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  • October 3, 2016
  • 05:05 PM

Can Electricity Stimulate Your Brain To Work Faster?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A widely-used 'brain stimulation' tool has no effect on the speed of the brain's responses, according to a new study from Australian neuroscientists Jared Horvath et al.

The technique of transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) involves attaching electrodes to the scalp and applying a weak electrical current. This current is thought to flow through the brain and alter neural activity in areas close to the electrodes. tDCS is a popular experimental method in neuroscience, and there's a... Read more »

  • October 3, 2016
  • 01:54 PM

For women, caffeine could be ally in warding off dementia

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Among a group of older women, self-reported caffeine consumption of more than 261 mg per day was associated with a 36 percent reduction in the risk of incident dementia over 10 years of follow-up. This level is equivalent to two to three 8-oz cups of coffee per day, five to six 8-oz cups of black tea, or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola.

... Read more »

Driscoll, I., Shumaker, S., Snively, B., Margolis, K., Manson, J., Vitolins, M., Rossom, R., & Espeland, M. (2016) Relationships Between Caffeine Intake and Risk for Probable Dementia or Global Cognitive Impairment: The Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glw078  

  • October 3, 2016
  • 03:05 AM

The physical health of adults with autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Another short post today opening with the conclusion reached in the paper by Andrew Cashin and colleagues [1]: "From the findings, it can be stated with confidence that people with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] have a high rate of comorbidity and increased risk for chronic disease."Yes, not new news to many that physical health is generally 'under-rated' when it comes to adult autism (see here and see here for examples). The question remains however: what are we all going to do about it?Following continued acceptance that a diagnosis of autism might go WELL beyond the presented core behavioural features, how about a few more discussions about the healthcare experiences of those on the spectrum [2] (see here too) as a start and taking things from there, save ending up where another label has (see here) with regards to physical health?----------[1] Cashin A. et al. A scoping review of what is known of the physical health of adults with autism spectrum disorder. J Intellect Disabil. 2016 Sep 13. pii: 1744629516665242.[2] Raymaker DM. et al. Barriers to healthcare: Instrument development and comparison between autistic adults and adults with and without other disabilities. Autism. 2016 Sep 22. pii: 1362361316661261.----------Cashin A, Buckley T, Trollor JN, & Lennox N (2016). A scoping review of what is known of the physical health of adults with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of intellectual disabilities : JOID PMID: 27623754... Read more »

  • October 2, 2016
  • 06:39 PM

A New Look At Irritable Bowel Disease and Viruses: The Core Human "Phageome"

by Geoffrey Hannigan in Prophage

Ongoing research has continued to implicate the microbiome in a variety of human diseases. We often hear about this in the context of bacterial communities. Certain bacterial communities appear to be associated with health, and disrupting these communities seems to be associated with disease...... Read more »

Manrique P, Bolduc B, Walk ST, van der Oost J, de Vos WM, & Young MJ. (2016) Healthy human gut phageome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(37), 10400-5. PMID: 27573828  

  • October 2, 2016
  • 02:32 PM

Sugar gives bees a happy buzz

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

An unexpected sugary snack can give bees a little buzz and appears to lift their mood, even making them optimistic, according to research that suggests pollinators have feelings, too. Since emotions are subjective and difficult to measure—particularly in animals—researchers looked at how bees' behavior changed after they were given a sip of sucrose solution.

... Read more »

  • October 1, 2016
  • 03:20 PM

Nature or nurture: is violence in our genes?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Nature or nurture? The quest to understand why humans kill one another has occupied the minds of philosophers, sociologists and psychologists for centuries. Are we innately violent, as Englishman Thomas Hobbes postulated in the 1650s, or is our behaviour influenced more by the environment we grow up in, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau theorised a century later?

... Read more »

Gómez, J., Verdú, M., González-Megías, A., & Méndez, M. (2016) The phylogenetic roots of human lethal violence. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature19758  

  • October 1, 2016
  • 04:46 AM

One of the best articles to discuss suicide risk and autism so far...

