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February, 2015 Reader Supported.
Is the U.S. Prepared for a Growing Population of Adults With Autism?
More than 50,000 individuals with autism transition into adulthood each year.
The Autism CARES Act will devote $1.3 billion over five years to perform autism research and search for gaps in support.
By Amir Khan usnews.com
Autism is on the rise: More than 1.5 million people have the condition in the United States alone. But because the majority of these people are younger than 22, the country is on the verge of an “autism tsunami” that could leave thousands without the support they need as they become adults, according to Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization.
“The current system we have right now is woefully inadequate,” says Angela Lello, director of housing and community living at Autism Speaks. "There are lots of long waiting lists. In some states, it can take as long as 10 years to gain access to [these support] services."
Defined as a developmental disorder that can impair social, communication and behavioral skills, autism is a spectrum disorder that can range in severity from person to person. Some individuals with autism are considered high-functioning and can live independently requiring minimal, if any, help. Others, however, may need partial or full supervision and assistance to navigate even the most basic tasks of everyday life. "A person who is nonverbal or who has significant intellectual disability will require substantial support in adulthood, and fully independent living will not be possible," says Thomas Challman, medical director and neurodevelopmental pediatrician with the Geisinger Health System Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute in Pennsylvania.
Every state offers Medicaid-funded programs for people with autism, which can be accessed through each state's Developmental Disability Agency. These services can include home health aides to help with daily functions such as dressing and bathing, as well as job placement and housing assistance, Lello says. Yet, since more than 50,000 individuals with autism transition into adulthood every year, the support services are already being outpaced by their demand, she adds.
To help fill this gap, President Barack Obama recently signed into law the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act of 2014. Also known as the Autism CARES Act, it will give $1.3 billion over five years to fund autism research and detect gaps in support for children and adults with autism who are aging out of childhood programs and transitioning into those designed for adults.
“We need to do a better job of preparing children with [autism spectrum disorder] for adulthood and provide the help and services they need to reach their full potential,” said the bill's co-sponsor Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., on the House floor in June. “The Autism CARES Act tasks multiple federal agencies to study and report back to Congress on the special needs of autistic young adults and transitioning youth. In light of the severity of the aging-out crisis, we must do more – and fast – and ensure we are providing a comprehensive and thorough review of available services, and those we need to create."
Andrew Wakefield Responds to the Current Measles Outbreak for the First Time
By Stav Ziv newsweek.com
Dr. Andrew Wakefield, center, stands with his wife, Carmel, third from right, as he speaks to the media after a hearing at the General Medical Council in London on January 28, 2010. The GMC ruled that Wakefield acted unethically in researching a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism. Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Andrew Wakefield is both revered and reviled. To a small group of parents, he’s a hero who won’t back down from his assertion that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine can cause autism.
To most, however, he’s the man who authored a fraudulent study that has been refuted many times and was retracted by the journal that published it, a man whose views carry dangerous consequences for all of us. They will tell you that the former doctor—stripped of his license in 2010 by the U.K.’s General Medical Council for ethical violations and failure to disclose potentially competing financial interests—has derailed public confidence in vaccination programs that were safely eradicating serious and highly contagious diseases.
In the wake of the most recent measles outbreak in the U.S.—which began at the Disneyland theme park in Southern California in late December 2014 and has since spread to 17 states and infected more than 100 people—Wakefield defends his views about the measles vaccine. “The responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of those that have been involved in vaccine policymaking, which is totally inadequate and bordering on dangerous,” he says. “The government has only themselves to blame for this problem."
The now-retracted paper that set the MMR-autism dominoes tumbling was published by Wakefield and a dozen co-authors in The Lancet in February 1998. It provided case histories for 12 children, exploring incidences of chronic enterocolitis, inflammatory bowel disease and regressive developmental disorder—as well as immunization with the MMR vaccine. “In eight children, the onset of behavioral problems had been linked, either by the parents or by the child's physician, with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination,” the authors wrote.
Vaccination rates in the U.K. plummeted after publication of that paper, and the study helped launch the anti-vaccine movement in the U.S. In a National Consumers League survey conducted in the U.S. last year, one-third of parents with children under the age of 18 and 29 percent of adults overall believe that vaccinations can cause autism.
In the 1980s, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched efforts to curb measles outbreaks by increasing immunization rates, says Dr. Robert Amler, who led the push. The CDC worked with state legislatures to require every child to provide proof of immunization in order to enroll and stay in public or private school, and began to see reductions in measles cases within four or five years. By 2000, indigenous transmission of measles was stamped out in the U.S., according to Dr. Walter Orenstein, chair of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee and former director of the CDC's National Immunization Program.
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CDC Whistleblower Who Admitted Covering Up MMR Vaccine Links to Autism Granted Immunity, Will Testify
By Lily Dane dcclothesline.com
Flashback to late August 2014: Shocking revelations about alleged CDC misconduct in a study investigating the link between autism and vaccines have been made even worse by an active campaign to censor and silence the issue in the media.
That CDC whistleblower is back in the news (in the alternative, independent news, anyway).
We’ll get to why in a minute.
First, here’s some background: In 2004, Dr. William S. Thompson worked on a report for the CDC’s National Immunization Program. That report, which ran in the “Pediatrics” medical journal, came to the conclusion that there’s no link between vaccines and autism and that no racial group is more likely to be damaged by vaccines.
But Thompson said that he and other CDC scientists intentionally fudged the results, manipulating the pool of children they analyzed
and limiting the proper number of African-American children from participating. The authors limited black children from showing up in the results by excluding babies without a state of Georgia birth certificate.
