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Autism research and other musings

Paul Whiteley
1,226 posts

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  • September 7, 2016
  • 02:40 AM
  • 468 views

On (banned) organochlorine compounds and autism risk

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

'Chemicals banned decades ago linked to increased autism risk today' went the press release attached to the findings reported by Kristen Lyall and colleagues [1] (open-access).Observing that "higher levels of some organochlorine compounds during pregnancy are associated with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and ID [intellectual disability]" the Lyall results once again push environmental factors back into the research spotlight. Indeed, environmental factors that were bann........ Read more »

  • September 6, 2016
  • 02:51 AM
  • 478 views

"The maternal body as environment in autism science"

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Although I'm not really one for deep philosophical discussions or anything related (unless linked to a specific galaxy far, far away...), I was recently interested to read the paper by Martine Lappé [1] talking about how "complex narratives of autism’s causes and social anxieties surrounding child development have helped situate autism risk in women’s bodies before and during pregnancy."I'm as guilty as anyone for discussing the pretty constant stream of peer-reviewed research evidence........ Read more »

  • September 5, 2016
  • 03:08 AM
  • 480 views

Fatty acids and reading ability replicated

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'm a fan of scientific replication on this blog. Y'know, when one group comes out with some new marvellous research findings and another [independent] group says 'yep, we found that too'.It is with that sentiment in mind that I'm talking about the results published by Mats Johnson and colleagues [1] who suggested that "3 months of Omega 3/6 treatment improved reading ability" following a "3-month parallel, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial" with schoolchildren aged 9-10 years o........ Read more »

  • September 3, 2016
  • 05:06 AM
  • 516 views

Bipolar disorder in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): real gut-brain axis stuff

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Our results support a significantly higher prevalence rate of BD [bipolar disorder] in IBS [irritable bowel syndrome] patients than in controls."So said the results of the meta-analysis and systematic review published by Ping-Tao Tseng and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) based on the suggestion that "both IBS and BD may, at least partially, share a similar mechanism of pathophysiology" specifically with immune function in mind.Building on previous research sugges........ Read more »

  • September 2, 2016
  • 03:52 AM
  • 502 views

Parental concerns about offspring autism: listen up!

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"The developmental concerns expressed by parents of undiagnosed toddlers were highly consistent with the diagnosis the child later received."So said the findings reported by Megan Richards and colleagues [1] who continue a research theme suggesting that when it comes to 'developmental concerns' about offspring behaviour, parents are generally pretty good at spotting potential red flags and professionals should perhaps take further note.Based on data derived from "a toddler screening study" some ........ Read more »

  • September 1, 2016
  • 03:54 AM
  • 499 views

Autism, optimal outcome and the broader autism phenotype

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Overall, OO [optimal outcome] individuals are not showing BAP [broader autism phenotype] characteristics, but may be subject to other mild ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder]-like characteristics."So said the findings reported by Joyce Suh and colleagues [1] who continue a research voyage based on the examination of a group of children who were very much once on the autism spectrum but no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for the label: those with so-........ Read more »

  • August 31, 2016
  • 03:43 AM
  • 453 views

Filicide and autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"The choice of the victim was in line with emerging evidence indicating that children with disabilities in general and with autism in particular are frequent victims of filicide-suicide."The case report presented by Declercq and colleagues [1] reflects yet another uncomfortable topic discussed on this blog and how the 'deliberate act of murdering ones own child' is something unfortunately not unfamiliar when it comes to the label of autism. Declercq et al provide quite a raw account of........ Read more »

  • August 30, 2016
  • 03:47 AM
  • 408 views

A prenatal 'unhealthy' diet and offspring ADHD?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

'Scientists study link between unhealthy pregnancy diet and ADHD' went one media headline covering the paper by Jolien Rijlaarsdam and colleagues [1].The name of the research game was again to draw on data derived from ALSPAC (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) (yes, again) to look-see "the degree to which prenatal high-fat and -sugar diet might relate to ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] symptoms via IGF2 DNA methylation for early-onset persistent (EOP........ Read more »

  • August 29, 2016
  • 03:37 AM
  • 405 views

The ketogenic diet and the BTBRT Tf/J mouse model of autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I was rather interested to read the findings reported by Richelle Mychasiuk & Jong Rho [1] suggesting that the expression of certain genes might be affected by adoption of a ketogenic diet in one of the more familiar mouse models of autism (the BTBRT+Tf/J 'dangermouse').The ketogenic diet (KD), consisting of "a high-fat low-carbohydrate anti-seizure and neuroprotective diet" has been of some interest to autism research over the years (see here). Its potential usefulness has also been explore........ Read more »

  • August 27, 2016
  • 05:05 AM
  • 466 views

On autism spectrum disorder [research] validity

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Today I'm directing your reading attention to a really, really interesting paper by Lynn Waterhouse and colleagues [1] (open-access) whose review findings suggest that: "the ASD [autism spectrum disorder] diagnosis lacks biological and construct validity."The paper is a bit of a long read but most definitely worth it as the quite complicated subject of exactly what goal the label of autism actually serves is discussed. The results of various questions posed by the authors suggest: "No ........ Read more »

Waterhouse, L., London, E., & Gillberg, C. (2016) ASD Validity. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. DOI: 10.1007/s40489-016-0085-x  

