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  • September 29, 2014
  • 10:32 AM

Family Attachment and the Brain Cingulate Cortex

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Healthy family attachment provides a key element for social support and successful interpersonal relationships.Several brain regions as well as hormonal factors appear to modulate positive emotional responses to family members.I have previously reviewed several studies involving the prosocial effects of the hormone oxytocin and the related hormone vasopressin.Nicolas Rusch from the Department of Psychiatry at Ulm University in Germany along with colleagues in Brazil and London recently published a fMRI study of brain regions and family attachment.In this study, 34 healthy adults participated in a brain imaging study involving three types of social scenario fMRI tasks:Affiliative scenarios linked to family members: "You taught your son to ride the bike and he came to thank you with a hug"Non-affiliative scenarios not linked to family members: "You work for a company that made great profits and received a good salary raise"Neutral emotional social scenarios: "You participated in a business meeting and then went back to your office"Subjects rated their perceived family attachment using a four item questionnaire assessing family group affiliation.The key finding from the study involved a brain region known as the subgenual cingulate cortex."Perceiving one's family as a distinct and cohesive group was associated with increased subgenual cortex response to kinship scenarios."The authors noted their study is consistent with other research that has linked the subgenual cingulate cortex activity with:Altruistic decisions such as making a charitable donation Modulation of the prosocial hormones oxytocin and vasopressinViewing pictures of romantic partners or pictures of subjects own infantsThe authors also note the subgenual cortex has been linked to major depression suggesting a link between mood disorders and disturbance of normal prosocial attachment to family members. An additional clinical implication would be the potential disruption of social attachment in patients suffering a stroke or other brain lesion in the subgenual cortex region.The figure in this post is an iPad screen of the cingulate cortex from app 3D Brain. The subgenual cortex is represented in this figure by the lower left portion of the purple-shaded cingulate cortex.Readers with more interest in this research can access the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the citation below.Follow the author on Twitter at WRY999Rüsch N, Bado P, Zahn R, Bramati IE, de Oliveira-Souza R, & Moll J (2014). You and your kin: Neural signatures of family-based group perception in the subgenual cortex. Social neuroscience, 9 (4), 326-31 PMID: 24802255... Read more »

  • September 29, 2014
  • 04:35 AM

Term vs. preterm birth and the presentation of autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The paper by Katherine Bowers and colleagues [1] continues the interest in the concept of 'the autisms' with their observations on the presentation of autism (and its comorbidities) when looking at those "born preterm versus those born at term".We'd better get back, 'cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night... mostlyBased on an analysis of quite a healthy participant number heading up to 900 "males and females with autism spectrum disorder", authors reported on several phenotypic differences between the 13% born preterm compared to the majority born following a full-term pregnancy. These differences, also influenced by gender, were in core areas such as language skills and the presence of comorbidities such as sleep apnea and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The authors conclude that their results "may have implications for understanding the underpinnings of a subset of individuals with autism spectrum disorder and contribute to the development of focused treatments for autism spectrum disorder among children born preterm".Whilst one should always be a little cautious about making too much of any specific link with something like preterm birth (see here to illustrate the many and varied outcomes following this variable) I was interested in the Bowers' results. I think back to similar research into autism subgroups from Unwin and colleagues [2] (talked about in a previous post) describing how low birth weight was "associated with greater sleep disturbances".Although many variables can affect foetal growth measures, preterm birth can adversely impact on birth weight and with that, one might see a possible common feature appearing in relation to issues at birth. That being said, the strength of any association between preterm birth and something like the comorbid presence of ADHD in cases of autism is likely to be a complex issue as per the findings from Harris and colleagues [3] who concluded that in the general population: "former late preterm infants have similar rates of LD [learning disabilities] and ADHD as term infants".Bowers et al also took into account a role for gender in their results, reporting that there may be more to see here. Although quite an obvious variable to look at when it comes to autism (see here), there is perhaps not as much appreciation of how sex might link into autism phenotypes as one might imagine. Recently, Reinhardt and colleagues [4] did venture into this area, concluding that whilst they did not see any "significant effects of sex or a diagnostic group by sex interaction" when it came to autism presentation, further research is indicated in this area. I might add that such investigations might also wish to look further at comorbidity too, or autism plus [5] if you like.Music to close and Bulletproof by La Roux.----------[1] Bowers K. et al. Phenotypic differences in individuals with autism spectrum disorder born preterm and at term gestation. Autism. 2014 Sep 5. pii: 1362361314547366.[2] Unwin LM. et al. A "bottom-up" approach to aetiological research in autism spectrum disorders. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Sep 19;7:606.[3] Harris MN. et al. ADHD and learning disabilities in former late preterm infants: a population-based birth cohort. Pediatrics. 2013 Sep;132(3):e630-6.[4] Reinhardt VP. et al. Examination of Sex Differences in a Large Sample of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Typical Development. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Sep 5.[5] Gillberg C. & Fernell E. Autism Plus Versus Autism Pure. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Jun 24.----------Bowers K, Wink LK, Pottenger A, McDougle CJ, & Erickson C (2014). Phenotypic differences in individuals with autism spectrum disorder born preterm and at term gestation. Autism : the international journal of research and practice PMID: 25192860... Read more »

