"The results of this trial indicate that NAC [N-acetylcysteine] treatment was well tolerated, had the expected effect of boosting GSH [glutathione] production, but had no significant impact on social impairment in youth with ASD [autism spectrum disorder]."So said the results reported by Logan Wink and colleagues  (open-access) who, continuing an autism research theme, looked at whether this important L-cysteine prodrug might have more to give when it comes to at least some facets of some autism. Their trial registration entry can be found here. Reporting results from "a 12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral NAC in youth with ASD" researchers followed some 30 children (aged 4-12 years) diagnosed with autism based on their use of NAC or a placebo. Alongside various biological measures including blood levels of "reduced and oxidized glutathione (GSH and GSSG)" and the big 'H' (homocysteine), the primary outcome was the effect on "the CGI-I scale anchored to study physician assessment of core social impairment considering the individuals’ overall level of cognitive, adaptive, and social functioning." I might add that other secondary behavioural outcomes were also included for study.Bearing in mind the loss (dropping out) of some participants during the study period including details that "three withdrew due to irritability (NAC), diarrhea and encopresis (placebo), and defiant and self-injurious behavior (placebo), respectively" the authors report data on 25 study completers. Titrated doses of NAC depending on tolerance and body weight of participants did seem to do what they were supposed to in terms of an effect on levels of glutathione: "had the expected effect of boosting GSH production in peripheral blood" at 12 weeks.But... on every other measure - biological and behavioural - there were no significant differences between the NAC and placebo groups leading the authors to conclude that their results "do not support the use of NAC for treatment of core social impairment of ASD." The research door does however remain open as they also comment that: "the health impact of the resultant increase on GSH remains unclear."These are interesting results. NAC has seemingly found something of a research place in quite a few areas of psychiatry including 'some' autism (see here) and 'some' schizophrenia (see here). The focus has tended to be more on the 'irritability' side of things (see here) which makes it all the more surprising that one of the participants in the Wink trial receiving NAC actually withdrew 'due to irritability'. That being said, the very controlled nature of the Wink study cannot be readily ignored assuming no influence from the placebo .I would like to see a little more on the whole NAC -- cysteine -- glutathione connection given previous discussions with autism in mind (see here). This includes the idea that blood levels of the various compounds involved might not be the same as 'brain levels' and taking into 'level of functioning' into account (see here). But in the context of the Wink data, one has to perhaps realise that NAC is not likely to be a panacea when it comes to autism...---------- Wink LK. et al. A randomized placebo-controlled pilot study of N-acetylcysteine in youth with autism spectrum disorder. Molecular Autism. 2016; 7:26. Masi A. et al. Predictors of placebo response in pharmacological and dietary supplement treatment trials in pediatric autism spectrum disorder: a meta-analysis. Transl Psychiatry. 2015 Sep 22;5:e640.----------Wink, L., Adams, R., Wang, Z., Klaunig, J., Plawecki, M., Posey, D., McDougle, C., & Erickson, C. (2016). A randomized placebo-controlled pilot study of N-acetylcysteine in youth with autism spectrum disorder Molecular Autism, 7 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s13229-016-0088-6... Read more »
Wink, L., Adams, R., Wang, Z., Klaunig, J., Plawecki, M., Posey, D., McDougle, C., & Erickson, C. (2016) A randomized placebo-controlled pilot study of N-acetylcysteine in youth with autism spectrum disorder. Molecular Autism, 7(1). DOI: 10.1186/s13229-016-0088-6
Dogs originally bought from pet stores are more likely to be aggressive to their owner compared to those from responsible breeders, even after owner-related factors are taken into account.Research by Frank McMillan et al (2013) found that dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores are more likely to have a whole range of behaviour problems than those from responsible breeders, including 3x more likely to be aggressive towards their owner. Pet store puppies come from commercial breeding establishments, otherwise known as puppy mills, which are run for profit and not animal welfare.Since well-informed people are less likely to go to pet stores, one potential confound is that the owners of pet store puppies may know less about how to raise a dog. A new study by Federica Pirrone et al (2016) takes owner factors into consideration too.The results show 21% of the dogs that were obtained as puppies from pet stores were aggressive towards their owner compared to 10% of those obtained from breeders. Owner-related factors did not account for this.Three other behaviour problems – house soiling, body licking, and separation-related distress – were also more common in dogs obtained from pet stores, but it turned out these were linked to owner-related factors. These included only taking the dog for short daily walks (20 minutes or less), not going to dog training classes, not having owned a dog before, not knowing about the existence of veterinary behaviourists, and punishing the dog when returning home.Most puppies sold in pet stores in Italy, where the study took place, come from commercial breeding establishments (puppy mills) in Eastern Europe, where conditions can be extremely poor (“filthy conditions with little food or water” is how the Daily Mail described one Polish puppy farm).The responsible breeders from whom puppies in the study were obtained are members of the Italian Kennel Club and follow a code of ethics that includes providing socialization opportunities that are essential for puppies.The scientists suggest several possible reasons for increased aggression in dogs that originate in puppy mills: epigenetic factors due to the mother being stressed in pregnancy, lack of socialization, the stress of the early environment and its negative influence on learning ability, and a lack of information provided by pet stores to new owners.The study included 349 dogs that were acquired from breeders as puppies and 173 dogs that were bought as puppies from pet stores. They were all over 1 year old at the time of the study. No effect of breed or breed group was found.It’s worth noting the list of potential behaviour problems relied on owner report, and was not based on any official diagnoses. Owner-directed aggression did not include food guarding or toy guarding, which were separate questions and were not linked to origin of the puppy. Stranger aversion was also a separate question and not linked to origin either, which ties in with research by Casey et al (2014) that found aggression towards family members is typically not linked to aggression to strangers.This study shows that puppies from puppy mills are more likely to be aggressive to their owner as adult dogs, regardless of various things the owner might or might not do. It also shows that a range of owner-related factors are linked to other behaviour problems. This is useful information for educational campaigns, which are important because there is a lot of erroneous information about dog training. Other research also suggests it is important to attend a good puppy class.Good advice for people intending to get a dog is to make sure not to get a puppy from a pet store, sign up for good dog training classes, and make sure the dog gets enough walks as this is important for ongoing socialization as well as exercise. And, of course, learn as much as you can about how to take good care of and train your dog.P.S. How to choose a puppy in 4 easy steps and why you need to socialize your puppy.ReferencesCasey, R., Loftus, B., Bolster, C., Richards, G., & Blackwell, E. (2014). Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): Occurrence in different contexts and risk factors Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 152, 52-63 DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.12.003McMillan, F., Serpell, J., Duffy, D., Masaoud, E., & Dohoo, I. (2013). Differences in behavioral characteristics between dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and those obtained from noncommercial breeders Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 242 (10), 1359-1363 DOI: 10.2460/javma.242.10.1359Pirrone, F., Pierantoni, L., Pastorino, G., & Albertini, M. (2016). Owner-reported aggressive behavior towards familiar people may be a more prominent occurrence in pet shop-traded dogs Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 11, 13-17 DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2015.11.007Photo: Anucha Pongpatimeth (Shutterstock.com).... Read more »
Casey, R., Loftus, B., Bolster, C., Richards, G., & Blackwell, E. (2014) Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): Occurrence in different contexts and risk factors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 52-63. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.12.003
McMillan, F., Serpell, J., Duffy, D., Masaoud, E., & Dohoo, I. (2013) Differences in behavioral characteristics between dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and those obtained from noncommercial breeders. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 242(10), 1359-1363. DOI: 10.2460/javma.242.10.1359
Pirrone, F., Pierantoni, L., Pastorino, G., & Albertini, M. (2016) Owner-reported aggressive behavior towards familiar people may be a more prominent occurrence in pet shop-traded dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 13-17. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2015.11.007
When you hear the word “apple”, do you picture a Red Delicious apple or a green Granny Smith? Or neither, because you can't conjure up a visual image of an apple (or of anything else, for that matter)? Aphantasia is the inability to generate visual images, which can be a congenital condition or acquired after brain injury (Farah, 1984). The most striking aspect of this variation in mental life is that those of us with imagery assume that everyone else has it, while those without are flabbergasted when they learn that other people can “see” pictures in their head.Programming prodigy Blake Ross created a sensation recently with his eloquent essay on what's it's like to have aphantasia and to discover that all your friends aren't speaking metaphorically when they say, “I see a beach with waves and sand.”Aphantasia: How It Feels To Be Blind In Your MindI just learned something about you and it is blowing my goddamned mind.. . .Here it is: You can visualize things in your mind.If I tell you to imagine a beach, you can picture the golden sand and turquoise waves. If I ask for a red triangle, your mind gets to drawing. And mom’s face? Of course.. . .I don’t. I have never visualized anything in my entire life. I can’t “see” my father’s face or a bouncing blue ball, my childhood bedroom or the run I went on ten minutes ago. I thought “counting sheep” was a metaphor. I’m 30 years old and I never knew a human could do any of this. And it is blowing my goddamned mind.It's worth reading Ross's account in its entirety to gain insight into the vast variation in our internal mental lives. Although the name aphantasia is new (coined by Zeman et al., 2015), the condition isn't; Francis Galton published a paper on the Statistics of Mental Imagery in 1880. Similar to Ross, many of Galton's s friends (male scientists) were shocked to learn that others had imagery:1 To my astonishment, I found that the great majority of the men of science to whom I first applied, protested that mental imagery was unknown to them, and they looked on me as fanciful and fantastic in supposing that the words 'mental imagery' really expressed what I believed everybody supposed them to mean. They had no more notion of its true nature than a colour-blind man who has not discerned his defect has of the nature of colour. They had a mental deficiency of which they were unaware, and naturally enough supposed that those who were normally endowed, were romancing.The nature of mental images has been a topic of philosophical debate in cognitive science since the 1970s. Are mental images quasi-perceptual representations that activate visual areas of the brain (Kosslyn and colleagues), or non-pictorial, abstract, symbolic descriptions (Zenon Pylyshyn)? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on Mental Imagery provides an indispensable background on the philosophical, theoretical, and empirical debates in the field. As well, extensive research on individual differences in mental imagery (e.g., Kosslyn et al., 1984) can inform new studies on aphantasics.Aphantasia and Paivio's Dual Coding TheoryTo investigate the role of imagery in verbal memory, I propose a return to classic cognitive psychology experiments of the 1970s. Alan Paivio's Dual Coding Theory specifies two types of mental representations, or codes, for words and mental images (Paivio, 1971). The verbal code and imagery code are both activated by pictures, which can account for the picture superiority effect: pictures are better remembered than their verbal referents (i.e., words). The picture superiority effect should be abolished in those who cannot generate visual images.Even more interestingly, words that are highly imageable (concrete nouns like elephant) are better remembered than words that are rated low in imageability (abstract nouns like criterion). The original ratings from 1968 and the expanded 2004 version (concreteness, imageability, meaningfulness, familiarity) are available online: Clark and Paivio (2004) Norms. Lists of high and low imageable nouns that are carefully matched on other lexical factors (e.g., number of letters, word frequency, complexity) can be presented in a memory test. The recognition memory (or free recall) advantage for concrete, highly imageable words should be diminished or abolished in relation to self-reported imagery abilities.I believe this experiment would address the objection of psychogenic aphantasia (“refusing to imagine”), because the concreteness advantage (using imagery during encoding) could not be mobilized as an explicit (or perhaps implicit) strategy. Given the hundreds (if not thousands) of Aphantasics who have made blog comments, joined Facebook groups and other communities, taken surveys, and of course contacted Dr. Zeman, the sample size might be quite respectable.Quick poll (please RT!): Can you draw up an image in your mind's eye...?— Kevin Mitchell (@WiringTheBrain) May 3, 2016Mental images poll. Is 'mental image' a misnomer? Pls RT, this stuff is weird. (CC: @WiringTheBrain; @blakeross).— Ed Berry (@ed_berry) May 3, 2016Footnote1 Aphantasia seems bizarrely overrepresented in Galton's cronies. Here's his explanation:My own conclusion is, that an over-readiness to perceive clear mental pictures is antagonistic to the acquirement of habits of highly generalised and abstract thought, and that if the faculty of producing them was ever possessed by men who think hard, it is very apt to be lost by disuse. The highest minds are probably those in which it is not lost, but subordinated, and is ready for use on suitable occasions. ReferencesFarah MJ. (1984). The neurological basis of mental imagery: A componential analysis. Cognition 18:245-72. ... Read more »