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'm cheating a little bit today as minus too much critical commentary or discussion, I'm drawing your attention to the paper by Tony Salvatore and colleagues [1] (open-access) on a most important topic: suicide risk and autism.Written by authors who between them seem to know quite a bit about autism and also managing suicide prevention particularly under crisis conditions, I reckon this review article is one of the best we have so far in this area. I say that on the basis that not only are estimated prevalence figures included in the text but two very important discussion points on the key risk factors and also what might be protective against suicide behaviours are included. Importantly, the authors suggest that "suicide risk factors are similar for adults with and without ASD [autism spectrum disorder]". So rather than seeing suicide in relation to autism as something detached from suicidal behaviour on other occasions in other groups, they suggest common risk factors including comorbid mental illness as potentially 'precipitating suicidal ideation' or at least, increasing vulnerability to such behaviour are important.Yes, I know we still have quite a way to go before any road maps or definitive protocols/toolkits are available to manage suicide risk in autism. But the Salvatore paper is as good a document as any to read on this important topic and potentially making moves to off-set at least some of the risk of this devastating behaviour. I might also add that other texts including talk of an 'acquired capability for suicide' among some groups might also offer some important links between something like self-harm and suicide risk which could also be relevant to [some] autism [2]. More investigations are very much needed including on the topic of suicide prevention [3].And when it comes to biological risk factors also potentially associated with / linked to suicidal behaviour, the meta-analysis from Chang and colleagues [4] (open-access) initially highlighting fish oils and cytokines (inflammation?) as potentially being important might similarly prove applicable in the context of autism (minus any sweeping generalisations)...----------[1] Salvatore T. et al. Suicide Risk in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Exploratory Discussion. The Journal of Special Populations. 2016; 1: 1.[2] Paula-Perez I. & Artigas-Pallares J. Vulnerability to self-harm in autism. Rev Neurol. 2016;62 Suppl 1:S27-32.[3] Zalsman G. et al. Suicide prevention strategies revisited: 10-year systematic review. Lancet Psychiatry. 2016 Jul;3(7):646-59.[4] Chang BP. et al. Biological risk factors for suicidal behaviors: a meta-analysis. Translational Psychiatry. 2016. Sept 13.----------Chang, B., Franklin, J., Ribeiro, J., Fox, K., Bentley, K., Kleiman, E., & Nock, M. (2016). Biological risk factors for suicidal behaviors: a meta-analysis Translational Psychiatry, 6 (9) DOI: 10.1038/tp.2016.165... Read more »

Chang, B., Franklin, J., Ribeiro, J., Fox, K., Bentley, K., Kleiman, E., & Nock, M. (2016) Biological risk factors for suicidal behaviors: a meta-analysis. Translational Psychiatry, 6(9). DOI: 10.1038/tp.2016.165  

  • September 30, 2016
  • 03:14 PM

Omega-3 fatty acid stops known trigger of lupus

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

A team of researchers has found that consuming an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, can stop a known trigger of lupus and potentially other autoimmune disorders. DHA can be found in fatty, cold-water fish and is produced by the algae that fish eat and store in their bodies. It can be found in fish oil supplements as well, used by more than 30 million Americans.

... Read more »

  • September 30, 2016
  • 06:12 AM

BHD at the International Rare Lung Diseases Research Conference 2016

by Joana Guedes in BHD Research Blog

The International Rare Lung Diseases Research Conference (RLDC) and LAM symposium were held last week over four days. They brought together clinicians, scientists, patients and families to Cincinnati to review research developments in rare lung disease and to promote dialogue between the research community and patients. Next week’s blog will focus on the highlights of the entire conference. This week the blog is focused on the BHD syndrome specific talk and poster.... Read more »

Toro JR, Pautler SE, Stewart L, Glenn GM, Weinreich M, Toure O, Wei MH, Schmidt LS, Davis L, Zbar B.... (2007) Lung cysts, spontaneous pneumothorax, and genetic associations in 89 families with Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 175(10), 1044-53. PMID: 17322109  