  • September 29, 2014
  • 12:05 AM

Parents, Where are You Getting Your Concussion Information?

by Jane McDevitt in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

Parents of young athletes (5 to 15 year olds) lack of knowledge regarding concussion definition, signs and symptoms, and mechanisms. We need to implement more concussion education programs for parents of young athletes.... Read more »

  • September 27, 2014
  • 08:37 AM

The Memory Fades, The Emotion Remains

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

People with Alzheimer’s disease can experience severe memory impairments.However, according to a new study, the emotions associated with events can persist long after the events themselves have been forgotten: Feelings Without Memory in Alzheimer Disease In their paper, the researchers, University of Iowa neurologists Edmarie Guzman-Velez and colleagues, showed volunteers a series of emotional video […]The post The Memory Fades, The Emotion Remains appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

Guzmán-Vélez E, Feinstein JS, & Tranel D. (2014) Feelings without memory in Alzheimer disease. Cognitive and behavioral neurology : official journal of the Society for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology, 27(3), 117-29. PMID: 25237742  

  • September 27, 2014
  • 03:50 AM

Yes, people with autism do have headaches

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I don't mean to be haughty but a sentence included in the paper by Victorio [1] led to the title of today's very quick post. Based on a chart review of patients diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) attending a neurology clinic, the author concluded that "ASD patients, despite being known to have indifference to pain, can experience headaches".Pain is something which has cropped up quite a bit in the autism research arena and has appeared more than once on this blog (see here and see here). The suggestion of an 'indifference' to pain being potentially over-represented in relation to autism I think stretches back to some older work which I have to say, has been pretty widely disputed in more recent years [2].The focus on migraine as "the most frequent headache type" reported by Victorio might also be quite interesting in light of other research linking migraine headaches to some of the sensory issues reported in cases of autism [3]. Moving migraine away from just the head was also a suggestion put forward by another author [4] which opens up a whole new world of possibilities...----------[1] Victorio M. Headaches in patients with autism spectrum disorder. The Journal of Headache and Pain 2014, 15(Suppl 1):B37.[2] Nader R. et al. Expression of pain in children with autism. Clin J Pain. 2004 Mar-Apr;20(2):88-97.[3] Sullivan JC. et al. The presence of migraines and its association with sensory hyperreactivity and anxiety symptomatology in children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism. 2013 Sep 26;18(6):743-747.[4] Casanova MF. The minicolumnopathy of autism: A link between migraine and gastrointestinal symptoms. Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(1):73-80.----------Victorio, M. (2014). EHMTI-0290. Headaches in patients with autism spectrum disorder The Journal of Headache and Pain, 15 (Suppl 1) DOI: 10.1186/1129-2377-15-S1-B37... Read more »

  • September 26, 2014
  • 02:15 PM

“GMO” Foods (Once Again) Proven Safe

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

GMO, I shudder every time I hear someone talk about the “dangers”. It’s one of the new buzzwords that doesn’t actually mean anything, but still manages to scare people. Well a new scientific review reports that the performance and health of food-producing animals consuming genetically engineered feed, first introduced 18 years ago, has been comparable to that of animals consuming non-GE feed. Not that this will stop people from spreading fear, but it’s a start.... Read more »

