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  • August 22, 2015
  • 12:49 PM

Don’t touch that dial: TV’s subliminal influence on women’s perception of pregnancy and birth

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

In an era where popular culture is increasingly recognized for its impact on lay understanding of health and medicine, few scholars have looked at television’s powerful role in the creation of patient expectations, especially regarding pregnancy and birth.... Read more »

Danielle Bessett. (2015) As Seen on TV: Women's Views on Television Representations of Pregnancy and Birth. American Sociological Association’s 110th Annual Meeting. info:other/SES-0402165

  • August 22, 2015
  • 05:19 AM

Maternal folate status and offspring autism risk: where are we up to?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'd like to briefly draw your attention to the review published by Elizabeth DeVilbiss and colleagues [1] today, covering "what is known about the role of folate in the aetiology of neurodevelopmental disorders."Folate, is a topic that has graced this blog a few times with autism in mind (see here for example) based on various ideas that folate status during pregnancy might have the ability to modify offspring risk of autism [2] alongside the idea that autoimmune processes might act on folate receptors in some cases of autism (see here) and what this might subsequently mean for pathology / management. The specific idea that folate levels and folate supplementation during pregnancy might influence autism risk has garnered the most research attention, seemingly also crossing geographies too [3].The DeVilbiss review is quite comprehensive in its scope and material covered, summarising "relevant biological, genetic and epigenetic mechanisms" and the various science that has been done so far on this topic. I would certainly agree with their sentiments that "existing evidence is inconclusive" (as previously indicated) in light of the numerous confounding variables also potentially linked to offspring autism risk. That being said, and acknowledging where folate metabolism sits in terms of areas such as MTHFR genetics (see here) and the whole vitamin B12 story (see here) and perhaps beyond (see here), I do think there is more to see in this area and perhaps outside of autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions (see here). Without jumping on the whole epigenetics bandwagon, the link between the folate cycle and DNA methylation in particular (see here) offers a whole slew of research ideas ripe for further investigation.Music: Lost Frequencies - Are You With Me.----------[1] DeVilbiss EA. et al. Maternal folate status as a risk factor for autism spectrum disorders: a review of existing evidence. Br J Nutr. 2015 Aug 5:1-10.[2] Schmidt RJ. et al. Maternal periconceptional folic acid intake and risk of autism spectrum disorders and developmental delay in the CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment) case-control study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jul;96(1):80-9.[3] Surén P. et al. Association between maternal use of folic acid supplements and risk of autism spectrum disorders in children. JAMA. 2013 Feb 13;309(6):570-7.----------DeVilbiss EA, Gardner RM, Newschaffer CJ, & Lee BK (2015). Maternal folate status as a risk factor for autism spectrum disorders: a review of existing evidence. The British journal of nutrition, 1-10 PMID: 26243379... Read more »

  • August 21, 2015
  • 01:53 PM

Anti-aging tricks from dietary supplement seen in mice

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

In human cells, shortened telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, are both a sign of aging and contribute to it. Scientists have found that the dietary supplement alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can stimulate telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres, with positive effects in a mouse model of atherosclerosis.... Read more »