  • September 30, 2016
  • 03:08 AM

Injury risk and ADHD

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"The results indicate that there is an elevated injury risk among Swedish schoolchildren with ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] but not for children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder]."So went the findings reported by Carl Bonander and colleagues [1] providing yet more important data on how a diagnosis of ADHD might be something that confers quite a bit of additional risk for all-manner of different negative outcomes.I've hinted at this important topic before as per some discussion a few years back on how road crossing behaviour might be 'affected' by a diagnosis of ADHD (see here). This time around Swedish researchers compared the risk of injury for those diagnosed with autism vs. risk of injury for those diagnosed with ADHD based on school nurse collected- and school-based data (survey A and B respectively). "After adjusting for confounders, ADHD was associated with a 65% increased risk of injury... in Survey A, and a 57% increased risk of injury... in Survey B" relative to data derived from "unaffected controls."A quick look through the other peer-reviewed material on this topic reveals the extent to which a diagnosis of ADHD might increase the risk of various injuries. Take the paper by Silva and colleagues [2] who noted that in "young children who are subsequently diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)" there was an increased risk of hospitalisation for all manner of different things: "head injuries, burns, poisons, all other injuries." Other studies have reported similar findings [3] including that relying on 'big data' from the big data capital that is Taiwan [4] (see here for more chatter on Taiwan).Whilst no-one is suggesting that every visit to accident and emergency (the emergency room) is somehow the product of ADHD, there are some potentially important lessons to learn from such collected data. Timely diagnosis and appropriate management of ADHD symptoms when they affect quality of life are two points raised, bearing in mind 'management' might include several strategies (see here and see here and see here). Where also hospitals or other medical professionals are presented with children or young people who are 'regular visitors', one might also look to the possibility of preferential screening for something like ADHD too as part of additional enquiries. I might add that whilst Bonander and colleagues looked at ADHD vs. autism when it comes to injury risk, one must not forget that ADHD and autism occurring together is not an uncommon finding (see here) and accident and emergency is not necessarily an unfamiliar place to some of those on the autism spectrum (see here). There is more to do in this important area of research.Finally, I'm also minded to reiterate that hosptial admissions for certain chronic somatic issues might also flag up preferential ADHD screening as well (see here)...----------[1] Bonander C. et al. Injury risks in schoolchildren with attention-deficit/hyperactivity or autism spectrum disorder: Results from two school-based health surveys of 6- to 17-year-old children in Sweden. J Safety Res. 2016 Sep;58:49-56.[2] Silva D. et al. Children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and their hospitalisations: population data linkage study. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014 Nov;23(11):1043-50.[3] Hurtig T. et al. The Association Between Hospital-Treated Injuries and ADHD Symptoms in Childhood and Adolescence: A Follow-Up Study in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986. J Atten Disord. 2016 Jan;20(1):3-10.[4] Kang JH. et al. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder increased the risk of injury: a population-based follow-up study. Acta Paediatr. 2013 Jun;102(6):640-3.----------Bonander C, Beckman L, Janson S, & Jernbro C (2016). Injury risks in schoolchildren with attention-deficit/hyperactivity or autism spectrum disorder: Results from two school-based health surveys of 6- to 17-year-old children in Sweden. Journal of safety research, 58, 49-56 PMID: 27620934... Read more »

  • September 29, 2016
  • 01:36 PM

Children could point the way to new HIV treatments

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Children with HIV who can resist the disease progressing could point the way to new treatments for HIV infection that are more widely applicable to infected adults and children alike, an international team of researchers has found.

... Read more »

Muenchhoff, M., Adland, E., Karimanzira, O., Crowther, C., Pace, M., Csala, A., Leitman, E., Moonsamy, A., McGregor, C., Hurst, J.... (2016) Nonprogressing HIV-infected children share fundamental immunological features of nonpathogenic SIV infection. Science Translational Medicine, 8(358), 358-358. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aag1048  

  • September 29, 2016
  • 12:00 PM

Rat Boggling: Simultaneously Freaky and Adorable

by Awwducational in Awwducational

When extremely happy or relaxed, rats will display a behavior known as boggling where their eyes vibrate and bulge. ... Read more »

Froberg-fejko, Karen. (2014) Give a rat a bone: satisfying rodents' need to gnaw. Lab animal. info:/

  • September 29, 2016
  • 06:58 AM

The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) 2014 and autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