  • September 26, 2014
  • 05:32 AM

Schizophrenia after child and adolescent psychiatric disorders

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

More of a 'bring to your attention' post today, as I bring to your attention(!) the paper by Cecilie Frejstrup Maibing and colleagues [1] who concluded: "The risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorders [SSD] after a child and adolescent psychiatric disorder was significantly increased particularly in the short term but also in the long-term period"."I coulda been a contender"The findings were based on an analysis of one of those very informative Scandinavian registries - based in Denmark - which initially identified over 25,000 people born between 1990-2000 diagnosed "with child and adolescent psychiatric disorders". Some 1200 of these people were subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorders leading to the various conclusions and statistics being produced including: "The risk of schizophrenia spectrum disorders was highly elevated, particularly within the first year after onset of the child and adolescent psychiatric disorder, and remained significantly elevated >5 years with an incidence rate ratio of 4.93". Further: "among persons diagnosed with a child and adolescent psychiatric disorder between the ages 0-13 years and 14-17 years, 1.68% and 8.74 %, respectively, will be diagnosed with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder <8 years after onset of the child and adolescent psychiatric disorder".With my autism research blogging hat on, and without hopefully making too many sweeping generalisations, I found the Maibing research to be rather interesting. I've previously talked about spectrums colliding on this blog (see here) with specific reference to the work of Kenneth Gadow [2] for example, on "an interrelation between ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and SSD symptoms". That and a post on 'labels and lumping' (see here) affirms that there may indeed be common ground between some of the spectrums, which I might add, are probably plural spectrums [3] (see my take here). As per other research on the possibility of Asperger syndrome in first-episode psychosis (see here), diagnostic vigilance seems to be a key point to take from the Maibing work, and that appears to extend well beyond just what happens after a diagnosis of autism is received...So, Golden Touch by Razorlight.----------[1] Maibing CF. et al. Risk of Schizophrenia Increases After All Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Disorders: A Nationwide Study. Schizophr Bull. 2014 Sep 5. pii: sbu119.[2] Gadow KD. Schizophrenia spectrum and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms in autism spectrum disorder and controls. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 Oct;51(10):1076-84.[3] Arnedo J. et al. Uncovering the Hidden Risk Architecture of the Schizophrenias: Confirmation in Three Independent Genome-Wide Association Studies. Am J Psychiatry. 2014. September 15.----------Maibing CF, Pedersen CB, Benros ME, Mortensen PB, Dalsgaard S, & Nordentoft M (2014). Risk of Schizophrenia Increases After All Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Disorders: A Nationwide Study. Schizophrenia bulletin PMID: 25193974... Read more »

  • September 25, 2014
  • 10:37 AM

A New Discovery in the Treatment of Autoimmunity and Chronic Inflammation

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Lupus, Type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis are all diseases brought on by autoimmunity — the bodies inability to tell itself apart from foreign invaders. Finding a cure, or even a suitable treatment has been to put it gently a long, painful road, with little to show for it. On the forefront of the war against the body betrayal is immunosuppressants, which with them carry their own set of side effects and in most cases only off mild to moderate relief of symptoms. But that is all changing and new research on something called immunoproteasomes offer that new hope.... Read more »

Dubiella C, Cui H, Gersch M, Brouwer AJ, Sieber SA, Krüger A, Liskamp RM, & Groll M. (2014) Selective Inhibition of the Immunoproteasome by Ligand-Induced Crosslinking of the Active Site. Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English). PMID: 25244435  

  • September 25, 2014
  • 09:46 AM

What’s the Answer? (domain and lollipop mutation diagrams)

by Mary in OpenHelix

Biostars is a site for asking, answering and discussing bioinformatics questions and issues. We are members of the community and find it very useful. Often questions and answers arise at Biostars that are germane to our readers (end users of genomics resources). Every Thursday we will be highlighting one of those items or discussions here […]... Read more »

Gao J., U. Dogrusoz, G. Dresdner, B. Gross, S. O. Sumer, Y. Sun, A. Jacobsen, R. Sinha, E. Larsson, & E. Cerami. (2013) Integrative Analysis of Complex Cancer Genomics and Clinical Profiles Using the cBioPortal. Science Signaling, 6(269). DOI:  

