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Autism research and other musings

Paul Whiteley
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  • November 28, 2015
  • 02:54 AM

Acetylcysteine and autism: another case report

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I don't want to spend too long on the findings reported by Danielle Stutzman & Julie Dopheide [1] talking about how: "Treatment with acetylcysteine improved ASD [autism spectrum disorder] symptoms, including irritability and aggression, in a teenage patient" but it is a blog-worthy paper.Describing the experiences of a "7-year-old Hispanic male with ASD and intellectual disability" who was hospitalised due to some rather 'challenging behaviours', the authors noted how the addi........ Read more »

Stutzman D, & Dopheide J. (2015) Acetylcysteine for treatment of autism spectrum disorder symptoms. American journal of health-system pharmacy : AJHP : official journal of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 72(22), 1956-9. PMID: 26541950  

  • November 27, 2015
  • 03:06 AM

Premature mortality and autism continued

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Premature mortality was markedly increased in ASD [autism spectrum disorder] owing to a multitude of medical conditions."So said the study by Tatja Hirvikoski and colleagues [1] and findings that although making uncomfortable reading, highlight how we have some way to go when it comes to addressing important health inequalities as and when a label of autism or ASD is given.Drawing on Swedish data including over 27,000 people diagnosed with an ASD between 1987 and 2009 compared against........ Read more »

Hirvikoski T, Mittendorfer-Rutz E, Boman M, Larsson H, Lichtenstein P, & Bölte S. (2015) Premature mortality in autism spectrum disorder. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science. PMID: 26541693  

  • November 26, 2015
  • 04:59 AM

The continued rise of autism research metabolomics

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

For anyone that has followed this blog down the years you'll probably have noticed that I'm quite a big fan of the inclusion of the science of metabolomics on to the autism research menu (see here for example).Looking at the myriad of chemical footprints left behind by an almost incomprehensible number of cellular processes, metabolomics offers some real promise to autism in terms of teasing apart phenotypes and as a valuable partner to other -omics sciences in ascertaining the relevance or not ........ Read more »

Dieme B, Mavel S, Blasco H, Tripi G, Bonnet-Brilhault F, Malvy J, Bocca C, Andres CR, Nadal-Desbarats L, & Emond P. (2015) Metabolomics study of urine in autism spectrum disorders using a multiplatform analytical methodology. Journal of proteome research. PMID: 26538324  

  • November 25, 2015
  • 04:41 AM

The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and the media: a few thoughts

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Are you on the autistic spectrum? Take the test" read a recent media headline.Commenting on the findings reported by Emily Ruzich and colleagues [1], the headline is followed by some pretty bizarre text about how the study "has confirmed that men are more likely to be autistic than women."I have to take some exception to this sentence, as I quote from the Ruzich findings: "In a sample of nearly half a million individuals, we found a moderate effect of sex on AQ [Autism-Spectrum Quotie........ Read more »

  • November 24, 2015
  • 04:33 AM

Secondary conditions impacting on obesity stats in autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Decision makers, clinicians, and researchers developing interventions for children with ASDs [autism spectrum disorders] should consider how secondary conditions may impact obesity and related activities."That was the conclusion reached in the study by Kathryn Corvey and colleagues [1] looking to: "examine obesity, overweight, physical activity, and sedentary behavior among children and youth with and without ASD using nationally representative data and controlling for secondary ........ Read more »

  • November 23, 2015
  • 04:33 AM

Does eczema increase the risk of childhood speech disorder?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Nativity Kylo?The question posed in the title of this post reflects some interesting data published by Mark Strom & Jonathan Silverberg [1] who reported that: "Pediatric eczema may be associated with increased risk of speech disorder" on the basis of their analysis of data for some 350,000 children "from 19 US [United States] population-based cohorts."Taking into account various variables such as "sociodemographics and comorbid allergic disease" authors determined that among the 19........ Read more »

  • November 21, 2015
  • 03:26 AM

Subthreshold autism signs in childhood OCD

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

OCD in the title of this post, refers to obsessive compulsive disorder and the intriguing observation put forward by Arildskov and colleagues [1] suggesting that: "Pediatric OCD patients were found to exhibit elevated rates of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] symptoms compared to a norm group of school-age children."Taking advantage of data collected as part of the Nordic Long-term OCD Treatment Study and specifically where "parents of 257 children and adolescent........ Read more »

