Main Aspects/concepts Of Autism: Literary Review Of Articles

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The purpose of this essay is to explore and differentiate the main aspects/concepts presented within a secondary review article and a primary journal article based on the chosen biology topic, ‘Do we all carry the genes for autism?’.

The purpose of a secondary review article is to synthesise and analyse the research that has been conducted in various primary journal articles on a given topic, in order to provide a summary on the current knowledge known in an area. The review article I have selected is titled ‘Genetic Causes and Modifiers of Autism Spectrum Disorder’. It explores the relationship between genetic modifiers such as copy number variation and single nucleotide polymorphisms and its key role in determining the likelihood of an individual having autism. This is also known as the autism spectrum. The article is primarily targeted towards researchers in the discipline due to the constant use of scientific jargon and in-depth explanation, such as “….cortical tissue the proline rich transmembrane protein 1 UTF, promoter regions of tetraspanin 32 …”. However, the authors of the article have included background information and in addition, explanations of certain scientific jargons, in order to allow the article to be understood by a broader audience, ranging from the general public interested in the topic to scientists that wish to familiarise themselves with a new area of knowledge.

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The review article was published in the journal, Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience. Frontiers Media is a scientific journal that publicises peer-reviewed research, accessible to the general public. They have a number of journals in where each one strongly associates itself with a particular sub-discipline and in this case, it is cellular neuroscience (hence the name of the journal). Neuroscience is the study of cell functions in the nervous system across all species [Hansel, et al, 2019]– relating to the article’s discussion of autism being one of the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorders, affecting an estimated 1 in 59 children [Guemez-Gamboa, et al, 2019]. However, in saying that, I believe that Frontiers Media could also publish this article in their journal, Frontiers in Genetics. This is due to the recurring mention of genetics throughout the article, for instance; how certain genes have the potential to contribute to the serious deficits in communication, social cognition and behaviour that ASD patients normally experience [Guemez-Gamboa, et al, 2019].

There is an extensive number of references cited in the review article with the majority of them being primary journal articles. After skimming through a number of them, the primary article that interested me is titled, “Relationship between absolute and relative ratios of glutamate, glutamine and GABA and severity of autism spectrum disorders” – which involves conducting an experiment in order to determine the impacts of a disturbed balance of GABA and glutamatergic neurotransmission on autism patients. Through comparing the information provided in both articles, it becomes apparent, that the general findings in the primary article has been used as an argument in the secondary review article to support the idea that the genetic makeup of an individual heavily influences the likelihood of an individual demonstrating the social and behavioural traits recognised as clinical autism spectrum disorder.

The aim of a primary article is found within the introduction, providing an explanation on why an experiment was performed. In this case, the purpose of the experiment was to address the hypothesis of whether an imbalance in the excitatory and inhibitory mechanisms in the GABA and glutamate neurophysiology is linked to autism. The experiment was carried out by conducting various tests, for instance to test the glutamine quantity in human plasma, an ELISA kit was used, on two groups of children, one group that consisted of patients already diagnosed with autism and the other group of ‘healthy’ children. None of the individuals in the experimental group underwent special supplements, alternative treatments or any other therapies during the course of the study. The results showed that indeed the GABA and glutamine levels were significantly different for the ASD patients and the controlled individuals. The significance of this experiment is that it verifies the initial hypothesis, allowing them to come the conclusion that the level of glutamine is among one of the most reliable indications of the severity of an individual’s autism. I found it interesting to learn that GABA and glutamate derive from each other and hence even slight changes on one of the neurotransmitters will affect the other [Al-Otaish, et al, 2019]. Overall, I had some difficulties in understanding the language and concepts used in the article – in particular in the methodology component alone, there was a total of 9 words that I was unfamiliar with. Despite searching up the definitions of the words online, I still found it hard to wrap my head around the article.

In conclusion, the nature and purpose of a primary journal article differs vastly from a secondary review article. From exploring the two articles mentioned above, I have come to an understanding that primary journal articles typically follow a set structure (ie: title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, references and acknowledgements), presenting first-hand research and data that has been conducted with the purpose of bringing forward a new theory or to disprove a current hypothesis. The terminology, scientific jargons and detailed theoretical principles commonly utilised in these articles make them targeted towards those that are knowledgeable in that particular field. On the other hand, secondary review articles are a summary of the existing research in a field gained from a larger number of primary articles. They are generally much easier to comprehend and are aimed towards a wider audience whom may simply be interested in the topic but however are not experts in the field. In regard to the articles I chose – the primary article establishes the idea that the ratio of GBA and glutamate abnormalities result in the severity of autism spectrum disorder for an individual, which the secondary article used as an example to solidify the argument that there are hundreds of genes that have the potential to contribute to the symptoms shown in ASD patients.


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