  • September 25, 2014
  • 05:10 AM

Temporal trends in US autism prevalence: mainly real increase

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Diagnosed autism prevalence has risen dramatically in the U.S over the last several decades and continued to trend upward as of birth year 2005. The increase is mainly real and has occurred mostly since the late 1980s"."They call me Cha Cha because I'm the best dancer at St. Bernadette's"That was the conclusion reached in the paper by Cynthia Nevison [1] (open-access) following her analysis of temporal trends in autism diagnosis for birth years between 1970 and 2005. Based on an analysis of datasets derived from IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and the CDDS (California Department of Developmental Services), the author suggested that between 75-80% "of the tracked increase in autism since 1988 is due to an actual increase in the disorder rather than to changing diagnostic criteria". The question of what environmental factors might have been driving such an increase in cases is also discussed in the Nevison paper, with the author concluding "children’s exposure to most of the top ten toxic compounds has remained flat or decreased over this same time frame". That top 10 list by the way, seems to come at least partly from the Landrigan paper talked about a couple of years back (see here).There is quite a bit of information included in the Nevison paper which I'm reluctant to write a mega-blog entry on at this time. This includes various caveats about the use of IDEA and CDDS databases and their constraints on for example, what ASDs (autism spectrum disorders) are included in the datasets. I will however summarise some of the main findings in relation to the environmental factors probed by the author bearing in mind that autism research does not appear to be her main area of scientific interest (with all due respect).So:Air pollution... something which has cropped up with ever-increasing frequency in the peer-reviewed research on autism (see here and see here for example). Nevison concludes: "there is no obvious evidence to suggest that trends in estimated vehicular emissions or directly measured air pollution are consistent with the sharp temporal increase in U.S. autism". So no smoking tailpipe (exhaust) there then as per other recent research findings [2].Mercury in vaccines... a topic guaranteed to furrow brows and raise blood pressure in some quarters (see here and see here for example). Nevison discusses the phaseout of thimerosal (thiomersal) from paediatric vaccines used in the US concluding that "the expansion of thimerosal exposure in the late 1980s and early 1990s coincides closely with the rise in autism around that time". But... "the temporal trends in autism and thimerosal following the childhood vaccine thimerosal phaseout are incompatible". Other sources of mercury exposure get a similarly 'unlikely' mark from Nevison.Organophosphate (OP) pesticide exposure... an interesting area which again has been covered previously on this blog (see here and see here). Nevison points out the declining use of such pesticides in the US following "the adoption of crops genetically modified to produce Bt toxin, which repels targeted insect pests, thus reducing the need for external insecticides". Recognising that pesticides are not to be trifled with (see here) I've always been a little confused about the mechanism(s) through which OP exposure could theoretically impact on the presentation of autism. I know people have talked about PON1 and autism [3] (some autism) but I do feel as though the primary effect of OPs - acting on acetlycholinesterase -  is something in need of a lot more research with autism in mind before anyone gets too carried away. There is however a caveat to the pesticides-autism conclusion by the author following some mention of "the rapidly increasing application of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup®". She continues: "it appears that glyphosate cannot be responsible for the first autism cases in the 1930s and is unlikely to have caused the late 1980s uptick, but could be interacting in recent years with other toxins to drive up the prevalence of U.S. autism". Depending on where you look, you'll get various different messages about the pros and cons of glyphosate. I remember reading a report a few years back (see here) authored by one of the researchers involved in that 'organic food might be better for you' paper recently (see here) which painted a rather disturbing picture of the product. For balance, I'm going to also refer you to the various documents provided by Monsanto (the producer of Roundup) for their response to safety concerns. When it comes to a search of PubMed with the terms 'autism and glyphosate' the current result is zero although it has been mentioned elsewhere in the peer-reviewed domain [4]. Maternal obesity... I'm being quite careful here accepting the previous discussions in this area of autism research (see here). Nevison reports that: "the time trend in obesity among U.S. women correlates well to that of autism, suggesting maternal obesity may be a direct influence or a comorbid consequence of the dietary factors contributing to autism, or both". One needs to bear in mind that the United States was the focus on these findings and as such the conclusions may not pertain to other parts of the globe. I probably don't need to say it but one should also bear in mind the saying 'correlation is not the same as causation' too. There are also other issues which have been discounted by Nevison as being related to the autism prevalence. Lead (Pb) is one of them; something which I personally would not be so keen to disregard given the more recent evidence on even trace amounts of this stuff not being great for the developing child (see here). This on top of what has been talked about with autism in mind (see here). I have a few other points to make which were perhaps not readily implied in the Nevison paper:... Read more »