Dr. Thompson came clean during the course of several conversations with Dr. Brian Hooker, who is a researcher (PhD in Bioengineering) and the father of a vaccine-injured child.
From Health Impact News: Dr. Hooker has fought against the CDC for more than 12 years, using the Freedom of Information Act to try and gather as much data as he could from the studies that the CDC has published that claim there is no link between vaccines and autism. He has submitted much of the results of his own internal investigation of the CDC data on vaccines and autism to Congress. Congressman Bill Posey has assisted him in forcing the CDC to comply with many of these requests.
After almost 12 years, his tireless pursuit of finding the truth that the CDC was hiding paid off, as the CDC finally handed over documents so that Dr. Hooker could look at the raw data that the CDC used to claim that there was no link between vaccines and autism. It took some Congressional pressure from Congressman Bill Posey to get this information.
The mainstream media scrambled to discredit Dr. Thompson. The few reports that made it to mainstream news sites were quickly pulled (two of which were on CNN). Most mainstream sites didn’t touch the story (surprise, surprise), but an article that was posted on Yahoo! Finance received quite a bit of attention.
Now, here’s why this story is back in the news: it is being reported that the Obama administration has granted Dr. Thompson official whistleblower status and immunity. This will allow him to testify before Congress about CDC fraud regarding vaccine safety and to explain the thousands of documents that have been turned over to congressional representatives, reports VaxTruth.org.
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Protective Brain Protein Reveals Gender Implications For Autism, Alzheimer's Research
Tel Aviv University study finds a mutated gene is expressed differently in male and female brains
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
For parents of children struggling with autism, the dearth of information is heartbreaking. Medical professionals are hard put to answer the primary questions: Who is autistic? What causes autism? What treatments are available? The situation is similar for Alzheimer's patients and relatives, who are helpless before the aggressive disease devouring a sufferer's identity.
A new study by Tel Aviv University's Prof. Illana Gozes, published in Translational Psychiatry, may offer insight into the pathology of both autism and Alzheimer's by revealing that different activities of certain proteins in males and females cause gender-specific tendencies toward these diseases. While the three-to-one ratio of autism in boys to girls is well known, as is the greater number of female Alzheimer's patients, the reasons for these phenomena are less clear.
According to Prof. Gozes, "If we understand how ADNP, an activity-related neuroprotective protein which is a major regulatory gene, acts differently in males and females, we can try to optimize drugs for potential future therapeutics to treat both autism and Alzheimer's disease."
Prof. Gozes is the incumbent of the Lily and Avraham Gildor Chair for the Investigation of Growth Factors, Head of the Elton Laboratory for Molecular Neuroendocrinology at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, a member of TAU's Adams Super Center for Brain Studies and the Sagol School of Neuroscience. Research for the study was conducted by graduate students Anna Malishkevich, Noy Amram and Gal Hacohen-Kleiman, in collaboration with post-doctoral fellow Dr. Iddo Magen, and staff scientist Dr. Eliezer Giladi, all of TAU.
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Advanced 3-D Facial Imaging May Aid In Early Detection Of Autism
Screening could lead to further genetic analysis and advancements in the study and treatment of the disorders University of Missouri-Columbia
Autism is a spectrum of closely related disorders diagnosed in patients who exhibit a shared core of symptoms, including delays in learning to communicate and interact socially. Early detection of autism in children is the key for treatments to be most effective and produce the best outcomes. Using advanced three-dimensional imaging and statistical analysis techniques, researchers at the University of Missouri have identified facial measurements in children with autism that may lead to a screening tool for young children and provide clues to its genetic causes.
"We want to detect the specific facial traits of the face of a child with autism," said Ye Duan, associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering at MU. "Doing so might help us define the facial structures common to children with autism and potentially enable early screening for the disorder."
Expanding upon previous studies using two-dimensional imaging, Duan, working with Judith Miles, professor emerita of child health-genetics in the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at MU, used a system of cameras to photograph and generate three-dimensional images of children's faces.
The children selected were between 8 and 12 years old. One group of children had been diagnosed with autism by the Thompson Center; the other group consisted of typically developing children. Researchers photographed the faces of children using three-dimensional imaging, which allowed scientists to measure distances along the curvature of the face rather than in a straight line as had been done in previous tests. Duan then ran sophisticated statistical analyses to measure minute differences in the facial measurements of each group.
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Study Finds Saliva Differences in Autistic Kids
By Rick Nauert PhD psychcentral.com
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
New research suggests a spit test may help to diagnose autism in the future.
Researchers at Clarkson University and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh have published the first study showing that children with autism spectrum disorder have differences in protein levels in their saliva when compared to typically developing children.
The study was recently published in the journal Autism Research.
Autism spectrum disorder currently affects one in 68 children in the United States. For unknown reasons, the number of people diagnosed with autism is on the rise.
Currently, an autism diagnosis is determined from behavioral observations that span several years as a biological test does not exist.
Development of a biological test could aid in earlier diagnosis, helping to direct people with autism to interventions.
The researchers, led by Clarkson University doctoral candidate Armand Gatien Ngounou Wetie, studied saliva from six children diagnosed with autism, ages six to 16, compared to six typically developing children in the same age range.
They used a technique known as mass spectrometry to measure protein differences in saliva taken from the two groups.
“We found nine proteins that were significantly elevated in the saliva of the people with autism and three that were lower or even absent,” said Alisa G. Woods, Ph.D., a researcher at both Clarkson University and the SUNY Plattsburgh Center for Neurobehavioral Health who is one of the researchers leading the study.
