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  • January 18, 2017
  • 03:13 AM

Physical activity levels and autism (again)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Adolescents with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] spent less time in MVPA [moderate and vigorous physical activity] compared to TD [typically developing] adolescents (29 min/day vs. 50 min/day, p < 0.001) and fewer met the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (14 vs. 29%, p > 0.05)."So said the study results published by Heidi Stanish and colleagues [1] adding yet more to another growth autism research area - physical activity and exercise - a topic also fast becoming a repetitive blogging issue for me.It's not necessarily new news that physical activity and exercise levels are not what they could or should be for many people on the autism spectrum (see here) but rather that the use of objective measures such as accelerometers for data collection are starting to put some scientific flesh on previous 'what exercise did you do' type questionnaire studies. And the trend that is being revealed really is quite a disturbing one if one assumes that physical activity is a significant gateway to rude health and well-being, particularly in the context of ever-increasing waistlines and onward longitudinal effects. I might even point you in the direction of some new research hinting that MVPA in childhood might predict "fewer symptoms of major depressive disorders" later on; something that could be particularly relevant to autism in light of those over-represented comorbidities that I keep going on about (see here).Stanish et al have been mentioned before on this blog in the context of physical activity / exercise and autism and particularly the ways that said activity could be made more attractive to teens diagnosed on the autism spectrum (see here). Small steps and finding the right activity were some of the routes offered in that previous paper [2].Before I go I do want to briefly mention one point raised in the latest Stanish paper: "Walking/hiking and active video gaming were among the top activities for both groups." Both groups refers to adolescents with autism (n=35) and those described as typically developing (n=60) who were included for study (although much like the term 'neurotypical' I'm still at a loss as to the precise meaning of 'typically developing'). Walking/hiking... great, really worthwhile encouraging (see here) including exposing people to the great outdoors and that yellow thing usually high in the sky. 'Active videogaming' is something I'm a little less sure of at the moment and indeed, some people have talked about such 'exergaming' as being a poor substitute for the real thing [3]. I don't doubt that one can build up a sweat on something like those new-fangled 'watch my movement' games consoles that abound these days, but might such exergaming just further feed into the 'screen time' narrative that typically accompanies sedentary behaviours?And of the multiple correlates potentially attached to low levels of physical activity, one might also count bone health [4] among them as being relevant to at least some autism...----------[1] Stanish HI. et al. Physical Activity Levels, Frequency, and Type Among Adolescents with and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disorders. 2017. Jan 9.[2] Stanish H. et al. Enjoyment, Barriers, and Beliefs About Physical Activity in Adolescents With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder. Adapt Phys Activ Q. 2015 Oct;32(4):302-17.[3] Daley AJ. Can Exergaming Contribute to Improving Physical Activity Levels and Health Outcomes in Children? Pediatrics. 2009; 124: 2.[4] Neumeyer AM. et al. Bone microarchitecture in adolescent boys with autism spectrum disorder. Bone. 2017 Jan 11. pii: S8756-3282(17)30009-1.----------Stanish, H., Curtin, C., Must, A., Phillips, S., Maslin, M., & Bandini, L. (2017). Physical Activity Levels, Frequency, and Type Among Adolescents with and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI: 10.1007/s10803-016-3001-4... Read more »

  • January 17, 2017
  • 04:28 AM

Vitamin D supplementation and self-perceived fatigue

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Vitamin D treatment significantly improved fatigue in otherwise healthy persons with vitamin D deficiency."Supplementation details, described in the paper by Albina Nowak and colleagues [1] (open-access available here), were a single dose of 100,000 IU [international units] of vitamin D or a placebo (mannitol) administered to 120 adult participants who presented with "fatigue and vitamin D deficiency (serum 25(OH)D < 20 μg/L)." This was a double-blind trial and self-perceived fatigue was measured using the fatigue assessment scale (FAS) at baseline (before intervention) and after 4 weeks.This is an interesting paper but not without some issues. Use of the FAS is OK but I would have preferred to see something else accompanying the data derived from this schedule when it comes to something like self-reported fatigue. The authors did rely on a "short self-developed fatigue test (fatigue course assessment; FCA)" too during their study but I was thinking of something a little more standardised. Although data for some 120 participants were available for the study results , I was a little surprised to see that some 280 participants were initially screened for study inclusion; most of whom did not make the cut. The vast majority (n=103) were cut because "25-OH vitamin D levels >20 μg/L" or in other words, they were not classified as vitamin D deficient based on analysis by immunoassay. Bearing in mind the idea that deficiency is not the only categorisation when it comes to vitamin D and not everyone agrees where deficiency actually starts and stops, I'd perhaps have liked to have seen some more information about those excluded, particularly those on the periphery of being classified as deficient and what supplementation might have meant for them.It's also interesting to see the strength of the placebo effect when it came to the study results as alongside the 70%+ who reported "amelioration" of fatigue who were actually in receipt of vitamin D, so half of the placebo group also registered the same/similar improvement. As far as I know mannitol is not known as a fatigue reducing agent so there's potentially something more going on here. "A significant increase in 25-OH vitamin D was observed in vitamin D but not in placebo-treated participants." Given the supplementation of vitamin D at such a high dose it's perhaps not surprising that vitamin D levels went up for those consuming the supplement.The Nowak results do stand, and even though they were based on self-reported fatigue in an otherwise healthy cohort, I do wonder whether there may be some tie-ups with other independent study (see here for example). Accepting that there may be many reasons for fatigue, I'm also inclined to point out that for perhaps at least a subset of those diagnosed with something like chronic fatigue [syndrome], there could be some additional studies to undertake bearing in mind the authors assertion that: "our study results are not generalizable to CFS [chronic fatigue syndrome]."To close, what if ‘There's Something About Mary’ was trailed as a Psychological Thriller?----------[1] Nowak A. et al. Effect of vitamin D3 on self-perceived fatigue: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Dec;95(52):e5353.----------Nowak A, Boesch L, Andres E, Battegay E, Hornemann T, Schmid C, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Suter PM, & Krayenbuehl PA (2016). Effect of vitamin D3 on self-perceived fatigue: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. Medicine, 95 (52) PMID: 28033244... Read more »