It's becoming easier than ever to research the genetic roots of different ethnic groups and these findings can be framed differently to either emphasise that groups are similar or different. For example, a BBC headline from 2000 stated "Jews and Arabs are 'genetic brothers'" while a 2013 Medical Daily headline claimed "Genes of most Ashkenazi Jews trace back to indigenous Europe, not Middle East". As political leaders have started citing this kind of evidence to promote their particular agenda, be that to unite or divide peoples, a new study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has investigated whether genetic information could be a tool for promoting peace or a weapon to stir conflict.Sasha Kimel and her colleagues began by asking 123 Jewish and 57 Arab participants in the US to read either the BBC "genetic siblings" article from 2000 or an adapted "genetic strangers" version which reversed the findings to suggest that Arabs and Jews are genetically very dissimilar. The participants had no idea that they'd been recruited based on their ethnicity, and to further disguise the aims of the research they were told that they would be tested on their memory of the article after completing a series of distracting psychological tests. In reality, some of these tests were used to reveal any effects of the articles on the participants' attitudes and this included a measure of their views of a typical Arab- or Jewish-American and a test of their implicit (subconscious) attitudes towards Arabs and Jews.As the researchers expected, Jews and Arabs rated each other more positively after reading about their genetic similarities compared with reading about their differences, although there were no effects on implicit attitudes.A second study was similar but involved Jewish participants only, and this time the researchers showed that reading about genetic similarities between Jews and Arabs led the participants to display less aggression towards an Arab opponent called Mohammed in a reaction time contest. That is, on winning trials, the Jewish participants had the chance to blast their Arab opponent with white noise, and those participants who'd read about genetic similarities chose weaker noise blasts than those who'd read about genetic differences.A third study with more Jewish participants was also similar but added a third baseline neutral condition in which participants read an article that had nothing to do with genetics or ethnic groups. This time the main outcome measure was support for Israeli peacekeeping. These results suggested that the "genetics strangers" article wasn't having much influence on participants compared with the neutral condition, but that the "genetic siblings" article was boosting support for peacekeeping via its effect of improving attitudes towards Arabs.Based on these initial results the researchers said that they "encourage interventions that create greater awareness of the considerable amount of genetic overlap that exists between all of the world's ethnic and racial groups".But would these benefits translate to Israel, a nation that lives with ongoing interethnic conflict? The fourth and arguably most important study tested the effects of the same three news articles ("genetic siblings", "genetic strangers" and a neutral story) translated into Hebrew and adapted so they appeared to have been published in the Israeli newspaper Ynet. The researchers recruited nearly 200 Jewish Israeli's on commuter trains in North and South Israel and had them read one of these three stories before completing tests of their attitudes towards Palestinians and their support for different policies. The worrying finding this time was that the "genetic siblings" article appeared to have no benefit, but that the "genetic strangers" article reduced support for peaceful policies via increasing antipathy towards Palestinians.Based on their last study, the researchers warned that "...learning about how you are genetically different from an enemy group may have a particularly menacing effect in the contexts of war". They added: "Based on our findings, we suggest that crisis-monitoring organisations (e.g. International Crisis Group, Genocide Watch) go on heightened alert when conflict-rhetoric begins emphasising genetic differences."_________________________________ Kimel, S., Huesmann, R., Kunst, J., & Halperin, E. (2016). Living in a Genetic World: How Learning About Interethnic Genetic Similarities and Differences Affects Peace and Conflict Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42 (5), 688-700 DOI: 10.1177/0146167216642196 --further reading--Could lessons in genetic variation help reduce racial prejudice?Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free weekly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
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Kimel, S., Huesmann, R., Kunst, J., & Halperin, E. (2016) Living in a Genetic World: How Learning About Interethnic Genetic Similarities and Differences Affects Peace and Conflict. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(5), 688-700. DOI: 10.1177/0146167216642196
Can I just get it out of the way? May the 4th be with you.OK. The results from Mark Strom & Jonathan Silverberg  caught my eye recently and further evidence of a 'correlation' between asthma and developmental and/or behavioural outcomes. This time around it was "caregiver-reported speech disorders in US children" and how the appearance of asthma, hay fever and/or food allergy might show some important relationships with something like speech disorder. This follows other, similar work from this research tag-team that has previously graced this blog (see here).Based on the analysis of "cross-sectional data on 337,285 children aged 2-17 from 19 US population-based studies, including the 1997-2013 National Health Interview Survey and the 2003/4 and 2007/8 National Survey of Children's Health" researchers engaged in some number-crunching to ascertain how physiology and behaviour might be linked. When controlling for various other important variables such as age and a history of eczema, authors reported some interesting correlations based again on those household survey results. "Future prospective studies are needed to characterize the associations.I've zoomed in on the specific condition called asthma as being tied into parent (caregiver) -reported speech disorders because I'm mighty interested in the behavioural correlates that might follow this inflammatory condition (see here and see here for example). As Strom & Silverberg mention: "In one study that assessed caregiver-reported asthma severity, mild (1.58 [1.20-2.08], P=0.001) and moderate (2.99 [1.54-3.41], P<0.0001) asthma were associated with increased odds of speech disorder, however severe asthma was associated with the highest odds of speech disorder (5.70 [2.36-13.78], P=0.0001)." The idea therefore that severity of asthma might correlate with the odds of reporting (caregiver-reporting) a speech disorder, is seemingly an important one.I could speculate all-day as to what might be the important driver(s) in any association between asthma and speech disorder (genetics, immune function, gut bacteria, medication and/or pollutants) but I don't think it would be particularly helpful at this point. Not any more helpful than reiterating that we do need a lot more investigation into this proposed association and that preferential screening for one or other condition when the other has been diagnosed might be a rather good idea.And while I'm on the topic of immune function and behavioural correlates, how about another recent paper from this research tag-team  and more scientific evidence for a possible important association between atopic dermatitis and ADHD...---------- Strom MA. & Silverberg JI. Asthma, hay fever and food allergy are associated with caregiver-reported speech disorders in US children. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2016 Apr 19. Strom MA. et al. Association between AD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in US Children and Adults. Br J Dermatol. 2016 Apr 23.----------Strom MA, & Silverberg JI (2016). Asthma, hay fever and food allergy are associated with caregiver-reported speech disorders in US children. Pediatric allergy and immunology : official publication of the European Society of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology PMID: 27091599... Read more »