“This is the first study to identify these changes in saliva, which is a relatively easy biofluid to obtain for clinical use or research."
The proteins identified primarily have functions in immune system responses or are elevated in people with gastrointestinal problems. The scientists also reported that several of the identified proteins interact with one another.
“We are the first in the world who proposed a protein complex as a potential biomarker signature, which gives us information not only about the proteins, their relative quantities and their modifications, but also about their interactions with other proteins,” said Costel C. Darie, a co-lead author and proteomics expert.
Although researchers believe the investigation is promising for the eventual development of an autism diagnostic test, more subjects need to be studied to confirm the markers are consistently different in people with autism.
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Why Some Kids Are Born Autistic
A new study has claimed that autism genes activate during fetal brain development.
Scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have found that mutations that cause autism in children are connected to a pathway that regulates brain development.
Lead researcher Lilia Iakoucheva, PhD said that the surprising thing they immediately observed while studying a set of well-known autism mutations called copy number variants or CNVs, was that different CNVs seemed to be turned on in different developmental period.
Specifically, the scientists noted that one CNV located in a region of the genome known as 16p11.2, contained genes active during the late mid-fetal period. Ultimately, they identified a network of genes that showed a similar pattern of activation including KCTD13 within 16p11.2 and CUL3, a gene from a different chromosome that is also mutated in children with autism.
Iakoucheva said that they realized that the proteins encoded by the genes, form a complex that regulates the levels of a third protein, RhoA. Rho proteins play critical roles in neuronal migration and brain morphogenesis at early stages of brain development.
Interestingly, the RhoA pathway has recently been implicated in a rare form of autism called Timothy syndrome, which is caused by the mutation in a completely different gene.
Iakoucheva and colleagues are planning to test RhoA pathway inhibitors using a stem cell model of autism.
The research is published in Neuron.
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Study Of Siblings With Autism Reveals Surprising Results
By Ivan Semeniuk The Globe and Mail
Dr. Stephen Scherer at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning in Toronto, part of SickKids Hospital. Dr. Scherer is leading an initiative to sequence 10,000 whole genomes from individuals and families with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The project's aim is to help researchers tease out the subtle genetic variations that underlie different forms of autism, including differences between siblings. (Mark Blinch)
With symptoms that can range from missed social cues to severe linguistic and cognitive impairments, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has proved a complex condition for geneticists to get their heads around.
Now the largest study to date based on the whole genome sequences of siblings with ASD, together with their non-autistic parents, is throwing a genetic spotlight on those complexities and yielding some surprises.
Among them: In only one third of the cases where the autism of one sibling with ASD was linked to a genetic variant did the other sibling with autism share the same variant.
At face value, such a result might seem to defy common sense. Autism is thought to affect about 1 in 68 children, which means the odds of two siblings having the disorder for entirely unrelated reasons should be very low.
One possible explanation is some of the variants the study looked at will prove in time not to be implicated in autism. Or there could be other still-hidden inherited factors that the siblings share that may increase the likelihood of ASD in some way. “Then, if they have another mutation, they’re pushed across the autism threshold,” says Stephen Scherer, director of the Centre for Applied Genomics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto who led the study.
The possibility of different autism-linked genes coming into play among siblings with ASD matters for parents trying to choose the right treatments for their children. Even when outward symptoms are similar, the underlying genetics factors may call for completely different interventions.
And for families wondering whether they have more than one child with ASD when one child has a disorder that has been linked to a genetic variant, it is probably not enough to simply test to see whether other children in the family share that particular variant.
“You need to look at the whole genomes,” Dr. Scherer said. “Two thirds of the time it’s going to be something different."
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Study Downgrades Autism Gene's Effects To Rare Glitches
By Jessica Wright sfari.org
Inherited risk: A group of Amish children who inherited mutations in both copies of the CNTNAP2 gene have severe epilepsy and autism. Leon Ritter / Shutterstock.com
Eight years ago, researchers found inherited mutations in a gene called CNTNAP2 in a group of Amish children with autism and epilepsy.
Over the following two years, the gene shot into prominence as an autism candidate: One team of researchers found a rare harmful mutation in the gene in one individual with autism. And others linked common variants in the gene — present in at least 5 percent of the population — to autism symptoms, such as language problems and faulty brain connectivity. A mouse model lacking both copies of the gene is frequently used to represent the disorder and screen autism drugs.
Now, a new analysis published 26 January in PLoS Genetics significantly brings down the gene’s importance in autism: According to the study, rare mutations in a single copy of the gene are unlikely to be a cause of autism1.
“We can’t rule out that disrupting one copy of CNTNAP2 contributes to autism, but we can say that the overall contribution is going to be relatively low,” says lead researcher Matthew State, chair of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.
State and his colleagues looked for CNTNAP2 mutations in 2,704 people with autism and 2,747 controls by sequencing their exomes — the protein-coding swaths of their genomes. To the researchers’ surprise, they found no harmful mutations in CNTNAP2 in any of the people with autism2. They did come across 13 mutations with unclear effects, but found the same number of mutations in the controls.
“It’s quite clear that CNTNAP2 association through common variants or through these rare coding variants that Matt State has looked at can’t be a very frequent explanation of autism,” says Aravinda Chakravarti, director of the Center for Complex Disease Genomics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who was not involved with the study.
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Seven Genes Tied To Intellectual Disability Found
Researchers have identified seven new genes that can cause X-linked intellectual disability, a disorder that predominantly affects men and can have highly variable clinical manifestations.