Nowak A, Boesch L, Andres E, Battegay E, Hornemann T, Schmid C, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Suter PM, & Krayenbuehl PA. (2016) Effect of vitamin D3 on self-perceived fatigue: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. Medicine, 95(52). PMID: 28033244  

  • January 16, 2017
  • 09:52 AM

Simple Jury Persuasion: Using your expert  witnesses’ hands help persuade jurors

by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room

You may have seen our blog post where we talk about research that informs us in patent work to either allow jurors to examine a disputed invention up close or to simply have them view it from a distance. Which strategy we recommend you use all depends on the evidence and your specific case. Today, […]... Read more »

Vallée-Tourangeau F, Steffensen SV, Vallée-Tourangeau G, & Sirota M. (2016) Insight with hands and things. Acta Psychologica, 195-205. PMID: 27569687  

  • January 16, 2017
  • 03:11 AM

Autism-like traits and/or autism elevated in psychosis

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Rates of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and ASD traits are elevated in a psychosis population."The paper by Debbie Kincaid and colleagues [1] provides yet more [short] blogging material pertinent to the increasing interest in how psychosis may be yet another comorbidity over-represented when it comes to autism (see here) and vice-versa. I know this is another topic that has to be treated with some caution in terms of concepts like stigma but more discussions - science discussions - are needed to ensure that appropriate screening, diagnosis and also management is available to those who might need it.A systematic review was the name of the research game for Kincaid et al as seven studies "reporting prevalence rates of Autistic-like Traits (ALTs) and ASD in populations with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorder" were included. The results weren't exactly precise in terms of what was reported as anywhere between 9-61% of those diagnosed with psychosis presented with those ALTs and between 1-52% of those with psychosis were also diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The authors however are correct when they point out that the "prevalence rates of ALTs and ASD in psychosis populations are much higher than in the general population." Quite a bit higher if one looks at the top end of those prevalence stats.I'll leave it at that for now.----------[1] Kincaid DL. et al. What is the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder and ASD traits in psychosis? A systematic review. Psychiatry Research. 2017. Jan 6.----------Kincaid, D., Doris, M., Shannon, C., & Mulholland, C. (2017). What is the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder and ASD traits in psychosis? A systematic review Psychiatry Research DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.01.017... Read more »

  • January 15, 2017
  • 07:04 AM

What Differential-K Theory gets Wrong about Race Differences in Sexuality

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

This post critiques a study that attempted to test predictions of differential-K theory about racial differences in sexuality using data from a Durex condom survey. Better, more scientific data addresses this topic, and fails to confirm the predictions of this theory.... Read more »

Dutton, E., van der Linden, D., & Lynn, R. (2016) Population differences in androgen levels: A test of the Differential K theory. Personality and Individual Differences, 289-295. info:/

  • January 15, 2017
  • 06:05 AM

Population Differences in Androgens Fail to Validate Richard Lynn's Claims about Racial Differences in Penis Size

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

The author of a study on population differences in androgens claimed that his findings support Lynn's claims about racial differences in penis length. Close analysis of the statistics used shows these conclusions are invalid.... Read more »

Dutton, E., van der Linden, D., & Lynn, R. (2016) Population differences in androgen levels: A test of the Differential K theory. Personality and Individual Differences, 289-295. info:/

  • January 15, 2017
  • 03:47 AM

Neuroscience Can't Heal a Divided Nation

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Brain activation during challenges to political vs. non-political beliefs (Figure modified from Kaplan et al., 2016).

Lately I've been despairing about the state of America.

