Genetic test can predicts risk for Autism

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A team of Australian researchers, led by University of Melbourne has developed a genetic test that is able to predict the risk of developing Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD.
Lead researcher Professor Stan Skafidas, Director of the Centre for Neural Engineering at the University of Melbourne said the test could be used to assess the risk for developing the disorder.
“This test could assist in the early detection of the condition in babies and children and help in the early management of those who become diagnosed,” he said.
“It would be particularly relevant for families who have a history of Autism or related conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome,” he said.
Autism affects around one in 150 births and is characterized by abnormal social interaction, impaired communication and repetitive behaviours.

The test correctly predicted ASD with more than 70 per cent accuracy in people of central European descent. Ongoing validation tests are continuing including the development of accurate testing for other ethnic groups.
Clinical neuropsychologist, Dr Renee Testa from the University of Melbourne and Monash University, said the test would allow clinicians to provide early interventions that may reduce behavioural and cognitive difficulties that children and adults with ASD experience.
“Early identification of risk means we can provide interventions to improve overall functioning for those affected, including families,” she said.  
A genetic cause has been long sought with many genes implicated in the condition, but no single gene has been adequate for determining risk.
Using US data from 3,346 individuals with ASD and 4,165 of their relatives from Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) and Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI), the researchers identified 237 genetic markers (SNPs) in 146 genes and related cellular pathways that either contribute to or protect an individual from developing ASD.
Senior author Professor Christos Pantelis of the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre at the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Health said the discovery of the combination of contributing and protective gene markers and their interaction had helped to develop a very promising predictive ASD test.
The test is based on measuring both genetic markers of risk and protection for ASD. The risk markers increase the score on the genetic test, while the protective markers decrease the score. The higher the overall score, the higher the individual risk.

“This has been a multidisciplinary team effort with expertise across fields providing new ways of investigating this complex condition,” Professor Pantelis said.
The study was undertaken in collaboration with Professor Ian Everall, Cato Chair in Psychiatry and Dr Gursharan Chana from the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Health, and Dr Daniela Zantomio from Austin Health.
The next step is to further assess the accuracy of the test by monitoring children who are not yet diagnosed over an extended study.

The study has been published today in the journal Molecular Psychiatry


Cool activities for creative kids at NIDA these school holidays

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Cool activities for creative kids at NIDA these school holidays


Cool activities for creative kids at NIDA these school holidays


Whether it’s shooting documentaries on Cockatoo Island, travelling through time in a Doctor Who episode, cracking up an audience with a killer comedy routine or performing pop favourites with NIDA Glee Club, there are plenty of activities to inspire creativity, build confidence and make learning a blast at NIDA these school holidays.


NIDA Open offers one of the biggest and most popular school holiday programs in Sydney, with more than 60 different courses running across 10 locations this April.


NIDA Open’s extensive range of lively, pop culture -themed holiday activities and more intensive, skills-focused drama programs cater to 2-18 year olds, with courses for preschoolers, primary school aged children, teenagers and HSC students, as well as classes specifically designed for teenagers with intellectual disabilities.


Courses run on weekdays and weekends between Monday 15 April and Tuesday 30 April, at NIDA in Kensington and various locations around Sydney, including Taronga Zoo in Mosman,Cockatoo Island on Sydney Harbour, Carriageworks in Eveleigh, Vaucluse House, Randwick Library, Glen Street Theatre in Belrose, Blacktown Arts Centre, Casula Powerhouse and the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in Katoomba.


Continuing on from their huge popularity in previous holiday programs, NIDA and BBC Worldwide will again present a series of Doctor Who workshops where young people can act in their very own Doctor Who episodes, write thrilling new scripts for the show, design scary sci-fi landscapes or make their own film based on real episode scripts.


Other Autumn holiday program highlights include:

  • Reel Warrior Boot Camp Investigate the complexities of being a heroine or hero as you explore pivotal scenes from popular young adult books and films. 12-15 yrs.
  • League of NIDA Superheroes Create your own Super Hero, discover incredible new powers and join the fight against crime as you come to the rescue in action-packed scenes. 6-8 yrs.
  • Triple Threat Training: 80s Style Pull on those leg-warmers and tease that hair! Learn singing, acting and dancing routines to 80s hits. 15-18 yrs.
  • Dinosaur Discovery Meet the creatures that roamed the earth more than 100 million years ago, in an exciting acting adventure. 6-8 yrs.
  • NIDA Crack Up: Comedy & Improvisation Class clowns unite! Develop your creativity and comic timing through improvisation, acting and presentation techniques. 9-11 yrs.
  • NIDA Runway: Designers Immerse yourself in the world of designing for film and tv. Create costumes and showcase your work to camera. 12-16 yrs.


“Classes are practical, where you learn by doing,” says Mark Gaal, Head of NIDA Open. “Course activities are educational, develop specific skills and a fun way to build your confidence and meet others who share similar interests.”


NIDA Open is now taking enrolments for its Autumn School Holiday program.

Earlybird prices apply for bookings received before 15 March 2013.

Full course details are available at or by phoning NIDA Open on (02) 9697 7626.

Spring into Luna Park these School Holidays!

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Luna Park unveils new thrill ride, Body Rock, for the holiday period


Spring is in the air and what better way to shrug off those winter blues than by visiting Melbourne’s Luna Park these school holidays! From 18 September, Luna Park will be open daily with extended opening hours on selected evenings until 11pm.