Mutations of these genes on the X chromosome lead to various forms of intellectual disability, the researchers noted.
"In addition to known disease-related genes, we have discovered seven novel genes as the cause of X-linked intellectual disability and analysed what signalling pathways in the cells each protein is involved in," said Vera Kalscheuer from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany.
According to the scientists, the proteins associated with the newly discovered genes may also be involved in epilepsy, autism and schizophrenia.
The researchers analysed 405 families, in which cases of X-linked intellectual disability occur.
As males only have one X chromosome and the disease is passed on in a recessive manner, the disorder mainly occurs in boys.
Women are affected only if both their X chromosomes carry the defective genes. Women with one healthy and one mutated X chromosome are usually healthy but have a 50 percent chance of passing the mutated X chromosome on to their offspring.
Because of the high variability of the clinical picture, the search for the responsible genetic defect was, until a few years ago, very tedious.
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Study Finds No Link Between Induced or Augmented Labor and Autism
By Heather Johnson business2community.com
Inducing or augmenting labor with pitocin does not increase the risk of autism among children, says a new study presented at The Pregnancy Meeting™, the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, in San Diego, California.
Pitocin, a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin widely used to start or assist the progress of labor, is a uterine stimulant that causes uterine contractions by changing calcium concentrations in the uterine muscle cells. The drug can also be administered after birth to prevent postpartum bleeding.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that manifests during the first three years of life. The disorder is characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication and by restricted, repetitive, or stereotyped behavior. Autism currently affects one in 68 children in the United States. Boys are almost five times more likely to suffer from the disorder than girls.
Health care professions have previously expressed concerns about the use of pitocin. Prior research had suggested a potential link between induction or augmentation of labor and ASD. For example, a study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics in October 2013 concluded that induction and augmentation with pitocin increases the risk of autism.
Now researchers at Intermountain Healthcare, the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at the University of Utah, and the Psychiatry Department at the University of Utah sought to evaluate whether induced and/or augmented labor is associated with increased odds of ASD.
To determine a link, if any, the researchers evaluated the association of ASD in a large group of Utah births that occurred between 1998 and 2006 using data from birth certificates and from a registry of autism cases in the state (Utah Registry of Autism and Developmental Disabilities). The researchers compared 2,547 children with ASD to 166,283 children without the disorder.
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The Coming Boom In Brain Medicines
By Matthew Herper, Forbes
Yumanity CEO and co-founder Tony Coles
Tony Coles could have had any job he wanted in the drug industry. In five years at the helm of cancer drug developer Onyx Pharmaceuticals he increased its market cap eightfold by purchasing an experimental blood cancer drug for $800 million, developing it into a big seller and flipping the whole company to Amgen for $10.4 billion in October 2013. He personally made $60 million on the deal. Biotech watchers expected him to start another cancer company or even command a drug giant like Merck or Pfizer .
Instead, Coles, 54, is using his own money to build a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup called Yumanity that is using yeast, the microbes that help make bread and beer, to study how misfolded proteins in the brain cause Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease and Parkinson’s, and to create drugs based on that knowledge. There’s already interest from Big Pharma. Coles says he chose to attack brain diseases, not tumors, because the need is so dire and the science is so fresh.
“We’ve got 50 million people around the world who have these diseases, costing $650 billion a year, and lots of families like mine that have been affected,” says Coles. “I had a grandmother who died of the complications of Alzheimer’s disease. I think about my own health as well.”
See also: Neuroscience Stocks To Consider | Neuroscience Treatments To Watch
The modern drug business was built on brain medicines: Valium was the first blockbuster, selling 2 billion tablets in 1978, and Prozac defined the industry in the 1990s. But stagnant science since then led many big drug companies, including GlaxoSmithKline , Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca, to flee neuroscience, even as an aging population promises a dramatic surge in brain disease. In the past five years the number of drugs being developed by large drugmakers for brain and nervous system disorders fell 50% to 129, according to NeuroPerspective, an industry newsletter.
But now, thanks to scientific advances such as genetic sequencing and new DNA editing technologies, the industry is in the midst of a dramatic reversal. Last year investors poured $3.3 billion into firms that are developing drugs for brain-destroying or psychiatric illnesses, more than in any of the last ten years, says NeuroPerspective. Some big drug companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Roche and Novartis, are finding ways to reinvigorate their efforts. New medicines for severe depression, psychosis and schizophrenia could reach the market within the next few years, and treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and some forms of autism are a real possibility, too.
“I do think that it’s early days. There has been a fair amount of overpromising in neuroscience drug discovery,” says Ryan Watts, director of neuroscience at Roche’s Genentech division. “We have to understand there are going to be a large number of failures and little incremental victories that will start to build, and then you’ll see things cracking open.”
It will still take years for neuroscience to metamorphose from a backwater into a hotbed of innovation, but it’s happening. Mark Fishman, the head of research at Novartis, puts it bluntly: “We’re revolutionizing the field.”
Core Symptoms of Autism Improved After Vitamin D Supplementation
Feiyong Jia, PhD, MDa, et al., Department of Pediatric Neurology and Neurorehabilitation, The First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder caused by a complex interaction between genetic and environmental risk factors. Among the environmental factors, vitamin D3 (cholecaliferol) seems to play a significant role in the etiology of ASD because this vitamin is important for brain development. Lower concentrations of vitamin D3 may lead to increased brain size, altered brain shape, and enlarged ventricles, which have been observed in patients with ASD. Vitamin D3 is converted into 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 in the liver. Higher serum concentrations of this steroid may reduce the risk of autism.