They've finally arrived. The results of the English Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014 have been published by NHS Digital (yes, our Nation's healthcare services has a digital arm) and when it comes to autism (adult autism 18 years+), some rather peculiar statistics have been produced.OK, for those who want/need a quick heads-up on all-things Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS), I'll refer you to a previous post I wrote covering this prevalence survey with autism in mind (see here). APMS provides estimates of the numbers of various mental health diagnoses among adults living in private households in England.The 2014 data report some key facts, not least that: "One in three adults aged 16-74 (37 per cent) with conditions such as anxiety or depression, surveyed in England, were accessing mental health treatment, in 2014." This figure is an increase on the 2007 APMS data (24%). There are also some other important data derived from the 2014 survey too with regards to sex differences in relation to "common mental disorder (CMD)" in diagnosis and in symptoms. Lessons need to be learned.It is however with autism in mind (see here for the section covering autism), that I'm concentrating on in this post and the observation that: "The estimated prevalence of autism in 2014, using the threshold of a score of 10 on the ADOS [autism diagnostic observation schedule] to indicate a positive case, was 0.7% of the adult population in England (equivalent to a rate of 7 per thousand). The estimated prevalence of autism in the 2007 data (1.0%) was similar to the 2014 estimate; with largely overlapping confidence intervals." A separate 'additional notes' document accompanies the APMS 2014 autism findings (see here).1% in 2007 and 0.7% in 2014? Accepting that when it comes to prevalence estimates there is always a degree of 'error' expected (as per the comment on 'overlapping confidence intervals') I'm a little bit puzzled by this latest data and the idea that the figures are described as 'similar'. Puzzled because as well as suggesting that adult autism prevalence estimates might have actually dipped between the years, the authors note that their search of 3 quite populous areas of England ("Leicestershire, Lambeth and Sheffield") across both the 2007 and 2014 data combined only found "31 participants identified with autism."So what's going on with the APMS and autism?A question indeed and I assume that the 'combining' of the 2007 and 2014 datasets reveals quite a bit more than just the very small number of participants identified in the studies. I have to say that my brow is furrowing a little at the sight of the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) as retaining an 'autism screener' role in the APMS 2014. If I've learned anything about the AQ in recent times it is that whilst measuring something, it may not be a particularly great exclusive screen for autism (see here). Even the authors attached to the APMS 2014 autism data have said so [1]: "The AQ-20 was only a weak predictor of ADOS-4 cases." I've also mentioned about the ADOS module situation and the whys and wherefores with APMS in mind in that previous post on the topic (see here again).So we're left with a quandary. The much heralded '1% of adults may have autism' statistic is replaced by a lower value (with appropriate caveats on confidence intervals) of 0.8% when the APMS 2007 and 2014 data are combined. Is this a true reflection of adult autism in England in recent times? How does this tally with the suggestion that child and adolescent rates of autism are on the increase as per that seen in other parts of the UK (see here)?Or, are the processes pertinent to estimating adult autism used by the APMS not really cutting the statistical/methodological mustard?Which one is it?----------[1] Brugha TS. et al. Validating two survey methods for identifying cases of autism spectrum disorder among adults in the community. Psychol Med. 2012 Mar;42(3):647-56.----------Brugha TS, McManus S, Smith J, Scott FJ, Meltzer H, Purdon S, Berney T, Tantam D, Robinson J, Radley J, & Bankart J (2012). Validating two survey methods for identifying cases of autism spectrum disorder among adults in the community. Psychological medicine, 42 (3), 647-56 PMID: 21798110... Read more »

Brugha TS, McManus S, Smith J, Scott FJ, Meltzer H, Purdon S, Berney T, Tantam D, Robinson J, Radley J.... (2012) Validating two survey methods for identifying cases of autism spectrum disorder among adults in the community. Psychological medicine, 42(3), 647-56. PMID: 21798110  

  • September 28, 2016
  • 01:51 PM

Research team may have observed building blocks of memories in the brain

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

A team of researchers has observed what they believe are the building blocks of memories in a mouse brain. In their paper, the researchers describe how they caused certain neurons to become illuminated when they fired, allowing them to watch in real time as memories were made and then later as they were replayed while the mouse was sitting idle.