  • September 24, 2014
  • 03:54 PM

A new Medicine may help Lupus Sufferers

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Lupus, a particularly bad hell on earth for people suffering from it. Lupus is caused by autoimmunity, in where the body attacks itself. I have a special place in my heart for people suffering from the disease because my Uncle suffered from it. There is no cure and only moderately effective treatments for the disorder, which causes, in some cases, the most excruciating pain you will ever feel. Thankfully new findings by a biomedical engineering team raise hope for a new class of drugs to treat lupus that may not include the long list of adverse risks and side effects often associated with current treatments.... Read more »

  • September 24, 2014
  • 12:37 PM

Why Women Give Better Gifts

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Consumer spending on gifts for birthdays and holidays is a multi-billion dollar big business.Despite this large economic impact, little research examines factors associated with gift recipient satisfaction.Selecting good gifts for others involves a complex social decision-making process related to judging the value hierarchy of others.A study from the Netherlands recently published in the journal PLOS One featured three experiments on gift selection in a series of men and women.The design of these experiments included:Study OneSubjects: 61 study pairs were identified who were involved in a family, romantic or friend relationshipGift selection: Participants reviewed a booklet containing pictures of 30 gift items similar to a catalog. Subjects then identified ten gifts they would like to receive and then selected ten gifts they would select for their paired partner. Gift selection rankings were calculated based on level of matching between subject and recipients.Study Two and ThreeSubjects: Male and female students at Tilburg University selected gift certificates for individuals from a computer picture of recipients across a broad gender and age profiles. Gift selection ranking: Subject gift selection was ranked by comparing it with the recipients actual gift certificate rank list.Moderating variables: Subjects completed a psychometric assessment of interpersonal interest (from a measure known as the autism-spectrum quotient-AQ) and interpersonal reactivity (from a measure known as the interpersonal reactivity index-IRI). Ratings on these measures were compared with gift selection ratings using ANOVA statistical analysis.The key findings from this experiment:Gift selection by women subjects matched recipient wishes better than that by gifts selected by menPsychometric differences were found on both measures of social interpersonal function. Women scored lower on the AQ questionnaire than men and higher on the IRI questionnaireGift selection skill correlated with a lower score on the AQ but was not independently associated with the IRI The authors note their findings indicate gift giving skill is related to both a subject's interest, effort and level of interpersonal social cognition.Women show more interest in the gift-giving process, spend more time in gift-selection and appear as a group to have better interpersonal awareness. This interpersonal awareness may be a key moderator of selecting gifts the recipients actually value.I selected this study from review on Brain Posts because it takes a relatively straight forward approach to examining an important social decision making process. Impaired social function contributes to interpersonal conflict, social attachment and occupational functioning. Understanding social processes such as gift-giving may promote better understanding of the normal and abnormal social development process.Readers with more interest in this research can find a link to the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the PMID link below.Landscape photo is from the Dingle peninsula in Ireland from the author's files.Follow the author on Twitter WRY999Pollmann MM, & van Beest I (2013). Women are better at selecting gifts than men. PloS one, 8 (12) PMID: 24386082... Read more »

Pollmann MM, & van Beest I. (2013) Women are better at selecting gifts than men. PloS one, 8(12). PMID: 24386082  

  • September 24, 2014
  • 11:42 AM

Genetics "Experts" Surveyed on Returning Incidental Findings

by Daniel Koboldt in Massgenomics

In my last post, I wrote about the return of results from next-gen sequencing, specifically a recent paper in AJHG about secondary findings in ~6500 ESP exomes. Today we’ll delve into another paper in the same issue on the attitudes of genetics professionals on return of incidental findings from whole genome sequencing (WGS) and exome sequencing […]... Read more »

  • September 24, 2014
  • 09:10 AM

6 Things You Need To Know About Your Microbiome

by Bill Sullivan in The 'Scope

Surprising new facts about the bacteria living on and in you.... Read more »

Lax S, Smith DP, Hampton-Marcell J, Owens SM, Handley KM, Scott NM, Gibbons SM, Larsen P, Shogan BD, Weiss S.... (2014) Longitudinal analysis of microbial interaction between humans and the indoor environment. Science (New York, N.Y.), 345(6200), 1048-52. PMID: 25170151  

Bisgaard, H., Li, N., Bonnelykke, K., Chawes, B., Skov, T., Paludan-Müller, G., Stokholm, J., Smith, B., & Krogfelt, K. (2011) Reduced diversity of the intestinal microbiota during infancy is associated with increased risk of allergic disease at school age. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 128(3), 646-65200000. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2011.04.060  

