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Autism research and other musings

Paul Whiteley
555 posts

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  • March 31, 2015
  • 04:35 AM
  • 12 views

Is anhedonia a key component of depression comorbid to autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Anhedonia: the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable.Although by no means an expert on anhedonia (or much else), I believe that it is a concept quite important when it comes to making a diagnosis of depression although the precise hows and whys of connecting anhedonia to other symptoms are still the source of some discussion [1].The paper from Vicki Bitsika & Christopher Sharpley [2] brings the concepts of anhedonia and depression into v........ Read more »

  • March 30, 2015
  • 03:20 AM
  • 35 views

Asthma and ADHD (again)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Asthmatic children had a higher risk of also having ADHD."That was the conclusion reached by Kirsten Holmberg and colleagues [1] based on their analysis of rates of ADHD, and other variables found "through the Swedish Twin Register, linked to the Swedish Medical Birth Register, the National Patient Register and the Prescribed Drug Register." Said data came from over 20,000 twins who's parents were questioned when children were aged 9 or 12 years.For those unfamiliar with the proposed conne........ Read more »

  • March 29, 2015
  • 04:39 AM
  • 53 views

Sera from children with autism inducing autistic features in rats?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"The autism sera injected rats demonstrated developmental delay and deficits in social communication, interaction, and novelty."That was one of the findings reported in the paper by Syed Faraz Kazim and colleagues [1] (open-access) who, among other things, injected intracerebroventricularly sera collected from children with autism into newborn rats and examined behavioural effects compared with injections of sera from asymptomatic controls. Actually, that was only one part of the resea........ Read more »

  • March 28, 2015
  • 04:27 AM
  • 56 views

Screening for autism in preterm infants

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"A positive screen on the M-CHAT [Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers] occurs more commonly in very preterm infants than those born at term."So said the study by Peter Gray and colleagues [1] as the topic of preterm status - that is, babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy - potentially being linked to a greater risk of autism or at least, increased risk of screening positive for autism, crops up yet again on this blog (see here).Gray et al examined a cohort of children bo........ Read more »

  • March 27, 2015
  • 06:02 AM
  • 51 views

Inflammation impairs social cognitive processing

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

A quote to begin: "acute inflammation can lead to decreases in the ability to accurately and reliably comprehend emotional information from others."It comes from the article published by Mona Moieni and colleagues [1] who examined a concept familiar to many people with a connection to autism either personally or professionally: Theory of Mind (ToM). Rather interestingly, Moieni et al "examined whether exposure to an experimental inflammatory challenge led to changes in ToM." Inflammato........ Read more »

  • March 26, 2015
  • 07:39 AM
  • 46 views

Autism increases risk of nonaffective psychotic disorder and bipolar disorder

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Published at the same time and in the same journal as the 'MoBa does bowel issues in autism' paper from Bresnahan and colleagues [1], the study results from Jean-Paul Selten et al [2] reporting that "A diagnosis of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] is associated with a substantially increased risk for NAPD [nonaffective psychotic disorder] and BD [bipolar disorder]" has, at the time of writing this post, received little or no press attention in comparison despite ........ Read more »

  • March 25, 2015
  • 05:57 PM
  • 51 views

MoBa does bowel issues in autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

'MoBa' in the title of this post, refers to the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study and a handy resource which has already impacted on autism research (see here for example).Now MoBa has turned its epidemiological clout to an issue which less and less is encountering scientific resistance: are gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms over-represented when it comes to a diagnosis of autism? Further, when do such bowel issues start to present?The answer, shown in the paper by Michaeline B........ Read more »

Bresnahan, M., Hornig, M., Schultz, A., Gunnes, N., Hirtz, D., Lie, K., Magnus, P., Reichborn-Kjennerud, T., Roth, C., Schjølberg, S.... (2015) Association of Maternal Report of Infant and Toddler Gastrointestinal Symptoms With Autism. JAMA Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.3034  

  • March 25, 2015
  • 05:33 AM
  • 60 views

Autism and depression: interlinked?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"A possible implication is that interventions aimed at either autism symptoms or symptoms of depression may improve the other."That was the intriguing statement made by Per Normann Andersen and colleagues [1] who "investigated the course of and association among changes in autism symptoms, depression symptoms and executive functions (EF) in children with high-functioning autism (HFA)." Aside from frowning a little at the mention of the concept of 'high-functioning' I assume to denote those ........ Read more »

  • March 24, 2015
  • 05:37 AM
  • 54 views

More extremes of a limiting diet and autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

In a previous post a while back, I discussed some examples in the peer-reviewed literature of where a self-limiting diet in the extreme can lead to with autism in mind. Today, I'm adding a further example of what food faddism might mean, to further forward the point that "a low threshold for vitamin level testing should be undertaken in autistic spectrum disorder cases, highlighting the importance of enquiring about dietary habits."That last quote comes from the paper in question by Emma Du........ Read more »

  • March 23, 2015
  • 05:48 AM
  • 62 views

Early life probiotics reducing the risk of subsequent neuropsychiatric disorder?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

With my continued interest in all-things gut microbiome on this blog (see here for example) it is little wonder that I was taken to blog about the study findings from Anna Pärtty and colleagues [1] reporting that: "Probiotic supplementation early in life may reduce the risk of neuropsychiatric disorder development later in childhood." Probiotic by the way, refers to various 'live' organisms (bacteria, yeasts) thought to confer some positive effect on health and/or wellbeing.Not only does such a........ Read more »

  • March 21, 2015
  • 04:22 AM
  • 75 views

Toxoplasma gondii and schizophrenia (again and again)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The findings reported by Ainsah Omar and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) adding further weight to the notion of a "strong association between the active Tg [Toxoplasma gondii] infection and schizophrenia" are set out for your reading consumption today.Continuing a research topic that has already enjoyed quite a bit of air time on this blog (see here and see here) whereby the parasite T. gondii known to cause the condition toxoplasmosis might also be implicate........ Read more »

