills.

CAUTIONS: The study was small and may not be indicative of what would happen with a larger group.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, November

Lotion may kill head lice for good

A single treatment of the prescription lotion ivermectin, also known by the brand name Sklice, may successfully kill head lice within 24 hours of application, according to a new study.

In two parallel studies, researchers followed a total of nearly 300 children ages 6 months to 3 years old with head lice. Nearly half of the children were randomly chosen to get a one-time treatment with the prescription lotion, while the other half were given a placebo treatment.

Nearly 95 percent of children who used the lotion during the study were free of lice and lice eggs within 24 hours, and 74 percent remained lice-free after 15 days of treatment, compared with 18 percent among those who received placebo.

BOTTOM LINE: A single treatment of the prescription lotion Sklice successfully kills head lice within 24 hours of application.

CAUTIONS: The study was funded by Sanofi Pasteur, which manufactures Sklice. Also, the study did not compare the treatment with other available treatments.

WHERE TO FIND IT: New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 1

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