  • August 26, 2016
  • 03:38 AM
  • 477 views

What does the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) actually measure?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Higher AQ [Autism Spectrum Quotient] scores were associated with higher scores of loneliness, social anxiety, depression, and anxiety, as well as with lower scores of quality of life (QoL)."Those were some of the key findings reported by Phil Reed and colleagues [1] who used the very popular 'are you autistic?' AQ screening tool to look at the presence of autistic traits "along with depression, anxiety, loneliness, quality of life, and social anxiety" in a University student cohort (N........ Read more »

  • August 25, 2016
  • 03:45 AM
  • 535 views

Hospitalisation for infection and risk of death by suicide

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"An increased risk of death by suicide was found among individuals hospitalized with infection in prospective and dose-response relationships. These findings indicate that infections may have a relevant role in the pathophysiological mechanisms of suicidal behavior."Some intriguing data has been recently reported by Helene Lund-Sørensen and colleagues [1] (open-access) examining the possibility that certain types of infection (or perhaps the biological response to infection) might inc........ Read more »

  • August 24, 2016
  • 04:13 AM
  • 556 views

ALSPAC says maybe to link between prenatal paracetamol exposure and childhood behavioural difficulties

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

ALSPAC - the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children - continues to give in research terms as today I approach the findings reported by Evie Stergiakouli and colleagues [1]. They observed that: "Children exposed to acetaminophen [paracetamol] prenatally are at increased risk of multiple behavioral difficulties, and the associations do not appear to be explained by unmeasured behavioral or social factors linked to acetaminophen use insofar as they are not observed........ Read more »

  • August 23, 2016
  • 03:47 AM
  • 530 views

Autism and/or ADHD in Down's syndrome

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"High rates of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] were found: 17 (42%) and 14 (34%) of the 41 children met DSM criteria for ASD and ADHD respectively."That was the conclusion reached in the study by Ulrika Oxelgren and colleagues [1] looking at the "prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in a population-based group of children and adolescents with Down syndrome." The populatio........ Read more »

Oxelgren UW, Myrelid Å, Annerén G, Ekstam B, Göransson C, Holmbom A, Isaksson A, Åberg M, Gustafsson J, & Fernell E. (2016) Prevalence of autism and attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder in Down syndrome: a population-based study. Developmental medicine and child neurology. PMID: 27503703  

  • August 22, 2016
  • 05:17 AM
  • 614 views

"Theory of mind is not theory of emotion"

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

A rather interesting paper by Beth Oakley and colleagues [1] (open-access might be available here) appeared recently providing a "cautionary note on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test" [2], one of the premier assessments thought to offer a performance-based measure "involving mental state attribution and complex facial emotion recognition from photographs where only the eye region of the face is available."Most people with some knowledge about autism research history will have heard about the........ Read more »

  • August 20, 2016
  • 04:47 AM
  • 534 views

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and risk of psychiatric disorder

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder affecting 5-15% of reproductive-aged women and characterized by high levels of circulating androgens."OK, go on."Women with PCOS had higher risks for a range of psychiatric disorders not shown before. Elevated risk in their siblings suggests shared familial factors between PCOS and psychiatric disorders."So said the findings reported by Carolyn Cesta and colleagues [1] who using Swedish national register data concluded that there ma........ Read more »

  • August 19, 2016
  • 04:35 AM
  • 486 views

Childhood inflammation and hypomanic symptoms in young adulthood?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Higher levels of systemic inflammatory marker IL-6 in childhood were associated with hypomanic symptoms in young adulthood, suggesting that inflammation may play a role in the pathophysiology of mania."That was the conclusion reached by Joseph Hayes and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) who drew on data derived from the excellent resource that is ALSPAC ("Charting the health of 14,500 families in the Bristol area to improve the health of future generations"). I'll be talking abou........ Read more »

  • August 18, 2016
  • 06:09 AM
  • 505 views

Mercury and autism: where the science currently stands

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Yes, I know that on the 'hot potato' scale, to talk about mercury and autism still moves the needle up to somewhere approaching furnace level for some people despite discussions on this heavy metal still figuring in several quarters. This is however a blog based on peer-reviewed science (for the most part) and so with mucho, mucho caveats included I want to draw your attention to the review paper by Janet Kern and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) and the observation that: "The pr........ Read more »

Kern JK, Geier DA, Sykes LK, Haley BE, & Geier MR. (2016) The relationship between mercury and autism: A comprehensive review and discussion. Journal of trace elements in medicine and biology : organ of the Society for Minerals and Trace Elements (GMS), 8-24. PMID: 27473827  

  • August 17, 2016
  • 05:01 AM
  • 440 views

76% of youths with autism meet ADHD diagnostic criteria? No, more like 59%

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"In a population of children diagnosed with ASD [autism spectrum disorder], the rate of ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] + ASD was 42% and the rate of ADHD + ASD + ID [intellectual disability] was 17%, resulting in a 59% total comorbidity rate of ADHD and ASD."That was one of the important findings reported by Tara Stevens and colleagues [1] who using data from the Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Services (Pathways), a US initiative that has previ........ Read more »

  • August 16, 2016
  • 04:36 AM
  • 471 views

Group A Streptococcal infections and paediatric neuropsychiatric disorders: Taiwan style

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

There they go again. Taiwan and their 'big data' publishing, yet again, some rather interesting population-based research trends derived from data from the National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD).This time around it is the paper by Han-Cheng Wang and colleagues [1] and the hypothesis to evaluate the "association between group A streptococcal (GAS) infections and the risks of developing tic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disord........ Read more »

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