Stefka, A., Feehley, T., Tripathi, P., Qiu, J., McCoy, K., Mazmanian, S., Tjota, M., Seo, G., Cao, S., Theriault, B.... (2014) Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1412008111  

Williams NT. (2010) Probiotics. American journal of health-system pharmacy : AJHP : official journal of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 67(6), 449-58. PMID: 20208051  

  • September 24, 2014
  • 06:58 AM

Psychiatric effects of childhood inflammation?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Higher levels of the systemic inflammatory marker IL-6 [interleukin 6] in childhood are associated with an increased risk of developing depression and psychosis in young adulthood". So said the paper by Golam Khandaker and colleagues [1] looking at the growing link between inflammation and psychiatry.The bright light of Autumn @ Wikipedia The name Khandaker has appeared before on this blog (see here and see here), most recently with research looking at a possible link between the presence of a neurodevelopmental disorder and subsequent reports of psychotic experiences [2]. It's all rather fascinating research.With the most recent investigation in mind...Two inflammatory markers, IL-6 and C-Reactive Protein (CRP), were the variables of choice as per their inflammatory link (see here and see here). Said inflammatory markers were analysed in blood samples from quite a nice cohort (~4500) of 9-year olds who took part in the ALSPAC initiative. When their cohort were 18 years old, their mental health was assessed for things like depression and psychotic experiences (PEs) using various questionnaires and semi-structured interviews.Results: depending on whether participants fell into groups suggestive of low, medium or high inflammation on the basis of inflammatory markers seemed to have some effect on their mental health almost a decade later. So: "participants in the top third of IL-6 values compared with the bottom third at age 9 years were more likely to be depressed... at age 18 years". This finding was reported after correction for various potentially interfering variables.Additionally: "Risks of PEs and of psychotic disorder at age 18 years were also increased with higher IL-6 levels at baseline".The authors conclude: "Higher IL-6 levels in childhood were associated with subsequent risks of depression and PEs in a dose-dependent manner".There is, as one might expect, some accompanying media interest in these results (see here). I was interested to see that Judy Van de Water commented on the Khandaker results. Regular readers of the autism research scene will probably already known about Dr Van de Water's interest in immune function (including inflammation) and autism previously talked about on this blog (see here for example). She is quoted talking about: "kids who get fevers more often and for longer periods of time may also have higher levels of inflammation". Mmm...Whilst the Khandaker results are very interesting, as always, I do think there is more to do in this area. Aside from correlating spot analyses of inflammatory markers with events almost a decade later, IL-6 is portrayed as the bad guy in this scenario based on it's connection to systemic inflammation. But things are rarely so straight-forward as per the paper by Scheller and colleagues [3] (open-access) on the two faces of IL-6. To boil depression and PEs solely down to childhood inflammation also does little to say how complex such conditions are; something which Dr Khandaker's other research has also hinted at. I've also talked about other correlates and things like depression including vitamin D levels (see here), certain bacteria (see here) and possibly even something like dietary components (see here) showing potential involvement. It's complicated as I said.Oh and headlines like 'Could aspirin and ibuprofen help fight depression?' are perhaps a little premature at this time... but at least they didn't suggest paracetamol.Music to close. MAGIC! and Rude (Marry that Girl!).----------[1] Khandaker GM. et al. Association of Serum Interleukin 6 and C-Reactive Protein in Childhood With Depression and Psychosis in Young Adult Life. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014. August 13.[2] Khandaker GM. et al. A population-based longitudinal study of childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, IQ and subsequent risk of psychotic experiences in adolescence. Psychol Med. 2014 Apr 25:1-10.[3] Scheller J. et al. The pro- and anti-inflammatory properties of the cytokine interleukin-6. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Molecular Cell Research. 2011; 1813: 878-888.----------Golam M. Khandaker, Rebecca M. Pearson, Stanley Zammit, Glyn Lewis, & Peter B. Jones (2014). Association of Serum Interleukin 6 and C-Reactive Protein in Childhood With Depression and Psychosis in Young Adult Life JAMA Psychiatry : doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1332... Read more »

Golam M. Khandaker, Rebecca M. Pearson, Stanley Zammit, Glyn Lewis, & Peter B. Jones. (2014) Association of Serum Interleukin 6 and C-Reactive Protein in Childhood With Depression and Psychosis in Young Adult Life. JAMA Psychiatry. info:/doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1332