  • August 21, 2015
  • 03:11 AM

Digestive enzymes and autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"The ASD [autism spectrum disorder] group receiving digestive enzyme therapy for 3 months had significant improvement in emotional response, general impression autistic score, general behavior and gastrointestinal symptoms. Our study demonstrated the usefulness of digestive enzyme in our population of ASD patients."So said the results of a randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial published by Khaled Saad and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) on the use of a specific digestive enzyme supplementation called Neo-Digestin. Looking at outcomes from about 100 children diagnosed with an ASD (by DSM-IV-TR), about half in receipt of Neo-Digestin (n=47) and half receiving a placebo of sucralose syrup, researchers reported something potentially to see based on CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale) scores and another measure called the Global Behavior Rating Scales (GBRS). The GBRS was incidentally used an an outcome measure during one of the trials of secretin with autism in mind [2] so has some history when it comes to pancreatic digestive enzyme functions.Saad et al reported that compared to placebo, the Neo-Digestin group showed some significant positive changes in scores between baseline and intervention albeit restricted to the emotional response aspect of CARS and an overall reduction in autistic behaviours ("general autistic impression score"). Likewise on the GBRS, children in the enzyme supplement group "had significant improvement in two parameters including general behavior and gastrointestinal symptoms (quality of stools, abdominal pain, vomiting and food variety)." Importantly, whilst some side-effects were reported by the enzyme supplement group - "skin rashes, itching and abdominal pain" - we are told that these were mild and transient.As always, these are interesting results. The particular formulation used by Saad and colleagues contained papain (1.6g) and pepsin (0.8g). Given three times a day (15ml/day in all) over the course of the trial, there is some obvious logic in what processes might have been affected by such an intervention with a focus on protein and peptide degradation in the gastrointestinal tract. Think of proteins as long pearl necklaces with each pearl the equivalent of an amino acid (hence the building blocks of proteins). Breaking that long pearl necklace down into smaller chains (peptides) and eventually the constituent amino acids is a prime function of digestive enzymes and has some autism research history (see here). A similar sort of thing has also been proposed by all that CM-AT work, but not necessarily with proteins/peptides in mind (see here). There could be lessons to learn from coeliac disease research in this area too (see here).The Saad results are in direct contrast to the findings reported by Sujeeva Munasinghe and colleagues [3] who observed very little to see in their study of another digestive enzyme supplement with autism in mind. The devil however, could be in the detail in terms of differing formulations and possibly some overlap when it comes to digestive enzymes affecting specific issues such as "improvement in food variety" for example. The focus on gastrointestinal (GI) issues such as functional bowel problems being potentially 'improved' by such preparations is also important given the extensive coverage of such problems being 'over-represented' when it comes to a diagnosis of autism (see here) and the question of what can be done to relieve such symptoms as and when they occur.What's more to say? Well, more studies are of course indicated. As Saad details: "Digestive enzymes are inexpensive, readily available, have an excellent safety profile, and have mildly beneficial effects in ASD patients." I'd perhaps also like to see a few more 'biological' parameters included in any future research on this topic; things like gut permeability measures for example (see here) and perhaps a little more data on the genetics and functioning of endogenous digestive enzyme functions also (see here and see here respectively). That other research has talked about probiotics as degrading gluten peptides too (see here) might also suggest a dual strategy research approach might be of some interest...Music: Hole - Celebrity Skin.----------[1] Saad K. et al. A Randomized, Placebo-controlled Trial of Digestive Enzymes in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci. 2015 Aug 31;13(2):188-93.[2] Levy SE. et al. Children with autistic spectrum disorders. I: comparison of placebo and single dose of human synthetic secretin. Arch Dis Child. 2003 Aug;88(8):731-6.----------Saad K, Eltayeb AA, Mohamad IL, Al-Atram AA, Elserogy Y, Bjørklund G, El-Houfey AA, & Nicholson B (2015). A Randomized, Placebo-controlled Trial of Digestive Enzymes in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Clinical psychopharmacology and neuroscience : the official scientific journal of the Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 13 (2), 188-93 PMID: 26243847... Read more »

Saad K, Eltayeb AA, Mohamad IL, Al-Atram AA, Elserogy Y, Bjørklund G, El-Houfey AA, & Nicholson B. (2015) A Randomized, Placebo-controlled Trial of Digestive Enzymes in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Clinical psychopharmacology and neuroscience : the official scientific journal of the Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 13(2), 188-93. PMID: 26243847  

  • August 20, 2015
  • 02:24 PM

How long have primates been infected with viruses related to HIV?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Disease-causing viruses engage their hosts in ongoing arms races: positive selection for antiviral genes increases host fitness and survival, and viruses in turn select for mutations that counteract the antiviral host factors. Studying such adaptive mutations can provide insights into the distant history of host-virus interactions. A study of antiviral gene sequences in African monkeys suggests that lentiviruses closely related to HIV have infected primates in Africa as far back as 16 million years.... Read more »