... Read more »

Malvache, A., Reichinnek, S., Villette, V., Haimerl, C., & Cossart, R. (2016) Awake hippocampal reactivations project onto orthogonal neuronal assemblies. Science, 353(6305), 1280-1283. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf3319  

  • September 28, 2016
  • 11:10 AM

When the writing is wrong: PRMT5 histone arginine methylation promotes invasivity and metastasis in a range of human cancers

by David Schecter in EpiBeat

Cancer metastasis occurs when cancer cells leave a primary tumor and invade other tissues. Generally, this leads to a poor prognosis for patients. Underlying epigenetic mechanisms of tumor progression are poorly understood but are of great interest for developing new approaches of treatment in the clinic. Cancer etiology is highly correlated with alterations in the histone code1-5 and protein methyltransferases are frequently dysregulated in cancer, implicating them as compelling novel targets for chemotherapy. Arginine methylation in particular regulates biological function3,6,7 as well as oncogenesis and tumor progression.1,2,6 The protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMT) family targets a range of substrates, including histones, spliceosomal factors, and ribosomal proteins.9-11 Recent reports have linked the dysregulation of arginine methylation to numerous cancers and our recent paper Chen et al. investigates the role of PRMT5, a histone arginine methyltransferase, in cancer metastasis and tumor progression... Read more »

Stopa N, Krebs JE, & Shechter D. (2015) The PRMT5 arginine methyltransferase: many roles in development, cancer and beyond. Cellular and molecular life sciences : CMLS, 72(11), 2041-59. PMID: 25662273  

Sebova K, & Fridrichova I. (2010) Epigenetic tools in potential anticancer therapy. Anti-cancer drugs, 21(6), 565-77. PMID: 20436342  

Yang, Y., & Bedford, M. (2012) Protein arginine methyltransferases and cancer. Nature Reviews Cancer, 13(1), 37-50. DOI: 10.1038/nrc3409  

Greenblatt SM, Liu F, & Nimer SD. (2016) Arginine methyltransferases in normal and malignant hematopoiesis. Experimental hematology, 44(6), 435-41. PMID: 27026282  

Chan-Penebre E, Kuplast KG, Majer CR, Boriack-Sjodin PA, Wigle TJ, Johnston LD, Rioux N, Munchhof MJ, Jin L, Jacques SL.... (2015) A selective inhibitor of PRMT5 with in vivo and in vitro potency in MCL models. Nature chemical biology, 11(6), 432-7. PMID: 25915199  

Liu F, Cheng G, Hamard PJ, Greenblatt S, Wang L, Man N, Perna F, Xu H, Tadi M, Luciani L.... (2015) Arginine methyltransferase PRMT5 is essential for sustaining normal adult hematopoiesis. The Journal of clinical investigation, 125(9), 3532-44. PMID: 26258414  

Ikushima H, & Miyazono K. (2010) TGFbeta signalling: a complex web in cancer progression. Nature reviews. Cancer, 10(6), 415-24. PMID: 20495575  

Lamouille, S., Xu, J., & Derynck, R. (2014) Molecular mechanisms of epithelial–mesenchymal transition. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, 15(3), 178-196. DOI: 10.1038/nrm3758  