I'm not sure how denying access to affordable health care, opposing scientific facts like global warming and the benefits of vaccines, alienating our allies, banning Muslims, building a wall, endorsing torture, and

... Read more »

  • January 14, 2017
  • 04:35 AM

No significant difference in circulating cytokines in autism vs controls?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"As compared with 54 typically developing controls, we found no evidence of differences in the blood profile of immune mediators supportive of active systemic inflammation mechanisms in participants with autism."That was the unexpected research bottom-line published by Carlos Pardo and colleagues [1] (open-access) examining whether various immune-related chemicals - "cytokines, chemokines, or growth factors in serum and cerebrospinal fluid" - might be linked to autism following longitudinal assessment. By longitudinal I mean that: "Up to four serum samples and up to two CSF samples were obtained from participants, at intervals ranging from 9–24 months, and stored until simultaneous laboratory analysis.""Participants were drawn from a longitudinal study of autism" we are told, the aim of which was 'to learn more about autism and its subtypes'. Indeed, some of the research attached to this cohort has been previously discussed on this blog (see here) and for example, the suggestion that the horror that is a gluten- and/or casein-free diet used in the context of autism might not be as horrible as many people might think [2]. This time around serum samples were available for over 100 children diagnosed with autism and some 54 not-autism controls. Sixty-seven of the children with autism also provided a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sample taken via a lumbar puncture. The authors note: "Ethical constraints prevented lumbar punctures in the TYP [control] group" so make of that what you will.Bearing in mind that no participants had a history of immunodeficiency or autoimmune disorder (important concepts to some autism) but that "Food, environmental, and seasonal allergies were present in a minority of participants, but were more common in AUT [participants with autism]" the results are interesting. First, when comparing results based on the analysis of CSF samples and serum samples researchers noted that there were "striking differences in the expression of selected cytokines, immune-related growth factors, and chemokines in the CSF compartment compared to the circulating bloodstream compartment." So basically what goes on in serum might not necessarily be the same as that going on in CSF in a biochemical sense.Next and as per the title and headline of this post: "we found no evidence for major differences in the expression of circulating cytokines and chemokines between children with autism and typically developing controls." This contrasts with quite a bit of other research in the area of immune-related compounds and autism (see here for example) but one has to be a little careful with the wording here, specifically the term 'major differences'. I say that because the authors do report that EGF - epidermal growth factor - did come out as 'different' between the groups (greater in the autism group) for example. EGF has been mentioned before in the context of autism but levels of the stuff have tended to be lower in autism not higher (see here). Puzzling.This is important work not least because of the cautions highlighted by the authors: "about the lack of relationship between central and peripheral immune markers, signaling that caution should be taken when interpreting the available studies implicating current immune dysfunction in the phenomenology of ASD [autism spectrum disorder], as few have included direct measures of CNS [central nervous system] status." Bearing in mind that there were no CFS comparison samples from controls included in this study (quite a big research flaw by all accounts) it is something else to suggest that if one really wants to see what is going on with immune function and autism, one needs to be looking to a far more invasive sample media. That some of this research group have some 'form' when it comes to the immune system potentially being linked to autism [3] and even more invasive tissue types is also worth noting as further investigations are very carefully merited...The immune system and autism continues to intrigue.----------[1] Pardo CA. et al. Serum and cerebrospinal fluid immune mediators in children with autistic disorder: a longitudinal study. Molecular Autism. 2017. 8: 1.[2] Graf-Myles J. et al. Dietary adequacy of children with autism compared with controls and the impact of restricted diet. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2013 Sep;34(7):449-59.[3] Vargas DL. et al. Neuroglial activation and neuroinflammation in the brain of patients with autism. Ann Neurol. 2005 Jan;57(1):67-81.----------Pardo, C., Farmer, C., Thurm, A., Shebl, F., Ilieva, J., Kalra, S., & Swedo, S. (2017). Serum and cerebrospinal fluid immune mediators in children with autistic disorder: a longitudinal study Molecular Autism, 8 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s13229-016-0115-7... Read more »

  • January 13, 2017
  • 07:02 AM

Internet commenters, crying men, psychiatrists on trial, and good  bosses

by Doug Keene in The Jury Room

It is still so early in 2017 and yet, it is time for another installation of tidbits, miscellany, odds and ends, and accumulated wisdom with which you can amaze your friends and impress family members. And that we don’t want to just toss disrespectfully into recycling when it could bring so much joy to your […]... Read more »