Importantly, children with ASD are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, possibly due to environmental factors. It has also been suggested that vitamin D3 deficiency may cause ASD symptoms. Here, we report on a 32-month-old boy with ASD and vitamin D3 deficiency. His core symptoms of autism improved significantly after vitamin D3 supplementation. This case suggests that vitamin D3 may play an important role in the etiology of ASD, stressing the importance of clinical assessment of vitamin D3 deficiency and the need for vitamin D3 supplementation in case of deficiency.
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Review: Amazing Stories of the Brain’s Power To Heal
The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity By Norman Doidge (Viking)
By Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun
Norman Doidge’s book The Brain’s Way of Healing is about hopeful and inspiring cases of recovery. Photo: Denise Grant
Norman Doidge’s latest book, The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity, is truly astonishing. It’s a followup to his 2007 book The Brain that Changes Itself and it focuses on incredible recoveries from physical illness and injury that happen in the brain.
Doidge is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and a top-notch writer. He lives in Toronto and is a faculty member at the University of Toronto and at Columbia University. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, has won awards for his poetry, and has written a memoir.
It was a series of literary portraits of exceptional people that led him to write The Brain that Changes Itself, a book about neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the concept that the brain can change its structure and function in response to mental experience.
The Brain’s Way of Healing has chapters on how to unlearn chronic pain, how to walk off Parkinson symptoms, how to rewire a brain with light, how a blind man learned to see, how to deal with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and stroke, and how to quiet the brain to help people with dyslexia, autism, ADHD and other learning challenges. He writes about people who had been given no hope of recovery, but who, through healing their brains, do recover.
“It turns out the brain is not too sophisticated for its own good,” Doidge writes. “This book will show that this very sophistication, which involves brain cells being able to constantly communicate electrically with one another, and to form, and re-form new connections, moment by moment, is the source of a unique kind of healing."
He uses examples including the use of sounds played into the ear to treat autism to light shone on the back of the neck to treat a brain injury. In some cases, the results are completely astounding and unexpected.
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Anti-Inflammatory Mechanism Of Dieting And Fasting Revealed
Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found that a compound produced by the body when dieting or fasting can block a part of the immune system involved in several inflammatory disorders such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease. Credit: © lisa870 / Fotolia
Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found that a compound produced by the body when dieting or fasting can block a part of the immune system involved in several inflammatory disorders such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease.
In their study, published in the Feb. 16 online issue of Nature Medicine, the researchers described how the compound β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) directly inhibits NLRP3, which is part of a complex set of proteins called the inflammasome. The inflammasome drives the inflammatory response in several disorders including autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, and autoinflammatory disorders.
"These findings are important because endogenous metabolites like BHB that block the NLRP3 inflammasome could be relevant against many inflammatory diseases, including those where there are mutations in the NLRP3 genes," said Vishwa Deep Dixit, professor in the Section of Comparative Medicine at Yale School of Medicine.
BHB is a metabolite produced by the body in response to fasting, high-intensity exercise, caloric restriction, or consumption of the low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet. Dixit said it is well known that fasting and calorie restriction reduces inflammation in the body, but it was unclear how immune cells adapt to reduced availability of glucose and if they can respond to metabolites produced from fat oxidation.
Working with mice and human immune cells, Dixit and colleagues focused on how macrophages -- specialized immune cells that produce inflammation -- respond when exposed to ketone bodies and whether that impacts the inflammasone complex.
The team introduced BHB to mouse models of inflammatory diseases caused by NLP3. They found that this reduced inflammation, and that inflammation was also reduced when the mice were given a ketogenic diet, which elevates the levels of BHB in the bloodstream.
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J&J Hid Risperdal Risks of Boy Breast Development, Jury Told
Johnson & Johnson, which paid more than $2 billion to resolve a criminal probe over its antipsychotic drug Risperdal, knew the medicine caused boys to develop female breasts and failed to alert regulators, doctors and patients, a lawyer argued.
J&J kept quiet about research showing Risperdal caused abnormal breast development in boys to protect billions of dollars in sales of the drug, an attorney for the parents of an autistic man who developed size 46 DD breasts while on the medicine told a jury Friday. J&J misled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the antipsychotic’s safety, he added.
“All of you know something the FDA still doesn’t know and that is the increased statistical risk of kids on Risperdal” developing abnormal breasts, the lawyer, Thomas Kline, told jurors during closing statements at a Philadelphia trial over the drugmaker’s handling of the product.
J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, faces more than 1,000 cases over the Risperdal side effect in state court in Philadelphia. The current case is the first in which a jury will decide whether J&J and its Janssen unit are liable for mishandling the medicine.
In 2012, the company settled the first case to go to trial in Philadelphia over claims Risperdal caused gynecomastia, or abnormal breast development, and has settled at least five other cases over allegations involving the drug.
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Medical Marijuana For Children With Developmental And Behavioral Disorders?
Marijuana. Credit: © jeremynathan / Fotolia
As medical marijuana becomes increasingly accepted, there is growing interest in its use for children and adolescents with developmental and behavioral problems such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a review in the February Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, the official journal of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
That's despite a lack of studies showing any clinical benefit of cannabis for young patients with these disorders -- whereas evidence strongly suggests harmful effects of regular marijuana use in the developing brain. Scott Hadland, MD, MPH, John R. Knight, MD, and Sion Kim Harris, PhD of Boston Children's Hospital write, "Given the current scarcity of data, cannabis cannot be safely recommended for the treatment of developmental or behavioral disorders at this time."