  • September 24, 2014
  • 06:00 AM

Chase The Good, Evade The Bad

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

New research has found a bacterium that is spherical, yet has flagella all over its surface (peritrichous). This bacterium is also the only magnetotactic organism discovered that has both magnetite and Greigite crystals. Other research is showing that changing fields can turn magnetotactic bacteria on command. With some bacteria able to generate electrical circuits and others being able to open and close circuits on command, can bacterial computers be far away?... Read more »

  • September 24, 2014
  • 12:05 AM

Performance May Not Mirror Patient-Reported Outcomes Following Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation

by Kyle Harris in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

Following autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI), performance based and patient-reported outcomes can be valuable for measuring success. Patient-reported outcomes were better at all post-operative time points while performance-based measurements decreased for the first 6 months following ACI.... Read more »

  • September 23, 2014
  • 09:38 AM

Maternal iron intake and offspring autism risk

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Much like the discussions around the paper by Rogers and colleagues (see here) on treating autism in the first year of life, the media scrum around the findings from Rebecca Schmidt and colleagues [1] talking about maternal iron supplements and offspring autism spectrum disorder (ASD) risk preceded the publication of the paper by a few days. It's getting to be a pet-hate of mine that big headlines are being generated sometimes days before your average Jane or Joe can see the data upon which they're based...Grumbling aside, here are a few factoids from the now published Schmidt paper:CHARGE was the source initiative for participants, as it has been for various studies, and following on from other research on nutrition during pregnancy potentially affecting offspring autism risk from this group (see here), the idea was to look at pre- and pregnancy maternal iron intake in relation to autism risk.Data for mothers of children with autism (n=520) were compared against mothers with children who did not have autism (n=346) and "maternal daily iron intake was quantified on the basis of frequency, dose, and brands of supplements and cereals consumed each month from 3 months before pregnancy through the end of pregnancy and during breastfeeding (the index period), as reported in parental interviews". You'll note the words 'parental interviews' there.Results: well, the mothers of children with autism were less likely to report taking 'iron-specific supplements' than control mothers and overall, a "lower mean daily iron intake" in the order of 5-6 mg/day less than controls was observed."Low iron intake significantly interacted with advanced maternal age and metabolic conditions; combined exposures were associated with a 5-fold increased ASD risk". Advanced maternal age by the way, refers to women who were 35 or older at the time of their child's birth, and metabolic conditions means obesity, diabetes or hypertension (in line with other evidence).These are interesting findings which add to the growing literature on how maternal nutrition before and during the nine months that made us potentially impacts on offspring development and outcome. Certainly, there are hints of the foetal programming hypothesis in there, for which the late David Barker receives quite a bit of credit. I was also wondering whether other issues potentially affecting foetal nutrition such as the inter-pregnancy interval (see here) might also tie into these findings too?But there are some obvious cautions to take on board when it comes to these findings. First is the continued reliance on self-report, which even under the most controlled of situations, is always going to be an estimate at best. Next, and I might be completely wrong about this, but even with the report of a mean daily intake of ~51 mg/day, the mothers with children with autism group were still quite a bit above the daily recommendations in the United States (see here) for pregnant or lactating women. Finally, I'm wondering whether the idea of "combined exposures" when it comes to maternal age and the presence of metabolic syndrome might actually be the more important issue raised in this paper...Iron and autism is a topic which has been discussed a few times on this blog (see here). The data is slightly mixed when it comes to looking at iron levels in children with autism as per my discussions on the Reynolds paper [2] versus the Hergüner findings [3]. Dr Schmidt and colleagues did not directly assay for iron or ferritin levels in their current paper so we can't really say much more at this point on how actual maternal iron levels translated into offspring iron levels and what effect(s) this may have had on offspring autism or other risks. That and whether other factors might also have played some role as per the rodent findings from Harvey & Boksa [4] talking about an additive effect from iron deficiency and prenatal immune activation (a topic that has cropped up a few times with autism in mind). These are perhaps the next studies that need to be done alongside what biological effects supplementation may have [5].----------[1] Schmidt RJ. et al. Maternal Intake of Supplemental Iron and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Am J Epidemiol. 2014. 22 September.[2] Reynolds A. et al. Iron status in children with autism spectrum disorder. Pediatrics. 2012; 130 Suppl 2:S154-S159.[3] Hergüner S. et al. Ferritin and iron levels in children with autistic disorder. Eur J Pediatr. 2012; 171: 143-146.[4] Harvey L. & Boksa P. Additive effects of maternal iron deficiency and prenatal immune activation on adult behaviors in rat offspring. Brain Behav Immun. 2014 Aug;40:27-37.[5] Dosman CF. et al. Children with autism: effect of iron supplementation on sleep and ferritin. Pediatr Neurol. 2007 Mar;36(3):152-8.----------Rebecca J. Schmidt, Daniel J. Tancredi, Paula Krakowiak, Robin L. Hansen, & Sally Ozonoff (2014). Maternal Intake of Supplemental Iron and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder American Journal of Epidemiology : doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu208... Read more »