Strom MA, & Silverberg JI. (2016) Asthma, hay fever and food allergy are associated with caregiver-reported speech disorders in US children. Pediatric allergy and immunology : official publication of the European Society of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. PMID: 27091599
We usually think of laughter as a sound of joy and mirth, but in certain contexts, such as when it accompanies an insult, it takes on a negative meaning, signaling contempt and derision, especially in a group situation. Most of us probably know from experience that this makes insults sting more, now a study in Social Neuroscience has shown the neural correlates of this effect. Within a fraction of a second, the presence of a laughing crowd changes the way that the brain processes an insult.Marte Otten and her colleagues asked 46 participants to read 60 insults and 60 compliments presented on-screen one word at a time. Half these insults (e.g. "You are antisocial and annoying") and compliments (e.g. "You are strong and independent") featured the silhouette of a crowd of people at the bottom of each screen, and the end of the insult or compliment was followed immediately by a final screen showing the phrase "and they feel the same way" together with the sound of laughter lasting two seconds. Throughout this entire process, the researchers recorded the participants' brainwaves using EEG.Otten's team were particularly interested in the N400 – a negative spike of brain activity that tends to be larger when people hear something unexpected or incongruent with the context – and in the so-called "Late Positive Potential (LPP)" which is a positive spike of brain activity that can occur 300ms to 1 second after a stimulus and is usually taken as a sign of emotional processing.The participants' brains appeared to register the difference between insults and compliments incredibly quickly. Within 300 to 400ms after the onset of the first insulting or complimentary word, the participants' showed a larger LPP in response to insults, and a more widespread N400.Moreover, when there was the sound of laughter, the size of the LPP was even greater in the insults condition, whereas the compliments condition was unchanged. In other words, insults almost immediately prompt more emotional processing in the brain than compliments, and this more intense processing is accentuated rapidly by a public context and the sound of laughter.The researchers said their findings are "highly relevant for research that focuses on negative interpersonal interactions such as bullying, or interpersonal and intergroup conflict." They added: "While the insulted is still busy reading the unfolding insult, the extra sting of publicity is already encoded and integrated in the brain."A problem with interpreting the specifics of the study arises from the way that it combined a visual signal of a public context (the silhouette of a crowd) and the sound of laughter, with the image of the crowd preceding the start of the laughter. This makes it tricky to untangle the effects of a public context from the specific effects of hearing laughter. Indeed, the brainwave data showed that, at a neural level, participants were already responding differently to public insults before they could have registered the sound of the laughter.This issue aside, the researchers said their findings show that "the presence of a laughing crowd ... leads to stronger and more elongated emotional processing. In short, it seems that public insults are no laughing matter, at least not for the insulted."_________________________________ Otten, M., Mann, L., van Berkum, J., & Jonas, K. (2016). No laughing matter: How the presence of laughing witnesses changes the perception of insults. Social Neuroscience, 1-12 DOI: 10.1080/17470919.2016.1162194 Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free weekly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
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Otten, M., Mann, L., van Berkum, J., & Jonas, K. (2016) No laughing matter: How the presence of laughing witnesses changes the perception of insults. Social Neuroscience, 1-12. DOI: 10.1080/17470919.2016.1162194
Machine learning, when machines, er.. learn, is of growing interest to the autism research field. The names Wall and Duda have filled quite a few posts on this blog (see here and see here for example) on this topic and their suggesting that applying machine learning algorithms to something like autism screening and detection could cut down on time taken and resources used.As per the publication of the paper by Daniel Bone and colleagues  it appears that others working in autism research are also waking up to the idea that this might be a useful area to investigate. So: "In this work, we fastidiously utilize ML [machine learning] to derive autism spectrum disorder (ASD) instrument algorithms in an attempt to improve upon widely used ASD screening and diagnostic tools." Fastidiously is such a lovely word (particularly in the context of science).The tools in question were the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) (both of which have already been machine learning 'applied') and their scores "for 1,264 verbal individuals with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and 462 verbal individuals with non-ASD developmental or psychiatric disorders, split at age 10." And the results... well, let's just say that the authors were not disappointed - or at least less disappointed than on previous research occasions  - as they reported on created algorithms that "were more effective (higher performing) than the current algorithms, were tunable (sensitivity and specificity can be differentially weighted), and were more efficient (achieving near-peak performance with five or fewer codes)." Indeed: "We present a screener algorithm for below (above) age 10 that reached 89.2% (86.7%) sensitivity and 59.0% (53.4%) specificity with only five behavioral codes." Sensitivity and specificity are important concepts when it comes to something like screening instruments in terms of identifying 'all' those with a specific condition and making sure that no 'not-cases' aren't mistakenly identified as 'cases'. The nearly 90% sensitivity rate presented by Bone et al on the basis of 5 behavioural codes is not to be sniffed at.The addition of one Cathy Lord to the authorship of the Bone paper also adds an air of inevitability that applying machine learning to autism research (and practice) is going to continue and increase. Not only because of her historical connection to the ADI-R  (which is a hefty document in anyone's book) but also given her very prominent role in autism research history. Who knows, I might one day be blogging about more big autism research names talking about Wall/Duda things including autism screening triage by YouTube? The final question is: outside of just behavioural variables, who would be brave enough to talk genetics/epigenetics/biology machine learning as the next step in autism screening and/or assessment?---------- Bone D. et al. Use of machine learning to improve autism screening and diagnostic instruments: effectiveness, efficiency, and multi-instrument fusion. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2016 Apr 19. Bone D. et al. Applying machine learning to facilitate autism diagnostics: pitfalls and promises. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015 May;45(5):1121-36. Lord C. et al. Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised: a revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders. J Autism Dev Disord. 1994 Oct;24(5):659-85.----------Bone D, Bishop S, Black MP, Goodwin MS, Lord C, & Narayanan SS (2016). Use of machine learning to improve autism screening and diagnostic instruments: effectiveness, efficiency, and multi-instrument fusion. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines PMID: 27090613... Read more »