"Children with severe ASD cannot communicate verbally and may relate to the world through loud, repetitive shrieking and hand-flapping that is very disruptive to their families and all those around them," comments Dr Knight, the study's senior author. "So my heart goes out to families who are searching for something, anything to help their child," he continues. "But in using medicinal marijuana they may be trading away their child's future for short-term symptom control."
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Parents May Be Able to Lower Kids’ Autism Risk
By Alice Park time.com
Sean Justice—Getty Images
With the help of videos and trained therapists, parents of at-risk kids may eventually help their toddlers to avoid an autism diagnosis Autism experts still disagree over a lot of things about the developmental disorder, but there is one idea that unites most of them — that the earlier the condition can be diagnosed, and the sooner interventions, from medications to behavioral therapies, can be tried, the more likely that child will be to develop normally.
The latest research, published Wednesday in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, pushes this idea even further by intervening with one of the youngest group of babies yet — those who are 7 months to 10 months old. Jonathan Green from the University of Manchester, in England, and his colleagues say that teaching parents to get more in tune with the signals coming from infants who are at high risk of developing autism can change their babies’ behavior and shift them toward a pattern of more normal development.
The scientists focused on a group of 54 families with at least one autistic child. About 20% of siblings of autistic children end up developing the disorder themselves, so Green and his team randomly assigned parents of these babies to either receive a new parent-training program or to get no additional intervention at all. While previous studies have also looked at such parenting programs, most have focused on toddlers once they have been diagnosed with autism, which generally occurs around age 3.
During the training sessions, which occurred over five months, a therapist visited the home and videotaped parents interacting with their infants and then analyzed the behaviors. Rather than assuming the babies would make sounds or fidget if they wanted something, parents were asked to pay close attention to the signs their infants were providing, and find ways to recognize and respond to them so the babies would be more likely to engage and interact with their parents rather than turn away. After at least six such sessions, the infants of parents who did this showed improvements in their ability to pay attention, as well as better flexibility in shifting their attention from one object to another. Presumably the plasticity, or flexibility of the developing brain, especially in the first year of life, is making it possible to redirect some of the processes that may be veering toward autism.
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To the Only Person Who Didn’t Leave the Walmart Bathroom When My Son Needed Help
By Barbara Carson themighty.com
When your child with special needs is little and cute, people can be sympathetic. But when he’s bigger and still getting sick over and over, well, you try not to bother people. You just smile and pretend everything’s fine. Inside, I often felt alone.
My younger son is diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism. He also had a lot of digestive problems. I made sure he went to the toilet every two hours. Most days we were lucky. One day, our luck ran out. My nonverbal teenage son and I were standing in a long check-out line at Walmart when he had an attack of explosive diarrhea. He was 14 at the time.
I parked my cart to one side and asked a cashier to watch it for me. I walked my son to the women’s restroom, about 10 feet away. He was bent over, making little sounds, indicating he was cramping and in pain. There was a trail behind him, but I couldn’t stop to clean it up. I had to get my son on the toilet as quickly as I could. Fortunately, the handicapped stall was available. Women and girls wrinkled up their noses and moved away from us. Soon the restroom was empty.
Suddenly, I realized my diaper bag was in the car, about a quarter-mile away. I made frequent trips back and forth to the sinks, wetting paper towels, adding a dash of soap, cleaning my son from top to bottom. I washed out the bottom half of his t-shirt in the sink and managed to clean his sneakers, but his pants, underwear and socks were ruined. He couldn’t wear them. I couldn’t leave him alone while I went out to the car, and I didn’t have anyone to watch my son. What could I do, wander around Walmart asking strangers to help? I couldn’t leave my son alone in the restroom, even for a minute. Staff might call in Child Protective Services, a real concern for any single parent of a child with special needs. I felt so helpless. We were stuck in the restroom.
I couldn’t help it; I started crying. “OK, God, I really need a friend right now. Please send me someone who cares.” I managed to pull myself together and soothe my son. He needed me to smile and tell him we’d be just fine. By now, I knew how easily he picked up on my emotions. Mommy always made things better, but just then, Mommy didn’t have a clue.
One minute later, there was a knock on the stall door. A kind, middle-aged woman smiled at me. “Honey, you look like you need a friend. What can I do?"
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Protect Autistic Kids With High-Tech Clothing
By Emily Smith techgadgetcentral.com
High-tech clothing has recently become one of the more popular branches of wearable technology as designers as well as tech firms are getting into making fashionable and useful high-tech clothing items, for various purposes. So far, most high-tech clothing is designed with sports enthusiasts and buffs in mind, offering fitness tracking socks, shirts, pants and undergarments that feed information into a dedicated application. The medical uses of high-tech clothing can’t be ignored either, as the most recent clothing line from Independence Day Clothing has just proven.
Independence Day Clothing was founded by a parent of an autistic child, Lauren Thierry, in 2014. Lauren emphasized the need for tracking devices that can’t be removed nor misplaced in the case of autistic children, because her teenage son Liam tended to wonder off and get lost. Integrating GPS tracking technology into high-tech clothing is not a new concept, but each attempt to make the lives of those suffering from illnesses and their caregivers easier needs to be appreciated and celebrated. Even though wearable technology nowadays aims to be fashionable and impressively smart, many big companies forget that the main benefit from high-tech clothing or another type of wearable technology comes from its tracking and alerting features that can help out medical personnel and patients.