Omar A, Bakar OC, Adam NF, Osman H, Osman A, Suleiman AH, Manaf MR, & Selamat MI. (2015) Seropositivity and Serointensity of Toxoplasma gondii Antibodies and DNA among Patients with Schizophrenia. The Korean journal of parasitology, 53(1), 29-34. PMID: 25748706  

  • March 20, 2015
  • 03:50 AM
  • 79 views

Autism genes and cognitive ability

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Autism IS linked to higher intelligence: People with genes related to the condition 'scored better in mental ability tests' was one of the media headlines reporting on the study by Toni-Kim Clarke and colleagues [1].Clarke et al reported results based on a pretty good sample size (in the thousands) whereby autism-associated genes and cognitive ability were examined in several cohorts including those taking part in The Generation Scotland : Scottish Family Health Study (G........ Read more »

  • March 19, 2015
  • 06:05 AM
  • 62 views

Objective measures of sleep in autism meta-analysed

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] have small but measurable objective differences in their sleep parameters that are consistent with subjective reporting."That was the main conclusion reached in the meta-analysis from Marilisa Elrod and Bradley Hood [1] who looked at the collected peer-reviewed data "that used objective measures such as actigraphy or polysomnography (PSG) to describe the sleep parameters of TST [total sleep time], SL [sleep latency], and SE&n........ Read more »

  • March 18, 2015
  • 05:52 AM
  • 104 views

The label of autism rarely exists in a diagnostic vacuum

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Most young ASD [autism spectrum disorder] children met the criteria for additional psychopathology." That was the primary conclusion reported by Fernando Salazar and colleagues [1].At the risk of sounding like a broken record going on and on about how the diagnosis/label of autism very rarely exists in a diagnostic vacuum when it comes to comorbidity, I did think it important that the findings of Salazar et al were [briefly] brought to your attention. I've talked a few times on t........ Read more »

Salazar, F., Baird, G., Chandler, S., Tseng, E., O’sullivan, T., Howlin, P., Pickles, A., & Simonoff, E. (2015) Co-occurring Psychiatric Disorders in Preschool and Elementary School-Aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-015-2361-5  

  • March 17, 2015
  • 06:13 AM
  • 84 views

Psychotic symptoms managed by a gluten-free diet?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The case report detailed by William Eaton and colleagues [1] illustrating how a gluten-free diet might not just be the treatment of choice for the autoimmune condition coeliac (celiac) disease is served up for your consumption today.The authors report the story of 'Chris' an 8-year old boy who experienced various symptoms including "intermittent auditory and visual hallucinations" then moving later in his life to being hospitalised and eventually diagnosed with "major depressive disorder wi........ Read more »

  • March 16, 2015
  • 05:37 AM
  • 65 views

Decreased plasma levels of lipoxin A4 in autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The paper by Chun-Lin Yan and colleagues [1] talking about significantly lower plasma levels of lipoxin A4 (LXA4) "a mediator involved in the resolution of inflammation" in cases of childhood autism is the point of discussions today.Continuing an important theme of immune system involvement in at least some cases of autism, Yan et al focused on a less well-trodden path looking at lipoxins that seem to be involved in something of a yin and yang relationship with another set of eicosanoi........ Read more »

  • March 14, 2015
  • 06:10 AM
  • 81 views

Boiling down ADOS for autism detection (again)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Today I want to direct your attention to the paper by Kosmicki and colleagues [1] (open-access) reporting that the use of "machine learning algorithms" could help "streamline ASD [autism spectrum disorder] risk detection and screening."Regular readers of this blog might have already cottoned on to the fact that any talk about applying "computational and statistical methods" to autism screening and/or diagnosis can really mean only one person and research group: Dennis Wall from Stanfor........ Read more »

  • March 13, 2015
  • 05:42 AM
  • 124 views

Individualised medicine and autism: a brave new world

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Pharmacogenetics: "the study of inherited genetic differences in drug metabolic pathways which can affect individual responses to drugs, both in terms of therapeutic effect as well as adverse effects."Having recently watched a rather interesting documentary on the BBC titled 'Can you cure my cancer?' illustrating how the era of personalised medicine is here and now (see here) in at least one aspect of medicine, I was really quite interested in the science of how our genes might affect our respon........ Read more »

  • March 12, 2015
  • 05:49 AM
  • 101 views

More evidence for non-coeliac gluten sensitivity?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"In a cross-over trial of subjects with suspected NCGS [non-coeliac gluten sensitivity], the severity of overall symptoms increased significantly during 1 week of intake of small amounts of gluten, compared with placebo."That was the conclusion reached in the study by Antonio Di Sabatino and colleagues [1] who applied the gold standard research methodology - "a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial" - to studying the effects of small amounts of gluten on those ........ Read more »

Di Sabatino A, Volta U, Salvatore C, Biancheri P, Caio G, De Giorgio R, Di Stefano M, & Corazza GR. (2015) Small Amounts of Gluten in Subjects with Suspected Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Cross-Over Trial. Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology : the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. PMID: 25701700  

  • March 11, 2015
  • 05:47 AM
  • 83 views

Intimate partner abuse and risk of offspring autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I want to be slightly careful when discussing the conclusion reached in the paper by Andrea Roberts and colleagues [1] that: "autism spectrum disorder risk was increased in children of women who reported fear of partner or sexual, emotional, or physical abuse in the 2 years before the birth year."Careful not only because correlation has an uncanny habit of being translated into causation for some people (they are not one and the same thing) and how this combines when one interprets the concept........ Read more »

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