Bone D, Bishop S, Black MP, Goodwin MS, Lord C, & Narayanan SS. (2016) Use of machine learning to improve autism screening and diagnostic instruments: effectiveness, efficiency, and multi-instrument fusion. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines. PMID: 27090613
Vaccines don't cause autism, but because the brain is so complex, we still don't know how much of it works so figuring out the real causes (as in more than one) of autism has been slow going. Well, researchers have identified a brain receptor that appears to initiate adolescent synaptic pruning, a process believed necessary for learning, but in this case it is one that appears to go awry in both autism and schizophrenia.... Read more »
Sonia Afroz, Julie Parato, Hui Shen Sheryl, & Sue Smith. (2016) Synaptic pruning in the female hippocampus is triggered at puberty by extrasynaptic GABAA receptors on dendritic spines . eLife. info:/
Most people who know a little bit about chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) will probably understand the potential importance of the findings reported by Leonard Jason and colleagues  (open-access available here). Suggesting that there may be "four groupings of patients" when it comes to how we "name and define the illnesses", this research group who surveyed over 500 people "in the United States, Great Britain, and Norway" report on one of the biggest challenges facing ME/CFS... how do we accurately define it?The problem of defining CFS/ME stems from the fact that there are currently several clinical presentations where CFS/ME might figure (or at least where patients fulfil ME/CFS criteria) and several different ways of clinically defining the condition(s) (see here and see here). That list of definitions may indeed also be growing (see here). With all that confusion about clinical overlap and what criteria are defining what patient group, it's little wonder that research is just starting to come to grips with some of the potential underlying biology of [some] CFS/ME (see here) after so many years in the scientific wilderness. Indeed, as with many conditions resting in that 'unexplained symptoms' category, not knowing can sometimes be fertile ground for various [unfounded] theorising...Jason et al (whose research has graced this blog before) set about categorising their participant group based on various case definitions and symptom presentations. They reported four groupings; by far the largest group of their participants (n=346) fell into a categorisation that "involves more specific criteria" defining CFS/ME including use of the relative new term SEID (Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease). Further: "efforts have specified domains of substantial reductions of activity, post-exertional malaise, neurocognitive impairment, and sleep dysfunction" and "Patients with these characteristics were more functionally impaired than those meeting just chronic fatigue criteria." The term used by authors for this group was Neuroendocrineimmune Dysfunction Syndrome (NDS) following on from previous work . Smaller numbers of people included on their study did meet criteria for chronic fatigue (greater than 6 months) with (n=47) or without (n=62) explanation "by medical or psychiatric conditions." Jason and colleagues also defined a smaller group who met the Ramsay ME criteria and who were described as an "even more impaired group." I wonder if this might include the 'housebound' group described in other research?The authors accept that there are 'limitations' to their research including issues around how they chose their sample(s) and some of the tools used relying on self-report; further work is indicated. But as a start trying to disentangle both the heterogeneity and issues with clinical classification when it comes to CFS/ME, their paper represents a good attempt to further focus minds on the spectrum of various overlapping fatigue conditions present and how we go about teasing apart phenotypes with a focus on core symptoms . Minus the psychiatry focus, perhaps it is time to also looking at applying something like the principles of RDoC to the issue of ME/CFS?---------- Jason LA. et al. Case definitions integrating empiric and consensus perspectives. Fatigue. 2016;4(1):1-23. Jason LA. et al. Factor Analysis of the DePaul Symptom Questionnaire: Identifying Core Domains. J Neurol Neurobiol. 2015 Sep;1(4).----------Jason LA, McManimen S, Sunnquist M, Brown A, Furst J, Newton JL, & Strand EB (2016). Case definitions integrating empiric and consensus perspectives. Fatigue : biomedicine, health & behavior, 4 (1), 1-23 PMID: 27088059... Read more »
Jason LA, McManimen S, Sunnquist M, Brown A, Furst J, Newton JL, & Strand EB. (2016) Case definitions integrating empiric and consensus perspectives. Fatigue : biomedicine, health , 4(1), 1-23. PMID: 27088059
Generally seen as antithetical to one another, evolution and religion can hardly fit in a scientific discourse simultaneously. However, in a new article, a biology researcher delves into observations on the influences a few major religions have had on evolutionists and their scientific thinking over the centuries.
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Romero Jr., A. (2016) The influence of religion on science: the case of the idea of predestination in biospeleology. Research Ideas and Outcomes. DOI: 10.3897/rio.2.e9015
Working to orient oneself to the symmetries available in mathematical situations seems like one appropriate remedy to what I've called "left-to-rightism," or "cinemathematics"—a syndrome that makes us teach concepts like the equals sign (unwittingly) in a left-to-right way, such that students take away (unwittingly) the misconception that the equals sign indicates that some answer is to follow, rather than that two expressions are equal. Some recent research points to the benefits of thinking about symmetry when teaching negative numbers as well.... Read more »
Tsang, J., Blair, K., Bofferding, L., & Schwartz, D. (2015) Learning to “See” Less Than Nothing: Putting Perceptual Skills to Work for Learning Numerical Structure. Cognition and Instruction, 33(2), 154-197. DOI: 10.1080/07370008.2015.1038539
Insomnia, fun fact those of us who have served or are serving in the military have a much higher incidence of sleep problems. So if you are like me and have ever been prescribed something to help you sleep, you know that there are some unwanted side effects. For instance the time I lost memory of a whole day of interacting with people to the ambien I had taken the night before, not fun. Thankfully Danish researchers found that the level of salts in the brain plays a critical role in whether we are asleep or awake.
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Ding, F., ODonnell, J., Xu, Q., Kang, N., Goldman, N., & Nedergaard, M. (2016) Changes in the composition of brain interstitial ions control the sleep-wake cycle. Science, 352(6285), 550-555. DOI: 10.1126/science.aad4821
In a new Nature paper, Berkely neuroscientists Alexander G. Huth and colleagues present a 'semantic atlas' of the human brain. Huth et al. have mapped which brain areas respond to words, according to the semantics (meanings) of each word. It turns out that these maps are highly similar across individuals - which could have implications for 'mind reading' technology.