  • September 28, 2016
  • 02:55 AM

Postural tachycardia syndrome and gluten?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Please use your full stops wisely.I believe that this is the first time that I've talked about postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) on this blog as I bring to your attention some rather intriguing findings reported by Hugo Penny and colleagues [1] on how PoTS and gluten-related disorders might not be unstrange diagnostic bedfellows.PoTS by the way, describes symptoms where standing upright / sitting down induces dizziness, fainting and other symptoms. As well as being quite prevalent in a certain condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (see here), PoTS is also described fairly frequently in cases of chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) too.Describing how "patients with postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) were placing themselves on a gluten-free diet without medical consultation" the authorship team (mentioned previously on this blog) residing in the great city of Sheffield decided to look-see whether there may be underlying medical reasons why such gluten-free moves seemed to be used in cases of PoTS. They screened their 100 participants with PoTS "for gluten sensitivity, related symptoms and dietary habits" as well as assessing for coeliac disease, the archetypal gluten-related autoimmune condition.Results: compared with a couple of control groups numbering in total above 1500 local participants, coeliac disease (CD) seemed to be more common in the PoTS groups - "serology and biopsy-proven coeliac disease." Alongside: "PoTS patients also had a higher prevalence of self-reported gluten sensitivity... compared with age-matched and sex-matched controls." The authors conclude that there may be more to see when it comes to the presence of classical and non-classical gluten-related disorders in relation to PoTS.This is potentially important stuff. Accepting that outside of the immediate dizziness and fainting symptoms associated with PoTS there may be other 'gastrointestinal' involvement [2] the intriguing idea that [certain] symptoms might be to some degree alleviated by use of a dietary change is worthy of greater inspection. Indeed, set within the context of an associated diagnostic label, orthostatic intolerance, where an upright posture provokes related symptoms, also being potentially linked to gastrointestinal issues [3] one has an interesting template as to how gut and brain might show some important links. That a gluten-free diet will most likely target both gut and brain (yes, it might) provides plenty of food for thought as to possible mechanisms.I'm also pretty interested in the growing research base looking at a possible autoimmune component to at least some cases of PoTS [4]. I know this takes us into some 'brow-furrowing' areas of peer-reviewed science [5] (indeed, complicated science) but the potential importance of cases of autoimmune PoTS intersecting with cases of autoimmune coeliac disease provides yet another example of how birds of an autoimmune feather tend to flock together (see here). The implication being that cases of PoTS should perhaps be screened for CD and other autoimmune disease/features and perhaps treated accordingly, offers some new directions for research and clinical practice.And just in case you are still convinced that use of a gluten-free diet outside of CD is all bunk, the worm still continues to turn...To close, 'Shatner's Bassoon'. That is all.----------[1] Penny HA. et al. Is there a relationship between gluten sensitivity and postural tachycardia syndrome? Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016 Sep 7.[2] Wang LB. et al. Gastrointestinal dysfunction in postural tachycardia syndrome. J Neurol Sci. 2015 Dec 15;359(1-2):193-6.[3] Sullivan SD. et al. Gastrointestinal symptoms associated with orthostatic intolerance. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2005 Apr;40(4):425-8.[4] Thieben MJ. et al. Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome: the Mayo clinic experience. Mayo Clin Proc. 2007 Mar;82(3):308-13.[5] Blitshteyn S. & Brook J. Postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) with anti-NMDA receptor antibodies after human papillomavirus vaccination. Immunol Res. 2016 Aug 25.----------Penny, H., Aziz, I., Ferrar, M., Atkinson, J., Hoggard, N., Hadjivassiliou, M., West, J., & Sanders, D. (2016). Is there a relationship between gluten sensitivity and postural tachycardia syndrome? European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology DOI: 10.1097/MEG.0000000000000740... Read more »

Penny, H., Aziz, I., Ferrar, M., Atkinson, J., Hoggard, N., Hadjivassiliou, M., West, J., & Sanders, D. (2016) Is there a relationship between gluten sensitivity and postural tachycardia syndrome?. European Journal of Gastroenterology , 1. DOI: 10.1097/MEG.0000000000000740  

  • September 27, 2016
  • 03:09 PM

Sex changes in nature

by Emily Makowski in Sextraordinary!

We might think of animal mating being as simple as 1 male and 1 female, like on Noah's Ark. But many types of fish undergo sex changes throughout their lives. My goal is to open people's eyes to the diversity among sex in animals.... Read more »