Arildskov, T., Højgaard, D., Skarphedinsson, G., Thomsen, P., Ivarsson, T., Weidle, B., Melin, K., & Hybel, K. (2015) Subclinical autism spectrum symptoms in pediatric obsessive–compulsive disorder. European Child . DOI: 10.1007/s00787-015-0782-5  

  • November 20, 2015
  • 03:02 AM

Vitamin D levels and autism meta-analysed

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

A quote to begin: "Levels of serum 25(OH) D in participants with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] were significantly lower than controls, suggesting that lower vitamin D level might be a risk factor for ASD."That was the bottom line finding reported by Tiantian Wang and colleagues [1] following their systematic review and meta-analysis of the existing peer-reviewed science literature looking at whether serum concentrations of 25-hydroxy vitamin D - the typically measured compou........ Read more »

  • November 19, 2015
  • 04:48 AM

Heavy metals, heavy conflicts and autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Two papers are presented for your reading delight today, both based on the often contentious issue of heavy metals and autism.The first paper is from Farida El Baz Mohamed and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) and further substantiates the claim that for whatever reason(s) the levels of various heavy metals seem to be increased or raised in some children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The second paper by Janet Kern and colleagues [2] (open-access available here)........ Read more »

  • November 18, 2015
  • 04:39 AM

The kynurenine pathway and some autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Our data indicated that there were alterations to the KP [kynurenine pathway] in ASD [autism spectrum disorder]. Specifically, increased production of the downstream metabolite, quinolinic acid, which is capable of enhancing glutamatergic neurotransmission was noted."Those were some of the rather interesting results reported by Chai Lim and colleagues [1] suggesting that when it comes to tryptophan metabolism in relation to autism, the continued sole focus on serotonin and melato........ Read more »

Lim CK, Essa MM, de Paula Martins R, Lovejoy DB, Bilgin AA, Waly MI, Al-Farsi YM, Al-Sharbati M, Al-Shaffae MA, & Guillemin GJ. (2015) Altered kynurenine pathway metabolism in autism: Implication for immune-induced glutamatergic activity. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research. PMID: 26497015  

  • November 17, 2015
  • 04:32 AM

Sex, STEM careers and the 'big data' of the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'm a fan of 'big data' on this blog (see here) and the particular idea that large participant numbers can offer up some really important results or patterns of results relevant to our knowledge of labels like autism.  I do also believe there is a balance to be struck between big data and somewhat smaller data - specifically the value of the N=1 when it comes to a heterogeneous condition like autism - but big data is a nice way of introducing or confirming more general trends and/or correla........ Read more »

  • November 16, 2015
  • 04:41 AM

Symptom profiles of chronic fatigue syndrome across borders

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

To quote from the paper by Maria Zdunek and colleagues [1] (open-access available here): "These findings suggest that there may be important differences in illness characteristics across individuals with CFS [chronic fatigue syndrome] in the US [United States] and the UK [United Kingdom], and this has implications for the comparability of research findings across these two countries."Looking at how symptom profiles and the "functional differences experienced by patients with ........ Read more »

Zdunek M, Jason LA, Evans M, Jantke R, & Newton JL. (2015) A Cross Cultural Comparison of Disability and Symptomatology Associated with CFS. International journal of psychology and behavioral sciences, 5(2), 98-107. PMID: 26478826  

  • November 13, 2015
  • 03:48 PM

The autism numbers game: now 1 in 45 (estimated)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I want to (briefly) draw your attention to the findings reported by Benjamin Zablotsky and colleagues [1] (open-access) recently on the topic of the (estimated) autism prevalence rate. Specifically the figure that seems to be making some media headlines: "The estimated ASD [autism spectrum disorder] prevalence was 2.24% (1 in 45) in 2014."Based on data derived from the 2014 US National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) designed with the purpose "to monitor the health of the........ Read more »

Benjamin Zablotsky, Lindsey I. Black, Matthew J. Maenner, Laura A. Schieve, & Stephen J. Blumberg. (2015) Estimated Prevalence of Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities Following Questionnaire Changes in the 2014 National Health Interview Survey. National Health Statistics Reports. info:/

