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Autism research and other musings

Paul Whiteley
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  • March 19, 2016
  • 04:40 AM

What can 'big data' tell us about suicide-related behaviours?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The findings reported by Yu-Wen Lin and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) examining the "characteristics and suicide methods of patients with suicide-related behaviors" and "influential factors for repeated suicide-related behaviors and death by suicide" might not make for 'great dinner-party conversation' but are nevertheless important.Drawing on data from one of the world's premier 'big data' research sources - the Taiwanese National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD) - ........ Read more »

  • March 18, 2016
  • 03:48 AM

Autism depression = more medical issues?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I wanted to draw your attention to the paper by Greenlee and colleagues [1] today, talking about how: (a) "Co-occurring depression is a particularly common problem in higher-functioning older children" with autism, and (b) "children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and a history of a depression diagnosis are more likely to also have co-occurring medical problems" at least in their cohort.Published as part of a supplement about autism in the journal Pediatrics (see here), the Greenle........ Read more »

  • March 17, 2016
  • 03:47 AM

No unique patterns of gut issues in autism? Headline fail...

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"This study supports the observation that children with autism who have symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders have objective findings similar to children without autism. Neither non-invasive testing nor endoscopic findings identify gastrointestinal pathology specific to autism, but may be of benefit in identifying children with autism who have atypical symptoms."So concluded Rafail Kushak and colleagues [1] (them of "Lactase deficiency not associated with intestinal inflammation or injury is co........ Read more »

Kushak RI, Buie TM, Murray KF, Newburg DS, Chen C, Nestoridi E, & Winter HS. (2016) Evaluation of Intestinal Function in Children with Autism and Gastrointestinal Symptoms. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition. PMID: 26913756  

  • March 16, 2016
  • 03:39 AM

9% of those diagnosed with autism might have optimal outcome?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Although for many children, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong disability, a subset of children with ASD lose their diagnosis and show typical cognitive and adaptive abilities."Unfortunately, that sentence taken from the report by Emily Moulton and colleagues [1] including one Deborah Fein on the authorship list, is not likely to be taken well by some people. Indeed, the whole concept of 'optimal outcome' with autism in mind (see here) has sometimes been met with outright hostility de........ Read more »

  • March 15, 2016
  • 03:30 AM

Measuring anxiety comorbid to autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Anxiety, whether reaching clinical thresholds or manifesting as something rather more subtle, is a common theme in autism research and practice these days. I've talked about it enough times on this blog (see here and see here for example) reflective of the growth in this peer-reviewed research area that has continued unabated.Recognition of just how 'disabling' anxiety can be for someone on the autism spectrum is fairly widely noted these days. Problems however, still remain in terms of (i) how ........ Read more »

Rodgers J, Wigham S, McConachie H, Freeston M, Honey E, & Parr JR. (2016) Development of the anxiety scale for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASC-ASD). Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research. PMID: 26887910  

  • March 14, 2016
  • 03:49 AM

Methyl B12 for autism? Placebo-controlled results say maybe...

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Methyl B12 treatment improved clinician-rated symptoms of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] that were correlated with improvements in measures of methionine metabolism and cellular methylation capacity."Those were the very encouraging results published by Robert Hendren and colleagues [1] who can now update their study entry (see here). Building on the ideas that: "Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been reported to have reduced ability to methylate DNA ........ Read more »

Hendren RL, James SJ, Widjaja F, Lawton B, Rosenblatt A, & Bent S. (2016) Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Methyl B12 for Children with Autism. Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology. PMID: 26889605  

  • March 12, 2016
  • 03:26 AM

Psychopharmacologic intervention for adults with autism: systematically reviewed

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"The results indicate that only two medications, fluoxetine and risperidone, can be considered as promising evidence-based practices for adults with ASD [autism spectrum disorder]."So said Lauren Taylor [1] and her (systematic) review of what might work, pharmaceutically speaking, when it comes to managing "behavioural disturbance in adults with ASD." Including over 40 studies examining psychopharmacology in adults diagnosed with ASD, Taylor concluded that many medicines/formulations did no........ Read more »

  • March 11, 2016
  • 04:29 AM

Introducing MARA: The Mobile Autism Risk Assessment

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I just had to post an entry about the latest Duda/Wall combo paper [1] continuing their machine learning voyage through autism screening and assessment (see here) culminating in an important end-point: the MARA - Mobile Autism Risk Assessment.So, what is the MARA? Well, we are told it is: "a new, electronically administered, 7-question autism spectrum disorder (ASD) screen to triage those at highest risk for ASD."What seven questions?"1. How well does your child understand spoken language, based........ Read more »

Duda, M., Daniels, J., & Wall, D. (2016) Clinical Evaluation of a Novel and Mobile Autism Risk Assessment. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-016-2718-4  

  • March 10, 2016
  • 02:55 AM

Omega-3 fatty acids, 'antibiotic exposure-induced gut microbiota dysbiosis' and obesity

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The findings reported by Kaliannan and colleagues [1] provide food for thought today and the suggestion that in mice at least: "elevated tissue levels of omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduce body weight gain and the severity of insulin resistance, fatty liver, and dyslipidemia resulting from early-life exposure to azithromycin (AZT)."Azithromycin is an antibiotic quite commonly used for treating a number of bacterial infections. The idea that antibiotic use, and specifically the effects........ Read more »

  • March 9, 2016
  • 02:39 AM

Blood lead levels and 'autistic behaviors in school-age children'