An overwhelming 50 % of children suffering from autism have the tendency to wander, which is the case with other illnesses like Alzheimer’s, too. High-tech clothing developed by Lauren’s company aims to counter that tendency, or at least preventing it from leading to tragic consequences like loss, accidents or kidnapping. Lauren designed clothes which have hidden quilted pockets inside in which 2 inch GPS tracking devices can be placed, inconspicuous to the child wearing the high-tech clothing and to possible predators. Lauren says that her company is planning on implementing even smaller sensor into the clothing so that they can become virtually undetectable by touch or sight.
The benefit of this type of high-tech clothing is that parents can always keep track of their children, in case they get lost on their way to school or on a stroll with their friends. But designing clothes with autistic children in mind doesn’t just need a security touch to it, rather it needs a practical one, too. With this in mind, Lauren’s high-tech clothes aren’t just high-tech, rather they are easy to use by children themselves. The shirts and pants are the same backward and forward, so that there’s almost no wrong way of putting them on, which helps kids handle themselves easily without a parent’s intervention.
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Eating Healthy Is A Mental Disorder, Scientists Say
These days, it seems that everyone has that one friend who brings their own organic, gluten free, vegan health food alternatives to the family barbeque. However, psychiatrists have started diagnosing those who eat an abundance of health foods as mentally ill.
It is no secret that Americans are obsessed with food and nutrition, but as more people find new ways to incorporate health foods into their diet, some are forming an unhealthy obsession with health food dieting fads. Some are even developing anxiety over which foods are considered “safe” to eat.
Much like OCD, the obsession with raw, natural, non-GMO food can become a compulsion that deprives people of mental stability and nutrients.
Three years ago, 28 year-old Ashley Bailey began a health food diet after suffering from chronic abdominal pain, digestive problems, and other health related issues. When Bailey’s health began to improve, she got even more extreme in her eating habits. After a year, she had eliminated gluten, grains, dairy, meat, starches, and most fruits from her diet.
“I had extreme anxiety about everything I ate and became acutely aware of how every ingredient made my body feel…I broke down crying once because I could taste so many different flavors, and I didn’t know what they all were or where the ingredients were sourced."
Bailey had developed a complex focused on health food diets which she took to dangerous extremes, depleting her body of much needed proteins and calories. She said in an interview with CNN that “I called my sister and said, ‘I think I have an eating disorder.'"
This particular eating disorder is called “Orthorexia nervosa” by psychiatrists, and is associated with a pathological obsession with health foods to the point where such a diet is disruptive to a so-called “normal” lifestyle. Some may even develop a fear of food, such as vegan food blogger Jordan Younger, who became sick, stopped having her period, and suffered from panic attacks while in the grocery store.
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The Modern Asylum
By Christine Montross, NYTimes Opinion
Last month, three ethicists from the University of Pennsylvania argued in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the movement to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill has been a failure. Deinstitutionalization, they wrote, has in truth been “transinstitutionalization.” As a hospital psychiatrist, I see this every day. Patients with chronic, severe mental illnesses are still in facilities — only now they are in medical hospitals, nursing homes and, increasingly, jails and prisons, places that are less appropriate and more expensive than long-term psychiatric institutions.
The ethicists argue that the “way forward includes a return to psychiatric asylums.” And they are right.
Their suggestion was controversial. Critics argued that people should receive treatment in the least restrictive setting possible. The Americans With Disabilities Act demanded this, as has the Supreme Court. The goals of maximizing personal autonomy and civil liberties for the mentally ill are admirable.
But as a result, my patients with chronic psychotic illnesses cycle between emergency hospitalizations and inadequate outpatient care. They are treated by community mental health centers whose overburdened psychiatrists may see even the sickest patients for only 20 minutes every three months. Many patients struggle with homelessness. Many are incarcerated.
A new model of long-term psychiatric institutionalization, as the Penn group suggests, would help them. However, I would go even further. We also need to rethink how we care for another group of vulnerable patients who have been just as disastrously disserved by policies meant to empower and protect them: the severely mentally disabled.
In the wake of deinstitutionalization, group homes for the mentally disabled were established to provide long-term housing while preserving community engagement. Rigorous regulations evolved to ensure patient safety and autonomy. However, many have backfired.
A colleague of mine who treats severely disabled patients on the autism spectrum described a young man who would become agitated in the van on outings with his group home staff. Fearing the man would open a door while the vehicle was moving, staff members told his family that he would no longer be permitted to go. When the parents suggested just locking the van doors, they were told that this infringed on patients’ freedom and was not allowed.
Group homes have undergone devastating budget cuts. Staffs are smaller, wages are lower, and workers are less skilled. Severe cognitive impairment can be accompanied by aggressive or self-injurious impulses. With fewer staff members to provide care, outbursts escalate. Group homes then have no choice but to send violent patients to the psychiatric hospital.
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Making A Place For Disabled Young Adults To Live, Learn
D.J. Flaschen and his mother, Deborah, at 3LPlace Life College Residence. Aram Boghosian For The Boston Globe
By Bella English bostonglobe.com
Deborah Flaschen, a former Wall Street investment banker, was 16 when she enrolled at Tufts University and 20 when she graduated magna cum laude. When her son D.J., who has autism, turned 17, she started looking around at his options, but they were alarmingly limited. “There was nothing in Boston, not a place that I would choose to put him in,” says Flaschen.
The dilemma is one echoed by families of students with autism who, along with other young people with developmental delays, age out of services provided by school districts when they turn 22. Many are ill-prepared to live independently or hold a job. It is a problem that is expected to mushroom along with the growing number of children diagnosed with the disorder.