Huth et al. recorded brain activity with fMRI while seven volunteers listened to over two hours of audio narrative (taken fr... Read more »
Huth AG, de Heer WA, Griffiths TL, Theunissen FE, & Gallant JL. (2016) Natural speech reveals the semantic maps that tile human cerebral cortex. Nature, 532(7600), 453-8. PMID: 27121839
Whilst the package inserts of the various drugs that modern medicine has at its disposal provides important information on potential mode of action, there is a growing realisation that drugs generally have quite a few more molecular targets than are perhaps listed. Take for example the quite commonly used (in some parts of the world anyway) compound called melatonin that in some instances can provide almost miraculous relief when it comes to sleeping issues under certain circumstances. A derivative of the amino acid tryptophan, melatonin might however be quite the molecular handy-person when it comes to its biological targets including its actions on something called leaky gut for example...The paper by Lin Yuan and colleagues  similarly suggests that everyone's favourite 'cuddle hormone' (oxytocin) might also have a wider range of biological effects than has hitherto been fully appreciated. Drawing on cell line results and intra-nasal administration of oxytocin (OT) to [artificially] immune-stimulated mice, authors reported that "OT possesses anti-neuroinflammatory activity and might serve as a potential therapeutic agent for treating neuroinflammatory diseases."One of the primary analytical targets of the Yuan study were microglia, those 'constant gardeners' according to one description, and how administration of OT might have some interesting effects on the activation of microglia under certain circumstances. "BV-2 cells and primary microglia were pre-treated with OT (0.1, 1, and 10 μM) for 2 h followed by LPS [lipopolysaccharides] treatment" we are told, and microglia activation and "pro-inflammatory mediators" subsequently monitored. The results tallied with those 'anti-neuroinflammatory' sentiments previously expressed as authors report on various possible reasons for such an effect: "OT suppressed the expression of TNF-α, IL-1β, COX-2, and iNOS at the mRNA and proteins levels and reduced the elevation of [Ca2+]i in LPS-stimulated microglia cells." If that wasn't enough, researchers also looked at what happened following OT pre-treatment when a certain strain of mouse was 'immune stimulated' again in terms of microglia activation and those pro-inflammatory mediators. We are similarly told that: "pre-treatment with OT showed marked attenuation of microglial activation and pro-inflammatory factor levels." So we have something of a match in the lab and in an animal model.These are interesting results. Yet again, one has to be a little cautious about the use of mouse models or indeed, cell lines (humans are so much more than a group of cells in a petri dish) and further, independent investigations are indicated. But: "These data suggested that OT would be a potential therapeutic agent for alleviating neuroinflammatory processes in neurodegenerative diseases."I was inclined to talk about the Yuan paper because of the various 'connections' that have been made between oxytocin and autism (see here). With a growing interest in the oxytocin-autism connection in the peer-reviewed literature, this nonapeptide (9 amino acids long) has attracted quite a few researchers to its cause  as a function of the idea that: "Oxytocin increases the salience of social stimuli and promotes parental nurturing and social bonds" . As per my interpretation of the current state of the oxytocin-autism research base, there are some interesting results available but once again, universal 'effects' are nowhere to be seen - Autisms, people. Autisms. The Yuan and other results focusing on the 'anti-neuroinflammatory' activity of oxytocin perhaps add another dimension to the possible hows and whys of efficacy when it comes to a label like autism. That also a growing number of people are coming around to the idea that neuroinflammation might be a facet of 'some' autism (see here) and including some mention of microglia (see here) offers an additional correlate to add into the future research mix. Could those with autism who have more prominent signs of neuroinflammatory issues potentially be 'best responders' to oxytocin for example? I did also wonder whether the idea that inflammation or inflammatory issues might feature in complex behaviours like social cognitive processing (see here) could provide another explanation for some of the reported results observed following use of oxytocin in [some] autism?Much more research is indicated but again the message is... don't be too dogmatic when it comes to pharmacological targets and actions of medicines indicated for conditions such as autism. You might just end up being surprised...---------- Yuan L. et al. Oxytocin inhibits lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in microglial cells and attenuates microglial activation in lipopolysaccharide-treated mice. Journal of Neuroinflammation. 2016; 13:77. Okamoto Y. et al. The Potential of Nasal Oxytocin Administration for Remediation of Autism Spectrum Disorders. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2016 Apr 13. Young LJ. & Barrett CE. Neuroscience. Can oxytocin treat autism? Science. 2015 Feb 20;347(6224):825-6.----------Yuan L, Liu S, Bai X, Gao Y, Liu G, Wang X, Liu D, Li T, Hao A, & Wang Z (2016). Oxytocin inhibits lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in microglial cells and attenuates microglial activation in lipopolysaccharide-treated mice. Journal of neuroinflammation, 13 (1) PMID: 27075756... Read more »
Yuan L, Liu S, Bai X, Gao Y, Liu G, Wang X, Liu D, Li T, Hao A, & Wang Z. (2016) Oxytocin inhibits lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in microglial cells and attenuates microglial activation in lipopolysaccharide-treated mice. Journal of neuroinflammation, 13(1), 77. PMID: 27075756
The whole of human intelligence, right at your fingertips. Sure it might not make the layman an engineer or physicist, but if we want to learn about a particular topic the internet can give us that information. But you better hold on tight before you lose it. New research finds retweeting or otherwise sharing information creates a “cognitive overload” that interferes with learning and retaining what you’ve just seen.
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Jiang, T., Hou, Y., & Wang, Q. (2016) Does micro-blogging make us “shallow”? Sharing information online interferes with information comprehension. Computers in Human Behavior, 210-214. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2016.02.008
by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room
It’s time to run down some articles that are curious, but not substantial enough to justify a full blog post. Once again, we have kept a few pearls in our virtual filing cabinet, and have combined them here for your curiosity and possibly entertainment. This is one of those combination posts that will offer you […]
The Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) Scale
Red, redux: Men won’t pay attention to Tammy in red
Does this mean we need to pay no attention to 1 in 10 research findings?
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Roberts, J., & David, M. (2016) My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners. Computers in Human Behavior, 134-141. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.07.058
Is spending time looking back on our lives good for our mental health? A lot of research suggests it is, but these studies have been cross-sectional, making it hard to form a clear causal story – for example, perhaps being happier makes it more likely that people will reminisce. On the other hand, there are therapeutic trials that show purposeful reminiscence can bring about clinically meaningful decreases in depression. Now, a longitudinal investigation in Applied Cognitive Psychology provides further evidence for the benefits of the right kind of looking back, and it shows that reminiscence has this effect by building up our psychological resources.The work, from Deakin University’s David Hallford and David Mellor, recruited 171 adult US participants (average age 26) using Amazon's Mechanical Turk survey website. At two time points a week apart, the participants rated their levels of depression symptoms and they reflected on the past week, reporting how much they had thought or talked about their personal history during that time, and whether they had done it to achieve either of two specific goals: to help define who they are today – the identity function of reminiscence – or to remind themselves that they have the skills or character to deal with present challenges, which is the problem-solving function. Past research suggests these adaptive uses of reminiscence are what seem to have the clinical effects over time. The current study clarified that these kinds of reminiscence were not associated with lower levels