Neighborhood Publication: Classes from lockdowns, screen-time skepticism, protein transport within the mind | Spectrum

Illustration by Laurenne Boglio

Longer days in the Northern Hemisphere, longer threads about autism research on Twitter — welcome to the first Community Newsletter from Spectrum this February.

Liz Pellicano, professor of education at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, threaded together 14 tweets full of COVID-19 lockdown lessons for autism education. The insights, published in December, come from a project led by Pellicano’s colleague — doctoral student Melanie Heyworth — and a team of autistic and non-autistic researchers. One central message is that although the initial switch to remote learning was particularly difficult for autistic students, “after that initial period of transition, there were autistic children who reportedly flourished at home both personally and educationally,” Pellicano wrote.

New (free to access) paper alert! Led by the wonderful Melanie Heyworth, this looks at how we might reimagine autism education, with lessons learned from remote learning during the first COVID-19 lockdown: 1/14

— Liz Pellicano (@liz_pellicano) January 27, 2022

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

Fantastic paper about the lessons that can be learned from COVID-19 induced remote learning, to make education more accessible.

Read Liz’s thread below, or read the full paper here:

— CRAE (@CRAE_IOE) January 27, 2022

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 taking down a paper published in JAMA Pediatrics this past week asserting an association between screen time exposure in 1-year- olds and autism diagnosis.

“Almost every headline you read about it will be wrong,” he tweeted, going on to explain the study’s shortcomings, including the fact that it was based solely on parent reports.

This is going to get a lot of attention. But almost every headline you read about it will be wrong. This is why????

Association Between Screen Time Exposure in Children at 1 Year and Autism Spectrum Disorder via @JAMAPediatrics part of @JAMANetwork 1/11

— Andrew Whitehouse (@AJOWhitehouse) February 1, 2022

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

here we go again – good to have explainer thread from @AJOWhitehouse, but the evils of screentime has become a zombie that will never die

— Dorothy Bishop (@deevybee) February 1, 2022

Spectrum published its own quick critique from Kristin Sainani, associate teaching 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, California, tweeted an image 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 to explain faulty protein transport in conditions such as autism. Spectrum profiled Cline last week.

A new type of cellular communication has been discovered in the brain in a collaboration between Professors Hollis Cline & John Yates III. The finding can reveal how protein (arrows) transport goes awry in diseases like #Alzheimers & #autism @CellReports

— Scripps Research (@scrippsresearch) January 27, 2022

Troubled by typos that seem to emerge out of thin air 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.

Every time a sock disappears in the dryer, a typo appears in your document

— David Mandell (@DSMandell) February 1, 2022

That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to

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