  • January 13, 2017
  • 03:13 AM

Exercise as an intervention for anxiety?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Our data suggest that exercise is more effective than control at reducing anxiety symptoms."So said the meta-analysis published by Brendan Stubbs and colleagues [1] who surveyed the peer-reviewed literature "investigating the benefits of exercise compared to usual treatment or control conditions in people with an anxiety and/or stress-related disorders." From the 6 randomised, controlled trials found "from inception until December 2015" exercise (various types of exercise regime) did seem to have something of an effect on anxiety symptoms in adults compared to control conditions.I'm not going to labour too much on these findings because they really speak for themselves bearing in mind control conditions may not be the same as pitting exercise against something rather more proactive when it comes to tackling anxiety. Allied to the idea that exercise is basically medicine when it comes to various psychological/psychiatric labels as well as more somatic ones (see here) and is one of the more cost-effective interventions proposed (and typically side-effect free), the questions that remain are: (a) what are the mechanisms of effect? and (b) are there specific types of exercise that might be more suited to specific diagnostic labels? At least one of those questions has been touched upon in other papers [2] whereby low to moderate intensity exercise seems to be the way forward for at least some forms of anxiety. I assume that means activities such as walking, swimming and non-competitive cycling might be something to consider for example. A quick trawl of some of the other literature in this area also suggest that activities such as yoga might be useful for trait anxiety when attached to other diagnoses [3] but please, do not read this as medical or clinical advice in any intended form. Speak to your medical physician if you're unsure.Finally, given my previous discussions on how various types of anxiety disorder seem to be over-represented among many parts of the autism spectrum (see here for example), I can't help but wonder whether the chatter about behavioural outcomes following exercise with autism in mind (see here) might also come into play here. If for example, one accepts that anxiety can not only be an utterly disabling state to exist in but might also 'interact' with more 'core' presentation of autism (see here), future studies may be minded to look at how exercise might impact on both autistic and anxiety-related traits for the benefit of the individual...And finally, for the 'weekend [exercise] warriors' out there, some good news...----------[1] Stubbs B. et al. An examination of the anxiolytic effects of exercise for people with anxiety and stress-related disorders: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research. 2017. Jan 6.[2] Takács J. & Stauder A. The role of regular physical activity in the prevention and intervention of symptoms of anxiety and anxiety disorders. Psychiatr Hung. 2016;31(4):327-337.[3] Buffart LM. et al. Physical and psychosocial benefits of yoga in cancer patients and survivors, a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Cancer. 2012 Nov 27;12:559.----------Stubbs, B., Vancampfort, D., Rosenbaum, S., Firth, J., Cosco, T., Veronese, N., Salum, G., & Schuch, F. (2017). An examination of the anxiolytic effects of exercise for people with anxiety and stress-related disorders: A meta-analysis Psychiatry Research DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2016.12.020... Read more »

  • January 12, 2017
  • 04:28 AM

On autism risk and immigrant status

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Fifteen studies suggest a higher prevalence rate of ASDs [autism spectrum disorder] among children of immigrants in comparison to native children."Those fifteen studies formed a large part of the seventeen studies included in the review by Rafal Kawa and colleagues [1] who set out to look at the collected peer-reviewed literature on the topic of the "prevalence and risk for ASD in Europe among immigrants and ethnic minorities." Carried out as part of a European Union (EU) initiative titled 'Enhancing the Scientific Study of Early Autism' the Kawa review was a sort of first step to looking at whether the racial/ethnic disparities noted in autism rates in the United States for example, might also hold true for Europe. Evidently they did.This is a topic covered before on this blog (see here for example) and so the results come as little surprise. One does have to be slightly cautious about how such data is interpreted, particularly in light of recent European history but outside of any politics there are some intriguing scientific questions posed by such data and some potentially important 'connections' with other independent datasets that could benefit autism research more generally (see here and see here). Given also some emerging research suggesting that autism may not be the only diagnostic label where risk is heightened according to immigrant status (see here), there are some further studies to be undertaken on this topic, in these days of overlapping labels (see here).----------[1] Kawa R. et al. European studies on prevalence and risk of autism spectrum disorders according to immigrant status-a review. Eur J Public Health. 2016 Dec 24. pii: ckw206.----------Kawa R, Saemundsen E, Lóa Jónsdóttir S, Hellendoorn A, Lemcke S, Canal-Bedia R, García-Primo P, & Moilanen I (2016). European studies on prevalence and risk of autism spectrum disorders according to immigrant status-a review. European journal of public health PMID: 28013245... Read more »

Kawa R, Saemundsen E, Lóa Jónsdóttir S, Hellendoorn A, Lemcke S, Canal-Bedia R, García-Primo P, & Moilanen I. (2016) European studies on prevalence and risk of autism spectrum disorders according to immigrant status-a review. European journal of public health. PMID: 28013245  