  • September 27, 2016
  • 02:55 AM

Neurotensin, intestinal inflammation and autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Elevated peripheral pro-NT [neurotensin] levels reflect more severe forms of active celiac disease, indicating a potential role of NT in intestinal inflammation."The suggestion, from Caroline Montén and colleagues [1], that the neuropeptide called neurotensin might play a role in paediatric coeliac disease is an interesting one that caught my eye recently. Interesting not only because of the potential implications for the archetypal 'gluten-causing' autoimmune condition called coeliac disease, but also because neurotensin might have some rather important links to [some] autism too [2].OK, a quick recap is perhaps useful. Neurotensin when it comes to autism typically means one name, Theoharis Theoharides, he of mast cells fame (see here). The idea is that neurotensin (NT) is, among other things, quite a 'potent trigger' of mast cells and when activated these mast cells can release their inner contents that include quite a few substances linked to allergic inflammation. At least some of the talk linking 'inflammation' and autism might include a role for mast cells [3]  and so hey presto, a potentially important chain of biological events might therefore be linked.Going back to the original Montén paper on NT and coeliac (celiac) disease, researchers set about investigating "if plasma pro-NT levels correlated with the degree of intestinal mucosal damage and tissue transglutaminase autoantibody (tTGA) levels in children with celiac disease." They did find elevated levels of one of the NT precursor fragments in a coeliac disease group (n=96) compared with controls (n=89) and there did seem to be something of a possible connection between pro-NT levels and tTGA. On these basis, they concluded that NT might indeed be linked to the intestinal inflammation noted in cases of coeliac disease. Mast cells might also be important to coeliac disease too according to recent findings.Accepting that coeliac disease is not autism (even though in some individual cases they may be linked [4]), there are a few further studies that might be required on this topic with autism in mind. As I've already mentioned, inflammation - particularly inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract - is not something unheard of in autism research/practice circles (see here). I know furrowed brows can be associated with this area of discussion but I'm talking about peer-reviewed science not anecdote and speculation. One might for example, see an investigation whereby those with autism and GI-related issues (including an inflammatory component) might be more closely inspected for something like NT to see if it is something important. You could even include those potentially falling into the grey area of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) if you so wished (see here). Given also related findings for some on the autism spectrum in relation to tTGA too (see here) and the possibility of another link there with NT, some brave research team might also wish to inspect this parameter. I might also suggest that looking at gut motility patterns in relation to NT levels could be another area ripe for further investigation with autism in mind (see here) given some previous discussions on the effects of NT.Just a few suggestions for how a little more work in this area might prove illuminating.Insofar as what to do about a possible link between NT and autism, well someone it seems has already started that conversation [5] and discussions are seemingly continuing in the peer-reviewed domain [6]...----------[1] Montén C. et al. Role of pro-neurotensin as marker of paediatric celiac disease. Clin Exp Immunol. 2016 Sep 10.[2] Angelidou A. et al. Neurotensin is increased in serum of young children with autistic disorder. J Neuroinflammation. 2010 Aug 23;7:48.[3] Theoharides TC. et al. Atopic diseases and inflammation of the brain in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorders. Transl Psychiatry. 2016 Jun 28;6(6):e844.[4] Genuis SJ. & Bouchard TP. Celiac disease presenting as autism. J Child Neurol. 2010 Jan;25(1):114-9.[5] Ghanizadeh A. Targeting neurotensin as a potential novel approach for the treatment of autism. Journal of Neuroinflammation. 2010; 7:58.[6] Patel AB. et al. Neurotensin stimulates sortilin and mTOR in human microglia inhibitable by methoxyluteolin, a potential therapeutic target for autism. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Sep 23. pii: 201604992.----------Montén C, Torinsson Naluai Å, & Agardh D (2016). Role of pro-neurotensin as marker of paediatric celiac disease. Clinical and experimental immunology PMID: 27612962... Read more »

Montén C, Torinsson Naluai Å, & Agardh D. (2016) Role of pro-neurotensin as marker of paediatric celiac disease. Clinical and experimental immunology. PMID: 27612962  

  • September 26, 2016
  • 07:04 PM

What is behavior? Baby don’t ask me, don’t ask me, no more

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll One of the most difficult concepts to explain in biology is certainly life itself. But I am not here today to talk about the definition of life, but rather of another puzzling concept: behavior. Behavior is the … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • September 26, 2016
  • 01:35 PM

Why do more men than women commit suicide?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Why do more men die when they attempt suicide than women? The answer could lie in four traits, finds scientists. There are over 6,000 British lives lost to suicide each year, and nearly 75 per cent of those are male. However, research has found women are more likely to suffer from depression, and to attempt to take their own life.

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Deshpande, G., Baxi, M., Witte, T., & Robinson, J. (2016) A Neural Basis for the Acquired Capability for Suicide. Frontiers in Psychiatry. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00125  

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