Kevin R. McCarthy, Andrea Kirmaier, Patrick Autissier, & Welkin E. Johnson. (2015) Evolutionary and Functional Analysis of Old World Primate TRIM5 Reveals the Ancient Emergence of Primate Lentiviruses and Convergent Evolution Targeting a Conserved Capsid Interface. PLOS Pathogens. info:/10.1371/journal.ppat.1005085

  • August 20, 2015
  • 02:01 PM

‘Memory region’ of the brain also involved in conflict resolution

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

The hippocampus in the brain’s temporal lobe is responsible for more than just long-term memory. Researchers have for the first time demonstrated that it is also involved in quick and successful conflict resolution.... Read more »

C.R. Oehrn, C. Baumann, J. Fell, H. Lee, H. Kessler, U. Habel, S. Hanslmayr, & N. Axmacher. (2015) Human hippocampal dynamics during response conflict. Current Biology. info:/10.1016/j.cub.2015.07.032

  • August 20, 2015
  • 09:12 AM

Adventure Therapy

by Rodney Steadman in Gravity's Pull

Adventure therapy is the use of challenging situations in unique environments to help someone overcome or cope with a mental health problem.... Read more »

Koperski H, Tucker AR, Lung DM, & Gass MA. (2015) The Impact of Community Based Adventure Therapy on Stress and Coping Skills in Adults. The Practitioner Scholar: Journal of Counseling and Professional Psychology, 4(1), 1-16. info:/

  • August 20, 2015
  • 03:37 AM

Canada and the autism prevalence rate (yet again)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"At the end of 2013, the prevalence among children born in 2006 was 1 case of autism spectrum disorder per 46 children or 215.77 per 10 000."That was the conclusions reached in the study by Lorine Pelly and colleagues [1] looking at "the incidence and 1-year cohort prevalence for autism spectrum disorders in children less than 15 years of age and living in the Avalon Peninsula at the time of diagnosis." The Avalon Peninsula by the way, is located in Canada.Looking at data derived from the "Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre (St. John’s)" and specifically information pertinent to those with autism (this facility is apparently "the only child development centre in the region and is the only centre giving comprehensive autism spectrum disorder diagnoses to patients in this region") researchers set about looking at the numbers for autism diagnosis in the area. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses were based on DSM-IV criteria, confirmed through "multiple observations" and in most instances, involved data derived from the gold-standard assessment instrument that is ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule). Incidence and prevalence analyses were both undertaken.So: "Between 2006 and 2010, 272 new cases of autism spectrum disorder were diagnosed within the study population." Most of these cases were male, and, get this, the median age of diagnosis was... 3.84 years. The lion's share of cases were autistic disorder (~47%) followed by autism spectrum disorder (27%) and then Asperger syndrome (20%). Complementing those diagnostic divisions and age at diagnosis was the fact that a module 1 ADOS was used for over 40% of assessments. The calculated incidence for 2006 was 10.1 per 10,000. This increased to 16.7 per 10,000 in 2010. The difference was statistically significant. Prevalence, as I've already said, was 1 in 46 in this cohort with males shouldering the largest risk.Then, another important point emerges: "Our review found that many patients had at least one of the co-morbidities often associated with autism; the most prevalent were behavioural issues (n = 28), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (n = 27) and anxiety disorder (n = 25)." It all sounds very ESSENCE-like if you ask me.These are interesting data and add to previous studies looking at the autism numbers game in Canada (see here and see here). In that instance as in this, the numbers were increasing for whatever reason(s) and starting to look similar to the top-end CDC estimates from last year (2014). Pelly et al don't go into the specific hows and whys potentially linked to the increase in cases so I can't comment too much on that angle in their paper. Other recent publications talking about diagnostic substitution as one possible factor [2] in the increasing rate of autism makes a valid point but I dare say that things aren't so simple when it comes to the reasons behind the increase in different parts of the world [4]. Whether also such a increased rate of autism merits the term 'epidemic' is another issue covered recently in another paper [3] although I'm not getting too involved in that debate.Music: Gossip - Standing In The Way Of Control.----------[1] Pelly L. et al. Incidence and cohort prevalence for autism spectrum disorders in the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland and Labrador. CMAJ Open. 2015. July 29.[2] Polyak A. et al. Comorbidity of intellectual disability confounds ascertainment of autism: Implications for genetic diagnosis. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2015 Jul 22.[3] Lilenfeld SO. et al. Fifty psychological and psychiatric terms to avoid: a list of inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused words and phrases. Front. Psychol. 2015. August 3.[4] Randall M. et al. Autism spectrum disorder: Presentation and prevalence in a nationally representative Australian sample. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2015 Aug 17. pii: 0004867415595287.----------Pelly, L., Vardy, C., Fernandez, B., Newhook, L., & Chafe, R. (2015). Incidence and cohort prevalence for autism spectrum disorders in the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland and Labrador CMAJ Open, 3 (3) DOI: 10.9778/cmajo.20140056... Read more »