  • January 11, 2017
  • 12:00 PM

The Five Domains Model Aims to Help Animals Thrive

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

An updated approach to animal welfare includes opportunities for positive experiences for our companion (and other) animals.  “…the overall objective is to provide opportunities for animals to ‘thrive’, not simply ‘survive’” (Mellor, 2016)The Five FreedomsAnimal welfare is traditionally defined by the Five Freedoms. These areFreedom from hunger and thirstFreedom from discomfortFreedom from pain, injury and diseaseFreedom to express normal behaviourFreedom from fear and distressYou can see the original list on the – now archived – page of the UK’s Farm Animal Welfare Council and the Council’s 2009 report on farm animal welfare in Great Britain.You will also find them listed on many SPCA and humane society websites, including by the BC SPCA and the ASPCA, because the Five Freedoms frame how they look after the animals in their care.The Five Freedoms have defined animal welfare internationally, not just for farmed animals but also for our companion animals. Each of the Freedoms has a corresponding Provision that enables the Freedom to be met. For example, ‘freedom from hunger and thirst’ has the provision “by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.”Updating the Five FreedomsYou might have already noticed that most of the Freedoms are ‘freedom from’ something unpleasant. Research by Professor David Mellor (Massey University) suggests improvements that include positive welfare as well.There are two main disadvantages to the Five Freedoms approach, according to Mellor (2016).The first is that some people have taken them to mean something that is an absolute, rather than an ideal. This is despite the fact the FAWC says “These freedoms define ideal states rather than standards for acceptable welfare.”Mellor says that some people even see them as ‘rights’ for the animals. However, he says, some of these are biological drives – if animals did not feel thirst, they would never drink, for example. So we can’t expect that an animal would never feel thirst; it’s more that they should never get too thirsty, because water should be available to them when they do feel thirst.The second disadvantage is that the approach focusses on problems. Mellor says it’s because that is what was important at the time, and that the Five Freedoms have been very successful.However, now we are more aware of the idea of providing positive experiences, and so they should be incorporated into our model of good animal welfare.The Five Provisions and Welfare AimsThe updated set of Five Provisions/Welfare Aims incorporates positive experiences as well as minimizing negative ones. It is designed to be easily understood and memorable, just like the original Five Freedoms.Reproduced from Mellor (2016) under Creative Commons licenceProfessor David Mellor told me in an email,“An animal’s welfare refers to what it experiences. Experiences can be negative or positive. An early idea was that animals should be kept free of conditions inside and outside their bodies that lead to negative experiences. We now know that some internal conditions and related negative experiences are needed to keep animals alive. For example, breathlessness helps to regulate breathing, thirst ensures that animals drink enough water, hunger gets them to eat enough food, and pain drives them to avoid or withdraw from things that cause injuries. So we cannot eliminate these experiences, but we can avoid extremes of them. Thus, good care can ensure that such negative experiences stay at low levels, but are still available to get the animals to behave in particular ways that help to keep them alive. Regarding hunger, you should be careful not to overfeed your pet."Other negative experiences are due to an animal’s external circumstances. These may arise when animals are kept alone in a small, featureless area with little to do, or when they feel threatened in various ways. Loneliness, depression, boredom, fear and anxiety are examples of these experiences. Fortunately, if the animals are given congenial company, plenty of space, a variety of things to do and feel safe and secure, these negative experiences can be replaced by positive feelings of comfort, pleasure, interest, confidence and a sense of control."The aims of animal care should therefore be both to keep the negative experiences generated within the body at low levels, and to replace various other negative experiences by providing comfortable, congenial, interesting and safe surroundings."The Five Provisions/Welfare Aims approach helps us to do this. The Provisions guide the way we care for animals by ensuring they have good nutrition, good environment, good health, appropriate behaviour and positive mental experiences. The Welfare Aims linked to the provisions direct our attention to the experiences we want to reduce to low levels and to the other experiences we want to encourage.”The Five Provisions/Welfare Aims are consistent with the Five Domains Model of animal welfare that is an update to the Five Freedoms. The Five Domains are nutrition, environment, health, behavior, and mental state, and you will notice that the names of the Five Provisions map onto these domains.Illustrating the Five Domains ModelA paper by Kat Littlewood and David Mellor provides an example of how the new approach works. They take a fictional scenario of a working farm dog called Jess who gets injured. They walk the reader through the dog’s welfare at six different stages in her life. The scenario was chosen so that it does not present an ideal, and both positive and negative aspects of welfare are assessed. It is the first use of the new Five Domains model. The paper follows Jess from her initial working role herding sheep on a farm, through a traumatic injury caused by getting stuck on a barbed wire fence, subsequent emergency veterinary care, having to have a front leg amputated, six weeks recovery time in a new home, and then her subsequent life as a tripod pet dog.At each stage, Littlewood and Mellor illustrate... Read more »

  • January 11, 2017
  • 05:46 AM

Two Manifestos for Better Science

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Two new papers outline urge scientists to make research more reproducible.