of depression in the same week that the reminiscence took place, but were associated with less depression one week later. So, you’re not necessarily in a better state during periods when you are being reflective, but reminiscing now is likely to protect you against depression in the future.Note, the effects of reminiscence on next week’s depression symptoms were not direct. Rather, reminiscence affected a set of positive psychological resources: self esteem, confidence in own ability, optimism and meaning in life. And where these resources were enhanced, depression dropped.Although the participants in this study reported a range of depression symptoms, they were not diagnosed with clinical depression. Nonetheless, the results do suggest a cognitive explanation for how reminiscence-based therapy is effective for people with more serious depression. Rather than reminiscence activating brain pathways that somehow flush out depression, it provides sense, meaning and ways of thinking to free the individual from feelings of joylessness or despair. Prior evidence (albeit cross-sectional) has suggested that reminiscence can cut both ways – dwelling on bitter experiences can increase our psychological distress, and I should emphasise that this new research focused on adaptive reminiscence. Casting your mind back through the past to reflect on the person you are, or are constantly becoming; treating your experience as a testimonial to what you are capable of. By these activities, we can nourish the psyche and protect our wellbeing._________________________________ Hallford, D., & Mellor, D. (2016). Autobiographical Memory and Depression: Identity-continuity and Problem-solving Functions Indirectly Predict Symptoms over Time through Psychological Well-being Applied Cognitive Psychology, 30 (2), 152-159 DOI: 10.1002/acp.3169 --further reading--Do you remember the time? How collective nostalgia inspires group loyaltyFeeling chilly? Indulge in some nostalgiaPost written by Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free weekly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
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Hallford, D., & Mellor, D. (2016) Autobiographical Memory and Depression: Identity-continuity and Problem-solving Functions Indirectly Predict Symptoms over Time through Psychological Well-being. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 30(2), 152-159. DOI: 10.1002/acp.3169
They say you should never mix business and pleasure but in reality many of us find that we become friends with the people who we work with. No wonder, when you consider the hours spent together and the deep bonds formed through collaboration and sharing the highs and lows of the job.A new study in Personnel Psychology is among the first to examine the effects on job performance of having more "multiplex relationships" – colleagues you work with directly who are also your friends outside of work. The researchers say these relationships are "a mixed blessing", but on balance they found that the more of them people had, the better their work performance as judged by their supervisors. Jessica Methot and her colleagues first surveyed 301 staff at a large insurance company in southeastern United States. These staff, who had varied roles across the firm, provided a list of 10 colleagues they worked with closely in pursuit of their responsibilities and 10 staff who they considered to be friends and who they socialised with outside of work. The more overlap there was between a person's two lists, the more multiplex relationships they had. The participants also completed measures of emotional exhaustion and work-related positive emotions. Four weeks later, the participants' supervisors were contacted and rated the participants' job performance.The more multiplex relationships that participants had, the better their job performance. What's more, this was explained in part by the fact that such relationships were associated with experiencing more positive work-related emotions, like feeling excited and proud. In short, being friends with more of colleagues appeared to be good for staff and for their employer.However, the picture gets a little more complicated because the researchers dug deeper and found that multiplex relationships were also associated with more emotional exhaustion – presumably because of the effort involved in maintaining more complex relationships and of providing support to friends. In turn, emotional exhaustion was related to poorer work performance, hence the researchers describing workplace friendships as a mixed blessing. Overall though, the benefits to work performance outweighed the costs.The second study was similar but involved 182 workers at three shops and six restaurants. This time the participants also completed measures of the emotional support, trust, felt obligation, and "maintenance difficulty" (the effort of sustaining and juggling relationships) experienced in their work relationships. The results were similar, with more multiplex relationships again correlating with superior work performance – and this time the association was explained in part by feelings of greater trust towards colleagues who are also friends. But once more, although the overall association was positive, there were signs that these relationships can be a mixed blessing – the more multiplex relationships a person had, the more they tended to report having difficulties maintaining their relationships, which in turn was related to poorer job performance.We need to be aware these studies were correlational so they haven't demonstrated that work friendships causes better job performance, although that is certainly a plausible interpretation, especially in light of the mediating factors that the researchers identified. Given that having more friends at work appears to be beneficial overall, Methot and her colleagues recommended that "organisations should focus on practices that promote friendship among coworkers who can interact for work-related purposes" such as introducing friendly competition between staff, or implementing social intranet systems "that simultaneously allow employees to collaborate and share task information while getting to know each other on a social level"._________________________________ Methot, J., Lepine, J., Podsakoff, N., & Christian, J. (2016). Are Workplace Friendships a Mixed Blessing? Exploring Tradeoffs of Multiplex Relationships and their Associations with Job Performance Personnel Psychology, 69 (2), 311-355 DOI: 10.1111/peps.12109 Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free weekly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
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Methot, J., Lepine, J., Podsakoff, N., & Christian, J. (2016) Are Workplace Friendships a Mixed Blessing? Exploring Tradeoffs of Multiplex Relationships and their Associations with Job Performance. Personnel Psychology, 69(2), 311-355. DOI: 10.1111/peps.12109
"Children with higher urinary DMP [dimethylphosphate] concentrations may have a twofold to threefold increased risk of being diagnosed with ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder]."So said the results presented in the paper by Yu and colleagues  who looking at "97 doctor-diagnosed ADHD cases and 110 non-ADHD controls who were 4-15 years of age" examined urine and blood samples for various factors including "biomarkers of OP [organophosphate] pesticide exposure." They concluded that, adjusting for creatinine, urine levels of DMP but not other dialkylphosphate (DAP) metabolites were higher in the ADHD group compared with the non-ADHD group. Further: "Organophosphate pesticide exposure may have deleterious effects on children's neurodevelopment, particularly the development of ADHD." At the same time, Yu et al also reported nothing very much to see when it came to blood lead levels (BLLs) between the groups.This is not the first time that examination of urinary metabolites of OPs have turned up something of a potential relationship with behavioural outcomes related to ADHD. The paper by Bouchard and colleagues  also reported a possible connection supporting a "hypothesis that organophosphate exposure, at levels common among US children, may contribute to ADHD prevalence." There too urine was the analytical medium and dialkylphosphate concentrations the target compounds. This and other research looking at this issue have led to statements  to the effect that: "Children's exposures to pesticides should be limited as much as possible." I don't think many people would disagree with that sentiment.I've talked about OPs quite a bit on this blog (see here and see here) and how various conditions/labels might be 'associated' with this class of compounds either when used as insecticides or as something rather more ominous. I've tried not to be too alarmist about the possibility of a connection with health because OPs do serve an important purpose (as an insecticide) and have probably saved quite a few lives as a result. But it is getting increasingly difficult to ignore the possibility that this and other classes of pesticides either alone or in combination with other factors, seem to be implicated in various conditions/labels and more needs to be done looking at the hows and whys. This can however be done without scaremongering.The Yu results whilst interesting are not however without some cautions. DAP metabolites as markers for OP exposure still requires further investigations , not least from which specific OP they are derived from. That other factors such as exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke might also link into the presentation of specific metabolites such as DMP  is another consideration. Continuing the theme that combinatorial exposures might also exert an effect  other research illustrates how difficult it might be to pin one specific type of exposure to specific behavioural outcomes. And then also we have the added layer of complexity that is the genetics of xenobiotic metabolism with specific focus on OPs. Relationships are likely to be pretty complicated as a result.Having said all that does not however mean that results like the ones from Yu et al can be just brushed under the carpet...Music to close, and having watched Guardians of the Galaxy for the Nth time last evening, all I can say is the film soundtrack is kinda cool...