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.

July 2016
Illustration by cornelia Li
Opinion / Q&A

Questions for Nordahl, Mello: Scans for children with autism

by  /  19 July 2016

Techniques used in behavioral interventions could help scientists scan the brains of children who have both autism and intellectual disability.

Group defense: T cells, and a molecule they release, may be important players in social behavior.

Key molecule may tie immune response to social behavior

by  /  13 July 2016

Molecules that protect the body from infection may be needed for mice to socialize with their peers, a finding that bolsters the link between the immune system and autism.

1 Comment
Howdy, neighbor:  Genes separated by a large distance come together when DNA forms a three-dimensional structure.

Mutated DNA loops make strange neighbors

by  /  11 July 2016

Too many or too few copies of a segment of chromosome 16 alters the three-dimensional organization of DNA, and affects hundreds of related genes.

Like clockwork: Cells that express the paternal copy of the Angelman syndrome gene (top left) also tend to make the circadian clock protein BMAL (bottom left).

Tricks to treat Angelman syndrome may lie in ‘clock cells’

by  /  4 July 2016

A newly discovered phenomenon in cells that regulate the sleep-wake cycle may provide clues for how to treat two autism-related conditions.

June 2016
Illustration by Maggie Chiang

Working with mice? Question their background

by  /  30 June 2016

A standard mouse strain used by researchers worldwide harbors an unintended mutation that impairs immune cell development — and may confound results.

1 Comment
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.


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