Celebrate the change of seasons at Melbourne’s favourite location for family fun, with free admission, entertainment and a daring new thrill ride for the holiday period – the Body Rock. Rocking adventure seekers from side to side and all around, the newest addition to Luna Park will leave you screaming for more!


Spring holiday visitors can also win an iPad mini, simply by uploading images of their fun day out at Luna Park to Facebook, twitter or instagram.


If that doesn’t put a spring in your step, there are still plenty of other attractions on offer at Luna Park these school holidays for both the fearless and faint-hearted. Soar four stories into the air at top speed on the Coney Island Top Drop, ride the beautiful Carousel, enjoy the breathtaking views from the world famous Great Scenic Railway, take a sunset ride on the Ferris Wheel or admire the views of Port Phillip Bay from Pharoah’s Curse – whilst upside down!


Entry to Luna Park is FREE with both single and unlimited ride tickets available from as little as $4.95 for toddlers. Families can enjoy unlimited access to all rides and attractions all day with a family fun pass (for two adults and two children, or one adult and three children) for just $145.95 - the best way to enjoy the fun Luna Park has to offer.


So what are you waiting for? Spring into Luna Park this holiday period and get your body rocking – Just for fun!



Open every of the school holidays from 11am.



Unlimited Ride Tickets

Adult 13+ yrs $47.95
Child 4-12 yrs $37.95
Toddler 3yrs & under $15.95

2 adults+2 children OR

1 adult+3 children



Additional family members 

Additional wristbands may be purchased in conjunction with the family pass and are offered at a discounted price: 

Adult 13+ yrs $40.75
Child 4-12 yrs $32.25
Toddler 3yrs & under $13.55


Single Ride Tickets: 

Adult 13+ yrs $10.95
Child 4-12 yrs $8.95
Toddler 3yrs & under $4.95


* Rides subject to height restrictions and medical conditions.




 LUNA PARK INFO LINE- 1300 888 272


BigPond and the NRL launched new footy website for kids

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BigPond and the NRL have launched a site that offers footy mad youngsters access to a range of ‘brain benders’ or quizzes that teach kids about the club’s best players and facts about the game. Importantly, there are also a range of tips on eating and living healthily to help kids play well and stay well.
This site also includes a range of interactive games which can be played for free,* and there’s also a range that can be purchased. We’ve also include the latest music and kids’ movie reviews, competitions, clips and much more. To visit this one stop shop for kids visit:
Telstra Ambassador and NRL League footballer with the Parramatta Eels, Nathan Hindmarsh said he hoped the initiative would get more kids behind the game.
“This is a great way for kids to get involved and feel more connected with NRL. Not all kids are confident footballers but this is a non-threatening way to educate kids and get them interested. It also reinforces the importance of physical activity and health,” Nathan Hindmarsh, said.
“When I was growing up it was important for kids to have a connection with the game and I think this site will help that,” he said.


*Data charges may apply.

Brisbane celebrates ‘bumps and bubs’ in world first

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Brisbane’s Southbank was alive with ‘bumps and bubs’ last weekend, as hundreds of expectant and new mothers braved the cold on Sunday to celebrate all things health and fitness, in an attempt to break the Guinness World Records for ‘the largest prenatal class’ and ‘the largest number of people pushing prams’.
The inaugural event, Bumps and Bubs on Parade, is Pure Health Clubs’ exciting new venture aiming to raise awareness on the importance of pre and post-natal fitness and wellbeing for expectant and new mums.
Co-owner and founder of Queensland’s Pure Health Clubs, Marina Perry-Kuhn, is a fitness expert, business owner and young mum currently six-and-a-half months pregnant with her second child. During her first pregnancy, Marina found out first-hand just how little the wider community knew about appropriate activities for pregnant women, with many mis-educated or simply unsure of how to exercise safely and effectively.
“Women generally think that some exercises are dangerous or risky to do while pregnant, but don’t know which ones – so simply do nothing at all,” Marina says. 
“Bumps and Bubs is a celebration of health, fitness and wellbeing, a chance to break records and, of course, to raise much-needed awareness on pre and post-natal fitness,” Marina says.
Sponsored by Vaalia, Huggies, Pram Warehouse and more high-profile names, Bumps and Bubs on Parade was a huge success, with activities, speakers, health and wellbeing demonstrations and the Guinness World Record attempts raising funds for the Mater Little Miracles foundation and creating a fitness ‘buzz’ amongst the wider Brisbane community.
“The idea behind Bumps and Bubs is not only to get women talking about their health and wellbeing, but to include and educate the whole community,” Marina says.
“We want to enable expectant and new mothers to look and feel strong and healthy throughout their pregnancy, birth, and early stages of motherhood. The benefits to be gained are endless – physically as well as emotionally,” she says.
The Pure Beginnings classes and DVD’s specifically target the areas of the body that are affected or weakened during pregnancy (for example pelvic floor, abdominals and inner thighs), or that need to be strengthened (core, upper body and mid-back amongst others) for new mothers to be strong and capable.
“We give women the confidence to know what they are doing is safe, and educate them on all the variations needed to progress or regress according to how they feel, or what stage they’re at in their pregnancy.”

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