  • August 19, 2015
  • 03:43 PM

Happiness spreads, but depression isn’t contagious

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Having friends who suffer from depression doesn’t affect the mental health of others, according to research. The team found that having friends can help teenagers recover from depression or even avoid becoming depressed in the first instance. The findings are the result of a study of the way teenagers in a group of US high schools influenced each others’ mood. The academics used a mathematical model to establish if depression spreads from friend to friend.... Read more »

E. M. Hill, F. E. Griffiths, & T. House. (2015) Spreading of healthy mood in adolescent social networks. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. info:/10.1098/rspb.2015.1180

  • August 19, 2015
  • 01:15 PM

Don’t I know that guy? Neuroscientists pinpoint part of the brain that deciphers memory from new experience

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

You see a man at the grocery store. Is that the fellow you went to college with or just a guy who looks like him? One tiny spot in the brain has the answer. Neuroscientists have identified the part of the hippocampus that creates and processes this type of memory, furthering our understanding of how the mind works, and what’s going wrong when it doesn’t.... Read more »

  • August 19, 2015
  • 06:30 AM

Epigenetics And The Evil Twin

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Monozygotic twins share 100% of their genes. Does this make them identical? Not by a long shot. Epigenetics is the field of study that looks at how environment can change how something looks or works without changing its genes. Is epigenetics responsible for evil twin syndrome in American television?... Read more »

Spannhoff, A., Kim, Y., Raynal, N., Gharibyan, V., Su, M., Zhou, Y., Li, J., Castellano, S., Sbardella, G., Issa, J.... (2011) Histone deacetylase inhibitor activity in royal jelly might facilitate caste switching in bees. EMBO reports, 12(3), 238-243. DOI: 10.1038/embor.2011.9  

Kahn, H., Graff, M., Stein, A., Zybert, P., McKeague, I., & Lumey, L. (2008) A fingerprint characteristic associated with the early prenatal environment. American Journal of Human Biology, 20(1), 59-65. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.20672  

Zwijnenburg, P., Meijers-Heijboer, H., & Boomsma, D. (2010) Identical but not the same: The value of discordant monozygotic twins in genetic research. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics. DOI: 10.1002/ajmg.b.31091  

Thacker, D., Gruber, P., Weinberg, P., & Cohen, M. (2009) Heterotaxy Syndrome with Mirror Image Anomalies in Identical Twins. Congenital Heart Disease, 4(1), 50-53. DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-0803.2008.00229.x  