First off, Russ Poldrack and colleagues writing in Nature Reviews Neuroscience discuss how to achieve transparent and reproducible neuroimaging research. Neuroimaging techniques, such as fMRI, are enormously powerful tools for neuroscientists but, Poldrack et al. say, they are at risk of "a ‘perfect storm’ of irreproducible results". because the "high dimensionality of fMRI data, the relatively low power of mos... Read more »

Poldrack RA, Baker CI, Durnez J, Gorgolewski KJ, Matthews PM, Munafò MR, Nichols TE, Poline JB, Vul E, & Yarkoni T. (2017) Scanning the horizon: towards transparent and reproducible neuroimaging research. Nature reviews. Neuroscience. PMID: 28053326  

Marcus R. Munafò, Brian A. Nosek, Dorothy V. M. Bishop, Katherine S. Button,, Christopher D. Chambers, Nathalie Percie du Sert, Uri Simonsohn, Eric-Jan Wagenmakers,, & Jennifer J. Ware and John P. A. Ioannidis. (2017) A manifesto for reproducible science. Nat Hum Behav. info:/

  • January 11, 2017
  • 03:24 AM

"the patient improved significantly when a gluten-free diet was started"

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The quote making up the title of this post comes from the case report described by Albino J Oliveira-Maia and colleagues [1] talking yet again about how coeliac disease - the archetypal autoimmune condition where dietary gluten is the baddie - may have effects well beyond just the physical.Describing the experiences of a woman who was admitted to a psychiatry inpatient unit on the basis of "suicidal behaviours" who also "developed an agitated catatonic state", a mix of "antidepressants, anxiolytics, antipsychotics and electroconvulsive therapy" seemingly did very little to her state at/during admission we are told. Further, some diagnostic work-up beyond just her psychiatric features "allowed for the diagnosis of coeliac disease" and instigation of a gluten-free diet - the primary management option for coeliac disease - seemed to have something of a 'significant' effect on her psychiatric well-being as per that opening quote.Am I particularly surprised by all of this? No. Regular readers will know that I've previously talked about gluten and psychiatry quite a few times on this blog (see here and see here for example) and there is other research out there in the peer-reviewed domain pertinent to discussions [2]. Without trying to over-generalise a case report to anything further, there are a number of notable peer-reviewed papers that have suggested that diet can affect psychiatry and this addition merely adds to the haul.If I did perhaps have to go into further detail on how something like suicidal behaviours might link into gluten and coeliac disease (CD) I would perhaps draw your attention to how gluten does seem to be a 'mood affector' when it comes to at least some cases of CD (see here) and the link between something like depression and suicidality. I'm sure however that this is not the final word on any such link and please, don't generalise with any sweeping suggestions about how all depression is somehow caused solely by gluten. Depression is a very complicated entity.More research is of course indicated but I do wonder how many more case reports on previously unidentified coeliac disease (or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity even?) and similar psychiatric symptoms there may be out there? Time for more screening of vulnerable populations perhaps...----------[1] Oliveira-Maia AJ. et al. Case of coeliac disease presenting in the psychiatry ward. BMJ Case Rep. 2016 Dec 21;2016. pii: bcr2016216825.[2] Ludvigsson JF. et al. Increased suicide risk in coeliac disease--a Swedish nationwide cohort study. Dig Liver Dis. 2011 Aug;43(8):616-22.----------Oliveira-Maia AJ, Andrade I, & Barahona-Corrêa JB (2016). Case of coeliac disease presenting in the psychiatry ward. BMJ case reports, 2016 PMID: 28003229... Read more »

Oliveira-Maia AJ, Andrade I, & Barahona-Corrêa JB. (2016) Case of coeliac disease presenting in the psychiatry ward. BMJ case reports. PMID: 28003229  

  • January 9, 2017
  • 07:02 AM

 Tattoo you—On attraction, impulsivity, pathology, and trustworthiness

by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room

Here’s an update on the stash of tattoo posts we have here. This is a collection of new research on tattoos (to make sure we are up to date) that will undoubtedly help you decide what your individual ink means/will mean, and of course, what it suggests about your jurors, your clients, your kids, and […]... Read more »

  • January 9, 2017
  • 05:48 AM

The curious effect of a musical rhythm on us

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Do you know the feeling of a musical piece moving you? What is this feeling? One common answer by psychological researchers is that what you feel is your attention moving in sync with the music. In a new paper I show that this explanation is mistaken. Watch the start of the following video and observe […]... Read more »

Kunert R, & Jongman SR. (2017) Entrainment to an auditory signal: Is attention involved?. Journal of experimental psychology. General, 146(1), 77-88. PMID: 28054814  