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Lead (Pb) has been in the news quite a lot recently. The Flint water crisis (see here for some background) has brought back into stark view why science has pretty conclusive labelled lead as "a neurotoxin with no physiological functions in the human body, the ideal concentration of which in the blood is zero" [1].I've talked about lead and behaviour quite a bit on this blog (see here and see here for example). The crux of the combined peer-reviewed research looking at lead and children is that t........ Read more »

  • March 8, 2016
  • 02:38 AM

What does age do to the presentation of psychiatric comorbidity in autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"As expected, adults with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] experienced more psychological symptoms and distress compared to a typically developing comparison group." But: "lifetime diagnoses for any psychiatric disorder were less often present in older than in younger adults with ASD, suggesting reduced psychopathology in late adulthood, a pattern that has been commonly observed in large typical aging studies."Those were some of the findings reported by Anne Lever & Hilde Geurts........ Read more »

  • March 7, 2016
  • 02:53 AM

Patients with psychiatric disorders who request euthanasia (continued)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Once again the uncomfortable topic of euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) is covered on this blog (see here for the last entry) as I discuss the findings reported by Scott Kim and colleagues [1] who reported on the "characteristics of patients receiving EAS for psychiatric conditions and how the practice is regulated in the Netherlands."Accompanied by some media interest (see here), the Kim paper provides an important overview of the: "Clinical and social characteristics of patients, physician........ Read more »

  • March 5, 2016
  • 03:17 AM

On the question of suicide risk and chronic fatigue syndrome

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The paper by Emmert Roberts and colleagues [1] (open-access) forms the basis of today's post and the finding that: "There was no significant difference in age-standardised and sex-standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) for all-cause mortality... or cancer-specific mortality in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome when compared with the general population in England and Wales." This is good news indeed bearing in mind how much a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis........ Read more »

  • March 4, 2016
  • 02:36 AM

Differentiating between autism and ADHD the machine learning way

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Five of 65 behaviours measured by the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) were "sufficient to distinguish ASD [autism spectrum disorder] from ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] with high accuracy." Further: "machine learning can be used to discern between autism and ADHD."Machine learning - outside of any visions of the Matrix or the T-1000 comin' at yer - applied to autism usually means one lab based at Stanford University and a familiar name, Dennis Wall. Actuall........ Read more »

  • March 3, 2016
  • 02:50 AM

Pregnancy vitamin D supplementation and offspring autism risk

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Although I'm pretty interested in the idea that the sunshine vitamin/hormone known as vitamin D might have quite a few more biological effects than previously appreciated (see here), I accept that the findings reported by Gene Stubbs and colleagues [1] are probably not going to be everyone's cup of tea.With the aim of testing the hypothesis of "whether or not adequate supplementation of vitamin D to pregnant women might lower the risk for ASD [autism spectrum disorder] in the offspring........ Read more »

  • March 2, 2016
  • 02:45 AM

LEGO therapy and autism: everything is awesome?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

'Everything is awesome' (that's awesome not 'awsome') went the very catchy tune accompanying the LEGO movie not so long ago. Given the popularity of those colourful interlocking plastic bricks down the years, it was perhaps unsurprising that the film did so well and with the promise of more to come.Aside from helping to influence generations of would-be engineers and dreamers (a double-decker couch?), LEGO has also found something of a following in relation to labels like autism (see here)......... Read more »

  • March 1, 2016
  • 02:42 AM

Atopic dermatitis and autism and/or ADHD yet again...

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Having AD [atopic dermatitis] before age 2 years was associated with an increased hazard ratio (HR) for ASD [autism spectrum disorder] by 10% and that for ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] by 16%; such increases were particularly prominent among those with earlier-onset or more severe AD."So said the findings reported by Tzu-Chu Liao and colleagues [1] as yet again, the Taiwanese National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD) continues to give. Indeed........ Read more »

  • February 29, 2016
  • 02:58 AM

“Schizophrenia” does not exist. Discuss.

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

With a title like "“Schizophrenia” does not exist", the opinion piece by Jim van Os [1] (open-access) was bound to attract some attention and comment (indeed, several). As per other examples where diagnostic labels have been questioned (see here) the response to such viewpoints typically falls into one of two categories: (a) the person or persons making the suggestion just want to make a name for themselves (and how better than to stir up a bit of controversy) or (b) the person or perso........ Read more »

  • February 27, 2016
  • 03:32 AM

C-section and the microbial transplant

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'm pretty sure that the paper by Maria Dominguez-Bello and colleagues [1] speaks for itself when describing the results of "a pilot study in which infants delivered by C-section [Caesarean section] were exposed to maternal vaginal fluids at birth." If you need a graphic, some coverage of the research in the New York Times helpfully provides a visual aid (see here).The long-and-short of it is that following some concerns that infants delivered via C-section might be missing out on some valu........ Read more »

Dominguez-Bello MG, De Jesus-Laboy KM, Shen N, Cox LM, Amir A, Gonzalez A, Bokulich NA, Song SJ, Hoashi M, Rivera-Vinas JI.... (2016) Partial restoration of the microbiota of cesarean-born infants via vaginal microbial transfer. Nature medicine. PMID: 26828196  

  • February 26, 2016
  • 02:49 AM

Wandering and autism continued

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I probably don't need to provide most readers with too much background information on the topic of wandering/elopement and autism given the multitude of news reports that have been, and continue to be, generated on this worrying behaviour. The article titled: 'The Life and Death of Avonte Oquendo' pretty much sums up the very saddest outcome of wandering, and how in some respects, autism can potentially be a life-limiting condition.I do however think it is important to discuss the findings repor........ Read more »

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