  • August 19, 2015
  • 02:52 AM

Breast milk protects against GI symptoms in high risk autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Happy house @ Paul Whiteley"Late weaning and EBM [exclusive breast milk] were associated with protection against GI [gastrointestinal] symptoms in High-risk infants."That was one of the conclusions presented in the paper by Alexander Penn and colleagues [1] who asked some pretty important questions when it comes to the increasingly strong relationship between bowel issues and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (see here)."Using questionnaires, diet history and gastrointestinal problems were tracked prospectively and retrospectively in 57 High-risk infants, and for comparison, in 114 Low-risk infants (infants from families without ASD history)." The main aims of this study were to examine whether those at an enhanced risk for autism by virtue of having a sibling already diagnosed were at any greater risk of presenting with functional bowel symptoms, and whether such bowel issues were "associated with diet and age at weaning from breast milk."Early weaning - the introduction of solid foods to an infant - seemed to be more frequently present in high-risk infants with bowel issues as did "a no breast milk (NBM) diet" compared with an exclusive breast milk diet. This was particularly true for the bowel symptom constipation and especially for those who were weaned earlier than 6 months of age.The authors suggest that their data indicate that weaning and breast milk diet practices might have some bearing for the presentation of bowel symptoms in those at high-risk for autism. Further: "The greater prevalence of GI symptoms in High-risk infants suggests that GI dysfunction during early infant development may be a part of the ASD endophenotype." That all sounds rather important.I'm drawing back from making too many sweeping statements about this research bearing in mind the participant number, the use of the term 'high-risk' and elements of the questionnaire design of the study. There is quite a bit more research required in this area.That all being said, I do think there are more than a few future studies that might come from such findings. So, thinking back to the paper by Afzal and colleagues [2] and the idea that "consumption of milk to be the strongest predictor of constipation" among their cohort diagnosed with autism, is the suggestion that more attention might be needed for specific elements of the diet such as cows milk. Added to the findings from Kushak and colleagues [3] (see here for a past post on this work) regarding lactose intolerance as being pretty rife in their cohort with autism (importantly, "not identified by clinical history"), and clues start to emerge alongside possible alternative strategies (see here and see here)...Music: Stevie Wonder - Superstition.----------[1] Penn AH. et al. Breast Milk Protects Against Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Infants at High Risk for Autism During Early Development. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2015 Jul 29.[2] Afzal N. et al. Constipation with acquired megarectum in children with autism. Pediatrics. 2003 Oct;112(4):939-42.[3] Kushak RI. et al. Intestinal disaccharidase activity in patients with autism: effect of age, gender, and intestinal inflammation. Autism. 2011 May;15(3):285-94.----------Penn AH, Carver LJ, Herbert CA, Lai TS, McIntire MJ, Howard JT, Taylor SF, Schmid-Schönbein GW, & Dobkins KR (2015). Breast Milk Protects Against Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Infants at High Risk for Autism During Early Development. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition PMID: 26230900... Read more »

Penn AH, Carver LJ, Herbert CA, Lai TS, McIntire MJ, Howard JT, Taylor SF, Schmid-Schönbein GW, & Dobkins KR. (2015) Breast Milk Protects Against Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Infants at High Risk for Autism During Early Development. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition. PMID: 26230900  

  • August 18, 2015
  • 02:35 PM

Nicotine changes marijuana’s effect on the brain

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

How scientists study the effects of marijuana on the brain is changing. Until recently marijuana research largely excluded tobacco users from its participant pool, but scientists have found reason to abandon this practice, uncovering significant differences in the brains of individuals who use both tobacco and marijuana and the brains of those who only use marijuana.... Read more »

  • August 18, 2015
  • 11:19 AM

Blood-Sucking Bugs Are Smart at Night, Dumb by Day

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Any college student can tell you that overstudying is a waste of energy. When your resources are limited, you should learn the material that's going to be on the test and ignore everything else. Certain blood-sucking bugs use the same strategy—unfortunately for the humans who catch diseases from them.