  • November 13, 2015
  • 04:34 AM

CFS/ME associated with pandemic influenza infection

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Pandemic influenza A (H1N1) infection was associated with a more than two-fold increased risk of CFS/ME [Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis]."That was the headline finding from the study by Per Magnus and colleagues [1] looking at whether large population data might provide some clues about 'associated' variables when it comes to the various debilitating conditions headed under the terms CFS/ME.I'm blogging at a slight disadvantage with regards to the Magnus study beca........ Read more »

  • November 12, 2015
  • 03:26 AM

Recurrent antibiotic exposure and risk of depression and/or anxiety?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Accepting the notions that (i) correlation is not necessarily the same as causation and that (ii) case-control observational studies in particular are not the best way to ascertain whether A causes B, I was rather interested in the findings reported by Ido Lurie and colleagues [1] and that: "Recurrent antibiotic exposure is associated with increased risk for depression and anxiety but not for psychosis."Starting from the idea that: "Changes in the microbiota (dysbiosis) were sugge........ Read more »

Lurie, I., Yang, Y., Haynes, K., Mamtani, R., & Boursi, B. (2015) Antibiotic Exposure and the Risk for Depression, Anxiety, or Psychosis. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. DOI: 10.4088/JCP.15m09961  

  • November 11, 2015
  • 04:32 AM

Schizophrenia and the constant (immune) gardeners

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Immune clue to preventing schizophrenia" went the BBC headline, as the paper by Peter Bloomfield and colleagues [1] garnered some significant media interest recently specifically tied into their findings suggesting that: "neuroinflammation is linked to the risk of psychosis and related disorders, as well as the expression of subclinical symptoms."Based on the use of "second-generation radioligand [11C]PBR28 and PET to image microglial activity in the brains of participants at ultra high risk fo........ Read more »

Bloomfield, P., Selvaraj, S., Veronese, M., Rizzo, G., Bertoldo, A., Owen, D., Bloomfield, M., Bonoldi, I., Kalk, N., Turkheimer, F.... (2015) Microglial Activity in People at Ultra High Risk of Psychosis and in Schizophrenia: An [ C]PBR28 PET Brain Imaging Study . American Journal of Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.14101358  

  • November 10, 2015
  • 02:48 AM

Going long: examining psychiatric comorbidity in PDD-NOS

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Psychiatric comorbidities in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are rather a rule than an exception."That was the opening sentence to the paper by Verheij and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) who charted the stability of such comorbidity in a "7-year follow-up of 74 6-12 year old children with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified [PDD-NOS]."Continuing a theme from this research group [2] looking longitudinally at what happened to individuals wh........ Read more »

  • November 9, 2015
  • 04:32 AM

Head circumference and brain size in autism meta-analysed

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I read with interest the paper by Roberto Sacco and colleagues [1] providing some much needed clarity on the topic of head circumference and brain size in relation to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).Detailing the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis based on "27 studies defining percentages of macrocephalic patients and 44 structural brain imaging studies providing total brain volumes for patients and controls", researchers provided "conclusive effect sizes and prevalence rates f........ Read more »

  • November 7, 2015
  • 03:36 AM

First there was CFS/ME, then SEID, now... NIOF

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

A quick-ish post for you today, to bring the paper by Michael Maes [1] to your attention and illustrate how when it comes to research at least, this year (2015) seems to be truly moving forward when it comes to the topic of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).The latest Maes paper (one of many by this author on this topic) provides some further research discussion on how progress in getting to the root cause of CFS/ME and developing suitable interventions has to some........ Read more »

  • November 6, 2015
  • 04:31 AM

Reduced zinc levels in schizophrenia: study AND meta-analysis

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Single element analysis indicated that the concentrations of cesium, zinc, and selenium were significantly reduced in patients with schizophrenia in both the training and test groups."Those were some of the findings reported by Lei Cai and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) as part of their study "to quantify the levels of 35 elements in the sera of 111 Schizophrenia patients and 110 healthy participants, which consisted of a training (61/61 for cases/controls included) and a test grou........ Read more »

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