Rebecca J. Schmidt, Daniel J. Tancredi, Paula Krakowiak, Robin L. Hansen, & Sally Ozonoff. (2014) Maternal Intake of Supplemental Iron and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder. American Journal of Epidemiology. info:/doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu208

  • September 23, 2014
  • 05:00 AM

Gut issues in autism impacting on drug availability and absorption

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

As indicated in a recent post, I was really rather pleased to see the paper by Andrew Heitzer and colleagues [1] (open-access) asking the important question: Should clinical trial research of psychotropic medication in autism control for gastrointestinal symptoms? Some media about the study can also be found here."You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button".The answer is of course, yes and not just when it comes to psychotropic medicines either, given that gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms both functional and more pathological, are by no means an uncommon event when a diagnosis of autism is received (see here).As anyone with an interest in pharmcokinetics and pharmacodynamics should be able to tell you, various factors can affect a persons response to medication, particularly medication delivered orally (by mouth). Outside of medicines interactions, ageing is one of the more well-studied factors pertinent to drug response as per the review by Mangoni & Jackson [2] for example, but there are other suggestions on the horizon. Indeed, I might also take this opportunity to link to some of the work by Prof. Jeremy Nicholson and colleagues [3] talking about how gut bacteria may play a role in drug metabolism. This area may be particularly pertinent to autism given this research teams' previous forays into autism science (see here) and the growing interest in the gut microbiota and autism (see here).There are various other factors which may also affect drug response in relation to autism such as stomach acid conditions (see here) and even drug transporter capability (see here). This outside of adherence to instructions like taking medication with water or avoiding food/certain foods when taking particular medicines, which one should never assume are just followed.Of course there are other ways in which medication, when indicated, can potentially be reformulated to overcome some of these issues. I've talked before about some work our research group were involved with looking at making up the opiate antagonist naltrexone into a cream (see here). Although not necessarily a big fan of the sweeping statements made about oxytocin and autism (see here), I've likewise always been interested in the intra-nasal route of drug administration. There are other ways too (bearing in mind I'm making no value judgements on these).So once again, yes, as part of good medicines management, clinicians and researchers need to be mindful that comorbid issues like GI symptoms can potentially affect the workings of various medicines if and when required by people with autism.Music then. Bohemian Like You by The Dandy Warhols.----------[1] Heitzer AM. et al. Should clinical trial research of psychotropic medication in autism control for gastrointestinal symptoms? J Clinical Pharmacology. 2014. 6 May.[2] Mangoni AA. & Jackson SHD. Age-related changes in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics: basic principles and practical applications. Br J Clin Pharmacol. Jan 2004; 57(1): 6–14.[3] Clayton TA. et al. Pharmacometabonomic identification of a significant host-microbiome metabolic interaction affecting human drug metabolism. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Aug 25;106(34):14728-33.----------Heitzer AM, Job MA, Pandit NK, & Valdovinos MG (2014). Should clinical trial research of psychotropic medication in autism control for gastrointestinal symptoms? Journal of clinical pharmacology PMID: 24788353... Read more »

  • September 22, 2014
  • 02:17 PM

Autism and the Low Iron Connection

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

The topic of autism is a charged one. Maybe it’s because it isn’t a simple diagnosis; there are many roads to autism. Most of them are probably genetic, some of them are likely environmental, and none of them are related to vaccination (sorry to burst your bubble anti vax people, it’s called science). Some new research shows another possible (environmental) cause. The new study shows that mothers of children with autism are significantly less likely to report taking iron supplements before and during their pregnancies than the mothers of children who are developing normally.... Read more »

Rebecca J. Schmidt et al. (2014) Maternal intake of supplemental iron and risk for autism spectrum disorders. American Journal of Epidemiology. info:/

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