  • January 9, 2017
  • 04:26 AM

T. gondii and OCD?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

It's been a while since I've talked about Toxoplasma gondii on this blog; the parasite that more than most, has been linked with all-manner of different psychiatric labels (see here for example). Although still the topic of some discussion, I'm swayed towards the possibility that there may be some important *associations* to be seen when it comes to this survivor and human behaviour(s) outside of just making rats attracted to cat urine (see here) to improve reproduction chances.Indeed, in that context I offer up the findings reported by Flegr & Horáček [1] who presented results pertinent to "earlier reports of the association between toxoplasmosis and OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder]." OK, the first thing to note about this study is that: "Examined subjects provided the information about their toxoplasmosis and OCD statuses themselves, which could result in underrating the strength of observed associations." Most people probably wouldn't falsely admit to being toxoplasmosis positive but I can imagine that a few people might not want to share such sensitive information for various reasons.Researchers examined data from over 7400 volunteers (participants), asking about their toxoplasmosis status and also whether they had been diagnosed with OCD, a condition characterised by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours, or one or more of a variety of other neuropsychiatric labels. The symptoms of OCD were also characterised on the basis of the use of the Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory-Revised (OCI-R) (self-completed).They observed the incidence of OCD to be present in approximately 2% of their cohort. They also observed that where toxoplasmosis was reported, these participants were quite a bit more likely to also report being diagnosed with OCD. A similar relationship also held when it came to the presence of a learning (intellectual) disability too. When researchers also took into account those self-report scores on the OCI-R, they noted that in those with toxoplasmosis "even the OCD-free subjects, scored higher on the OCI-R." Ergo, something of a relationship between T. gondii and OCD (diagnosed or symptoms) may exist.Accepting the methodological failings of the Flegr / Horáček study, their data do indeed seem to tally with other independent study [2] in this area, albeit still quite limited in quality and amount. Such research also potentially ties into other investigations on other behavioural/psychiatric labels where the gondii has been implicated (see here for example) that might overlap with cases of OCD. There are however still questions to answer, not least which came first, psychiatric presentation or infection with the gondii? Could a behavioural or psychiatric diagnosis increase the risk that someone is more likely to become infected by the gondii? I suppose given what OCD encompasses - "fear of contamination by disease, infection or an unpleasant substance" - one could argue that OCD is not exactly a great template for coming into contact with T. gondii and becoming infected. But before I, or anyone else, jumps to conclusions, more investigation(s) are implied on the nature of the relationship and onward any pertinent biological mechanisms...----------[1] Flegr J. & Horáček J. Toxoplasma-infected subjects report an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder diagnosis more often and score higher in Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory. Eur Psychiatry. 2016 Dec 16;40:82-87.[2] Miman O. et al. Is there any role of Toxoplasma gondii in the etiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder? Psychiatry Res. 2010 May 15;177(1-2):263-5----------Flegr J, & Horáček J (2016). Toxoplasma-infected subjects report an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder diagnosis more often and score higher in Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory. European psychiatry : the journal of the Association of European Psychiatrists, 40, 82-87 PMID: 27992837... Read more »

  • January 7, 2017
  • 04:15 AM

ADHD and vitamin levels

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] patients were overrepresented in the group with low levels of some vitamins, possibly indicative of inadequate dietary intake of these micronutrients in a subgroup of patients. It is important to identify these patients in dietary intervention trials of ADHD."So said the study findings reported by Elisabeth Toverud Landaas and colleagues [1] (open-access) providing some potentially important data on how nutritional factors might intersect with the diagnosis of ADHD. So: "Owing to the important and neurologically relevant functions of vitamins and the lack of studies exploring this topic in ADHD, we measured serum levels of the major vitamin classes in a sample of adult ADHD patients and controls to determine whether vitamin levels are associated with ADHD diagnosis and psychiatric symptoms." Said participants (n=133) were young adults and most were listed as having ADHD according to a "Norwegian national registry of adult ADHD patients." Vitamin levels were assessed from blood samples and compared with results for 131 control participants as per other studies on this cohort from this authorship group [2]. It's worth pointing out that samples were in deep freeze storage for between 2-9 years between collection and thawing for analysis.Various vitamins were measured in those samples (vitamins A, B6, , B9, B12 and D to name a few) alongside levels of cotinine "to assess [tobacco] smoking status." The analytical assay(s) of choice was, in the most part, a familiar one to this blog: liquid- or gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry.Results: "The concentrations of vitamins B2, B6 and B9 were all significantly lower in the ADHD group." When results were analysed according to percentiles based on blood levels of the various vitamins results similarly showed that those with ADHD were 'over-represented' in the lower levels bandings of those previously described vitamins. Smokers, as defined by a "widely used cut-off of 80 nmol/L" of blood cotinine, were also over-represented in the ADHD group (66%) compared with control participants' samples (12%). The authors reported that: "vitamin B6 and B9 levels were significantly higher in non-smoking ADHD patients compared with smokers" suggesting that lifestyle choices may play a role in some of the results obtained. Finally, when it came to looking at any possible association(s) between measured vitamin levels and behaviours pertinent to ADHD (derived from responses to the Adult ADHD Self-report Scale (ASRS), the authors report some preliminary observations but I'd like to see a little more data before anything further is made of this.These are interesting results (aren't they always!). I note that the authors make reference to the findings reported by Julia Rucklidge and colleagues on a vitamin-mineral mix for ADHD (see here) and the idea that correcting vitamin deficiencies might have effects beyond just the somatic. There are however caveats to the latest results: "The reason why we observed association between lower levels of some vitamins and ADHD is uncertain and probably multifactorial. Regrettably, we do not have information on lifestyle and nutrient intake from the participants to help in the interpretation of our observations. It is reasonable to think that differences in dietary factors may partly be responsible for the differences." Indeed.There is also one final observation to touch upon in the Landaas results concerning the vitamin/hormone of the hour: vitamin D. Although there was no overall difference in vitamin D concentrations in the ADHD and not-ADHD group samples, the authors did observe that: "for vitamin D, ADHD patients were significantly overrepresented both in the lowest and highest 10th percentile groups." Bearing in mind past research has suggested that ADHD might be yet another diagnosis/label where vitamin D deficiency might be a feature (see here) it is pertinent that the authors suggest: "One reason for the overabundance of ADHD patients in the highest 10th percentiles of vitamin D may thus be that relatively more ADHD patients take vitamin D supplements, either as part of an experimental treatment of symptoms or as a consequence of a diagnosed vitamin D deficiency."Finally: "It is possible that low levels of certain vitamins may contribute to ADHD symptoms. Dietary intervention trials have shown promising effects in ADHD. Thus, identification and correction of low vitamin levels could be beneficial in treatment of ADHD. Further studies are warranted for replication and for examination of the underlying mechanisms."----------[1] Landaas ET. et al. Vitamin levels in adults with ADHD. BJPsych Open. 2016 Dec 13;2(6):377-384.[2] Aarsland TI. et al. Serum concentrations of kynurenines in adult patients with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a case-control study. Behav Brain Funct. 2015 Nov 5;11(1):36.----------Landaas ET, Aarsland TI, Ulvik A, Halmøy A, Ueland PM, & Haavik J (2016). Vitamin levels in adults with ADHD. BJPsych open, 2 (6), 377-384 PMID: 27990293... Read more »