Kissing bugs live all around the Americas and drink the blood of other animals, including humans. They prefer to bite their hosts on the face—hence "kissing." The species that live in the wa... Read more »

  • August 18, 2015
  • 03:41 AM

Neonatal hyperbilirubinemia and autism risk (again)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Tall ships @ Paul WhiteleyThe paper by Luis Lozada and colleagues [1] (open-access) brings back into focus a topic that has graced this blog before (see here) with their observation that: "Children who develop ASD [autism spectrum disorder] are more likely to have an admission with a diagnosis of jaundice in the neonatal period and more likely to require treatment for this jaundice."Jaundice, by the way, refers to a condition marked by yellowing of the skin and eyes as a result of the build up of a compound called bilirubin. For the newborn, elevations in bilirubin can have some really negative effects when accumulating in parts of the brain.Using a case-control study design based on data derived from the "TRICARE Management Activity’s Military Health System (MHS) database", authors set about assessing whether there was a heightened risk of autism (ASD) "among infants with a history of neonatal unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice)." Participant numbers were in the thousands: "A total of 2917 children with ASD and 8751 matched controls were included in the study."Using two definitions of jaundice and hence bilirubin exposure - "a diagnosis of jaundice during the hospital stay associated with birth, or during an admission within the first month of life" and/or "any phototherapy or exchange transfusion procedure in the first month of life" - authors reported that: "A history of admission with a diagnosis of neonatal jaundice was present in 640 (21.9%) of children with ASD compared with 1614 (18.4%) of controls." Further: "A procedural treatment for jaundice was documented in 107 (3.7%) of children with ASD and 221 (2.5%) of controls." On the basis of these figures and some statistical analysis, they concluded that there may be an association between bilirubin and autism (ASD). That being said, such an association was not uncomplicated. When for example, they undertook a separate analysis of those children who were born preterm - that is born before 37 weeks - the association between autism and jaundice lost its statistical significance.These data are interesting and mirror other findings (see here) with equally large participant numbers. As the authors indicate, there are some important methodological strengths to their study that add to quality of the study findings. The one down side to the study however was the fact that the authors "did not have bilirubin levels available", so any efforts looking at "a specific dose–response relationship with ASD" are research fodder for another day.Insofar as the possible mechanism of effect going from neonatal jaundice to autism risk, the neurotoxin angle to bilirubin is a preferred explanation for Lozada et al. As they note: "There is biologic plausibility to suggest an association between bilirubin and ASD" in terms of parts of the brain vulnerable to bilirubin toxicity and what has been identified in the large (very large) peer-reviewed literature talking about brain architecture and [some] autism. Mention is also made about the concept of BIND (bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction) and the possibility of an overlap with some of the core and peripheral signs and symptoms of autism.Accepting that any link between bilirubin and autism is likely to be a complex process, the only thing I would perhaps add to speculations would be the possible intersection with the concepts of sulphation and glucuronidation - important metabolic mechanisms that have been suggested to be disrupted in some cases of autism (see here and see here respectively). I would be interested to see whether any underlying issues with such metabolic pathways might intersect with jaundice and the metabolism of bilirubin and onwards autism risk...Music: Blackbird - The Beatles.----------[1] Lozada LE. et al. Association of Autism Spectrum Disorders With Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia. Global Pediatric Health. 2015; 2: 2333794X15596518.----------Lozada, L., Nylund, C., Gorman, G., Hisle-Gorman, E., Erdie-Lalena, C., & Kuehn, D. (2015). Association of Autism Spectrum Disorders With Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia Global Pediatric Health, 2 DOI: 10.1177/2333794X15596518... Read more »

Lozada, L., Nylund, C., Gorman, G., Hisle-Gorman, E., Erdie-Lalena, C., & Kuehn, D. (2015) Association of Autism Spectrum Disorders With Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia. Global Pediatric Health. DOI: 10.1177/2333794X15596518  

  • August 17, 2015
  • 01:55 PM

How influential are peer reactions to posts on Facebook news channels?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

An experiment to determine the effects of positive and negative user comments to items posted by media organizations on Facebook news channels showed, surprisingly, that the influence of user comments varied depending on the type and number of user comments. Negative comments influenced the persuasiveness of a news article, while positive comments did not, and a high number of likes did not have the expected bandwagon effect.... Read more »

