Jessica Wright

Senior News Writer, Spectrum

Jessica Wright writes for Spectrum and reports on breaking autism research from conferences around the world. She joined Spectrum in 2010.

Jessica covers all aspects of autism research, but her primary beat is genetics. She has firsthand experience with whole-genome sequencing from her postdoc at Rockefeller University. Her writing has also appeared in Nature and Scientific American.

Jessica has a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Stanford University.

June 2016
Illustration by Julia Yellow

Finally, biologists get serious about preprints

by  /  17 June 2016

Autism researchers are leading the charge for open sharing of results before publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Opinion / Q&A

Questions for Alysson Muotri: Applying autism tools to Zika

by  /  14 June 2016

Mini-brains grown from stem cells in culture can reveal the effects of both autism and the Zika virus on early development.

Common denominator:
 Cell growth may underlie both autism and cancer.

©Eye of Science / Science

Dozens of autism genes have cancer connections

by  /  10 June 2016

A comprehensive catalog of the genes that show ties to both autism and cancer highlights the role of cell growth in both conditions.

Unstable connections: Hypersensitivity to touch starting in infancy may contribute to social difficulties in people with autism. 

Compassionate Eye Foundation / Three Images / Getty Images

Autism’s social problems may stem from sense of touch

by  /  9 June 2016

The anxiety and trouble with social skills seen in people with autism may originate outside of the brain, in neurons that govern touch.

1 Comment
Brain span: The brains of people with autism show unusually organized short-range connections (left), but typical long-range ones (right), in a region with dense folds.

Tightly folded autism brain tied to dense neural connections

by  /  2 June 2016

An intricately pleated brain may underlie the highly organized connections between nearby neurons in people with autism.

May 2016
Almost autism: Children with a duplication of DNA on chromosome 22 who do not have autism often show repetitive behaviors characteristic of the condition. / Linda Epstein

DNA doubling on chromosome 22 shows strong ties to autism

by  /  30 May 2016

An extra copy of a stretch of genes on chromosome 22 may contribute to autism, as well as a variety of health problems.

Trading bases: Researchers used a gene-editing system to open up the DNA coil, giving access to an enzyme that switches DNA letters.
News / Toolbox

New gene-editing system can swap single DNA letters

by  /  25 May 2016

A tool that allows researchers to switch one DNA letter with another may help them evaluate the change’s consequences.

Opinion / Q&A

Questions for Elizabeth Berry-Kravis: Dodging mouse traps

by  /  24 May 2016

A mouse model of fragile X syndrome lacks a key feature of the condition, prompting researchers to look for other ways to test treatments.

Social activity: The brains of typical boys (left), but not boys with autism (right), show a boost in activity (blue) in the social brain when they see socially relevant information.

Brain signature characterizes boys with autism

by  /  19 May 2016

Activity in the social brain circuit can distinguish a boy who has autism from a typically developing boy with 76 percent accuracy.

Planning ahead: People with autism may feel anxious about situations they cannot control.

© / Apichat Thongcharoen

Uncertainty, anxiety each independently linked to autism

by  /  14 May 2016

Children with autism fear the unknown and react negatively when faced with unpredictable situations. This intolerance of uncertainty is closely tied to anxiety but may manifest independently.

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