Landaas ET, Aarsland TI, Ulvik A, Halmøy A, Ueland PM, & Haavik J. (2016) Vitamin levels in adults with ADHD. BJPsych open, 2(6), 377-384. PMID: 27990293  

  • January 6, 2017
  • 07:02 AM

White collar criminals, bad presentations, smartphones, and a salary  negotiation edge

by Doug Keene in The Jury Room

It is very cold outdoors (even in Texas) and it is time once again for a number of important things we decided did not merit an entire post but wanted to share. Think of it as a series of holiday gifts for you… Ever wonder why white-collar criminals did what they did?  Wonder no more. […]... Read more »

Shaw, H., Ellis, D., Kendrick, L., Ziegler, F., & Wiseman, R. (2016) Predicting Smartphone Operating System from Personality and Individual Differences. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19(12), 727-732. DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2016.0324  

  • January 6, 2017
  • 06:09 AM

Particulate matter exposure and autism risk systematically reviewed?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"To conclude, the evidence from the studies allows us to conclude that there is an association between PM [particulate matter] exposure and ASD [autism spectrum disorder] whose strength varies according to the particle size studied with the association with PM2.5 and diesel PM being stronger."Although probably not great sentence structure to begin a post with a conclusion, the 'bottom line' reported by María Morales-Suárez-Varela and colleagues [1] summarises the current research looking at particulate matter (a.k.a pollution) and risk of autism. Surveying the current research literature - well, a window "from November 2015 up to January 2016" - authors reported finding a majority of studies showing "positive associations restricted to specific exposure windows which however do not reach statistical significance at times." This adds to other reviews of the research in this area [2].I don't want to dwell too much on this paper and topic because it's something that has already received quite a bit of attention on this blog (see here and see here for examples). As with most research areas focused on autism, there is evidence for and evidence against any association/correlation between air pollution exposure and risk of autism. Given the various factors included under the heading of pollution (type, particle size, how exposure is measured) it's perhaps not surprising that there is not yet any 'smoking gun' (pardon the pun) when it comes to any possible association.I however, am taken by the ideas that (a) genes probably play a hand in translating air pollution exposure to a heightened risk of [offspring] autism and (b) other conditions linked to air pollution such as asthma might also feature in any connection (see here for example). Indeed, in these times of seemingly ever-increasing air pollution (see here) and lots of possible connections, further investigations are very much indicated.----------[1] Morales-Suárez-Varela M. et al. Systematic review of the association between particulate matter exposure and autism spectrum disorders. Environ Res. 2016 Dec 13;153:150-160.[2] Lam J. et al. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Multiple Airborne Pollutants and Autism Spectrum Disorder. PLoS One. 2016 Sep 21;11(9):e0161851.----------Morales-Suárez-Varela M, Peraita-Costa I, & Llopis-González A (2016). Systematic review of the association between particulate matter exposure and autism spectrum disorders. Environmental research, 153, 150-160 PMID: 27984759... Read more »

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