Winter, S., Brückner, C., & Krämer, N. (2015) They Came, They Liked, They Commented: Social Influence on Facebook News Channels. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(8), 431-436. DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2015.0005  

  • August 17, 2015
  • 01:35 PM

Study shows poor sleep contributes to MS-related fatigue

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

New research confirmed that sleep disturbances significantly contribute to MS-related fatigue, a common and often disabling symptom among individuals with MS. Review of the pertinent literature showed that sleep may be the dominant factor in fatigue in MS. This was also the finding in Dr. Strober’s study of 107 employed individuals with MS of whom 61% reported poor sleep.... Read more »

  • August 17, 2015
  • 03:10 AM

Sibling death by defenestration: a case report

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The case report published by Osman Sabuncuoglu and colleagues [1] (open-access) highlighting the extremes of certain high-risk behaviours potentially associated with autism is the topic of today's brief post.Detailing the very saddest of outcomes whereby a young boy diagnosed with autism and "aggression, violence and poor behavioral control" threw his 18-month old sister out of a window (defenestration) causing her death, the authors draw attention to several issues tied into the extremes of aggression appearing alongside autism and the legal implications of such behaviour under such circumstances.The authors describe how due to the gravity of the issues faced by the autistic child (including a degree of learning disability) "the child had no preconception of consequences of his behavior" already with a history of violence towards caregivers before the very unfortunate episode with his sister. The subsequent criminal investigation carried out on this incident was eventually dropped "on the grounds of incompetence due to insanity and being below the age of criminal responsibility."Treading carefully so as not to make any sweeping generalisations about the very heterogeneous autism spectrum, the Sabuncuoglu report highlights how aggression can manifest alongside [some] autism and brings into focus the plight of quite a few families dealing with such issues day to day. Judging by the lack of peer-reviewed literature on this topic, I am assuming that the extent and effects of the aggression detailed by Sabuncuoglu is thankfully pretty rare(?) (in terms of endangering life for example) but that isn't to say that it hasn't happened before (see here)."The most distinctive symptoms that led to the death of the sibling seem to be a high level of aggression, low level of impulse control and severe form of disability." Alongside the idea that there may be various strategies that can be employed to potentially off-set such variables (see here and see here for examples), I'd be minded to suggest that further investigations on such factors such be a research priority in terms of improving quality of life for those presenting with such issues and their family and loved ones.----------[1] Sabuncuoglu O. et al. Sibling death after being thrown from window by brother with autism: defenestration an emerging high-risk behavior. Case Reports in Psychiatry. 2015. July 21.----------Osman Sabuncuoglu, Mustafa Yasin IRMAK, Nagehan Ucok Demir, Duygu Murat, Can Tumba, & Yuksel Yilmaz (2015). Sibling death after being thrown from window by brother with autism: defenestration an emerging high-risk behavior Case Reports in Psychiatry... Read more »

Osman Sabuncuoglu, Mustafa Yasin IRMAK, Nagehan Ucok Demir, Duygu Murat, Can Tumba, & Yuksel Yilmaz. (2015) Sibling death after being thrown from window by brother with autism: defenestration an emerging high-risk behavior. Case Reports in Psychiatry. info:/

  • August 16, 2015
  • 02:06 PM

The stomach is the way to a woman’s heart, too

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

You've heard that romance starts in the kitchen and not in the bedroom. Well, researchers at Drexel University finally have the science to support that saying - but not the way you might think. Researchers found that women's brains respond more to romantic cues on a full stomach than an empty one. The study explored brain circuitry in hungry versus satiated states among women who were past-dieters and those who had never dieted.... Read more »

  • August 15, 2015
  • 01:26 PM

On Wikipedia, politically controversial science topics vulnerable to information sabotage

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Wikipedia reigns. It’s the world’s most popular online encyclopedia, the sixth most visited website in America, and a research source most U.S. students rely on. But Wikipedia entries on politically controversial scientific topics can be unreliable due to information sabotage.... Read more »

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