---------- Yu CJ. et al. Increased risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder associated with exposure to organophosphate pesticide in Taiwanese children. Andrology. 2016 Apr 12. Bouchard MF. et al. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and urinary metabolites of organophosphate pesticides. Pediatrics. 2010 Jun;125(6):e1270-7. Roberts JR. et al. Pesticide exposure in children. Pediatrics. 2012 Dec;130(6):e1765-88. Sudakin DL. & Stone DL. Dialkyl phosphates as biomarkers of organophosphates: the current divide between epidemiology and clinical toxicology. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2011 Nov;49(9):771-81. Jain RB. Levels of dialkylphosphate metabolites in urine among general U.S. population. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2016 Feb 26;43:74-82. Osaka A. et al. Exposure characterization of three major insecticide lines in urine of young children in Japan-neonicotinoids, organophosphates, and pyrethroids. Environ Res. 2016 May;147:89-96.----------Yu CJ, Du JC, Chiou HC, Chung MY, Yang W, Chen YS, Fuh MR, Chien LC, Hwang B, & Chen ML (2016). Increased risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder associated with exposure to organophosphate pesticide in Taiwanese children. Andrology PMID: 27070915... Read more »
Yu CJ, Du JC, Chiou HC, Chung MY, Yang W, Chen YS, Fuh MR, Chien LC, Hwang B, & Chen ML. (2016) Increased risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder associated with exposure to organophosphate pesticide in Taiwanese children. Andrology. PMID: 27070915
"Parents ultimately wanted therapists to produce positive outcomes for their children and were willing to sacrifice other desired qualities, as long as the therapy program was effective."and"The SLPs [Speech-Language Pathologists] expressed strong support for evidence-based practice (EBP) and indicated that they thought parents expected their children would be provided with evidence-based interventions."Those quotes come from two papers recently published in the same journal; the first by Amelia Edwards and colleagues  attempting to identify "the qualities parents seek in therapists who work with their children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder]" and the second from David Trembath and colleagues  titled: 'What do speech-language pathologists think parents expect when treating their children with autism spectrum disorder?'Providing what is a quite fascinating (albeit small scale) insight into the expectations of therapists and parents who use therapists for their children when it comes to autism, these papers put some science to what many people might already have suspected. The Edwards paper also carried an important sentence in the paper title - "More than blowing bubbles" - implying how positive real world outcomes are always going to be the most important elements of any intervention program when it comes to autism or indeed, any other label. The idea that avenues towards those positive outcomes should be 'evidence-based' is perhaps a sentiment noted in the views and opinions of [many of] those professionals delivering intervention but might not necessarily be first and foremost for parents whose natural instinct is to want the best for 'their child'.The link between the concept of 'evidence-based' and autism is particularly interesting. A few years back I covered a paper by Gary Mesibov & Victoria Shea  (see here) carrying the idea that there may be both "benefits and limitations" when it came to the application of evidence-based policy and autism intervention. The sorts of variables that made evidence-based policy difficult when applied to autism ranged from the vast heterogeneity present under the label (or labels) to the idea that the gold-standard 'randomised controlled trial' (RCT) might not be all that suitable when assessing comprehensive intervention programs that for example, contain multiple elements. In subsequent years we've also learned that autism rarely appears in some sort of diagnostic vacuum (see here), something that might also impact on evidence-based policy with regards to intervention (see here). For scientific puritans, the Mesibov-Shea discussions could be construed as heresy. For me, there was some substance in their arguments and some lessons on how autism research in particular, needs to adapt and change away from the notion that 'autism' universally covers everyone with autism in terms of similar aetiology and pathology. Endophenotypes and 'snowflakes' people...It should of course be recognised that quite a lot of the 'not-knowing' when it comes to the autism spectrum has set the field of autism intervention up for a variety of 'unusual' proposals for interventions, many of which have not been suitably scientifically tested (see here). Some are even downright unsafe but are still pursued for one reason or another, probably pertinent to that opening sentence on 'effectiveness' and no doubt playing into other emotions as and when a child presents with autism . Feelings run high on this topic as I once again refer you to the post by Tom Insel on the 'kingdoms of autism' (see here) with a suggestion that different views be respected but at the same time, safety should be paramount.Acknowledging that there is no 'one-size-fits-all- approach when it comes to autism intervention and that for some, mention of the words 'therapy' and 'intervention' are not necessarily high on their list of priorities, the Edwards and Trembath papers invite quite a bit more investigation. The possibility of a 'disconnect' between what parents want for their children and what therapists are currently able to deliver for their children represents something that could potentially impact on the delivery of intervention and the importance of the parent-professional relationship in this context. I'm also going to throw the paper by Paynter and colleagues  into this mix too...To close, I feel old. Jossy's Giants is 30 years old (although I'm more inclined to the Red and White)...---------- Edwards A. et al. "More than blowing bubbles": What parents want from therapists working with children with autism spectrum disorder. Int J Speech Lang Pathol. 2016 Apr 4:1-13. Trembath D. et al. What do speech-language pathologists think parents expect when treating their children with autism spectrum disorder? Int J Speech Lang Pathol. 2016 Mar 10:1-9. Mesibov GB. & Shea V. Evidence-based practices and autism. Autism. 2011 Jan;15(1):114-33. Ooi KL. et al. A meta-synthesis on parenting a child with autism. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2016; 12: 745-762. Paynter JM. et al. Utilisation of evidence-based practices by ASD early intervention service providers. Autism. 2016. April 18.----------Edwards, A., Brebner, C., Mccormack, P., & Macdougall, C. (2016). “More than blowing bubbles”: What parents want from therapists working with children with autism spectrum disorder International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 1-13 DOI: 10.3109/17549507.2015.1112835Trembath, D., Hawtree, R., Arciuli, J., & Caithness, T. (2016). What do speech-language p... Read more »
Edwards, A., Brebner, C., Mccormack, P., & Macdougall, C. (2016) “More than blowing bubbles”: What parents want from therapists working with children with autism spectrum disorder. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 1-13. DOI: 10.3109/17549507.2015.1112835
Trembath, D., Hawtree, R., Arciuli, J., & Caithness, T. (2016) What do speech-language pathologists think parents expect when treating their children with autism spectrum disorder?. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 1-9. DOI: 10.3109/17549507.2016.1139625
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