Lacking an option she felt comfortable with, Flaschen decided to create her own. The result: 3LPlace Life College near Tufts in Somerville for young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Experts in the field say that the Life College is the only one of its kind in Massachusetts, combining a residential and day program under one roof for young adults. With its ability to offer more comprehensive life-skills training, the new project underscores both how significant the need is for the students and how little is generally available.
“Once they turn 22, there’s no obligation unless the state decides they are eligible for adult services and that could be anything from full residential to not much at all,” says Tamar Lewis of Belmont, whose 22-year-old son recently moved into 3LPlace. “This place is a lifesaver. Most are either day or residential, not both, and you have to search for each."
Nationwide, only 14 percent of adults with such disabilities have jobs outside a care facility. In Massachusetts, developmentally disabled adults are less than half as likely as their peers to be employed at all — and those who are generally work at minimum wage jobs with no benefits.
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The Debate Over an Autism Cure Turns Hostile
By Erika Hayasaki newsweek.com
Jonathan Mitchell, pictured here walking in his Los Angeles neighborhood, is an autistic man who feels that a cure for autism is possible. Mitchell has come under attack from parents of autistic children who say that he's irresponsible to suggest that autism is a disease to be cured. To them, people with autism are normal, just on a different part of the spectrum. Bret Hartman for Newsweek
Jonathan Mitchell arrives at Boardwalk 11, a Culver City, California, karaoke bar, well ahead of the Saturday night crowd, takes his usual barstool in the back and nurses his usual glass of cranberry juice. A woman in heels and black Lycra leggings is singing Garth Brooks, “Friends in Low Places.” I'm not big on social graces, think I'll slip on down to the oasis. Behind the bar table, Mitchell’s hands flap and flail about so softly most would not even notice his self-soothing fidgeting.
At 59, Mitchell easily admits that he is lonely. He walks with heavy shoulders, and a facial expression that is part grin, part grimace. His social life revolves around weekly dinners with his parents, both in their 80s. He can’t keep a job. He can’t find a girlfriend. He paces, obsesses, repeats himself and sometimes doesn’t realize when he’s saying something rude. Mitchell blames it all on his autism. “I hate it,” he says. “It’s a horrible disability. I wish there were a cure."
He has reiterated those three sentences on the Internet many times, in many ways, and his unapologetic, blunt stance has made him one of the most controversial voices in the autism blogosphere—he’s one of the few who have shown outspoken support for the effort to find a cure. “Hopefully on my tombstone they will write, ‘We don't need no stinkin’ neurodiversity,’” Mitchell writes, taking a direct shot at the growing movement for acceptance and inclusion for people with everything from Asperger’s to attention deficit disorder, epilepsy and Tourette’s syndrome.
The neurodiversity movement began in the 1990s, gaining ground through social media, largely around discussions of autism. Proponents liken their stance to the struggle for acceptance of ethnic minorities, and for equality in gender and sexual orientation. There was a time, they point out, when the medical community considered homosexuality to be a mental disorder. What if people on the autism spectrum were accepted for their differences, rather than pathologized? “As an adult with autism, I find the idea of natural variation to be more appealing than the alternative—the suggestion that I am innately bad, or broken and in need of repair,” writes best-selling author John Elder Robison, who has Asperger’s.
When it comes to the question of whether and how to “treat” autism, many neurodiversity advocates try to make a fine distinction: Remedies that aim to relieve suffering are OK, but the idea of a “cure” is repellent. Many believe, as autistic educator and author Nick Walker puts it, that the effect of a cure would be “the reduction of naturally evolved human diversity."
But Walker is a self-sufficient teacher, husband and parent. What of those severely autistic children who cannot speak or communicate at all? Shouldn’t their parents be encouraged to seek treatments that might one day help them interact more easily with the rest of us? “Parents who whine and say, ‘I would give anything for my kids to have a normal life,’ these parents….have been taught this message of tragedy and hopelessness and have bought into it,” Walker says. “It’s awful. It’s wrong. If a parent is putting effort into trying to cure autism, that effort is not helping that child thrive."
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Tearful Dad Does Something Amazing For His Son With Autism
When John's son Andrew, who has Autism, was done with school, Andrew felt like he had no purpose. So his dad started a company to help kids just like him.
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The Annual Disability Statistics Compendium
The Annual Disability Statistics Compendium is a web-based tool that pools disability statistics published by various federal agencies together in one place. When working on legislative and other matters relating to persons with disabilities, the Compendium will make finding and using disability statistics easier.
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97 Research Papers Supporting the Vaccine/Autism Link
Published by Ginger Taylor
Media reports have claimed that there is no scientific evidence supporting the link between vaccines and autism. Here we provide for the reader research that demonstrates the link between vaccines and autism, and the mechanisms by which vaccines can cause autism.
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What Financial Plans Required For Special Needs Kids?
By Devin loring app.com
Photo: Doug Hood
Allie Burton turned 11 years old last Wednesday.
She enjoys horseback riding, cheerleading, swimming at the YMCA, doing track and field, and is the ambassador for the Brick Town Elks.
It's safe to say that her schedule is packed with activities that might, under some circumstances, be expensive. But some, like the horseback riding at Celtic Charms in Howell, are free.
"(People ask) 'How do I get the state to pay for this?' or 'I've never heard of the (Division of Developmental Disabilities),' " said Sherry Burton, Allie's mother, of Brick.
Allie has autism and Down syndrome, and is in remission from leukemia.
The cost of the activities she participates in, coupled with the cost of health care and additional programs can quickly add up to a mountain of expenses without support.
Burton, who used to work at New Horizons in Autism, an organization that provides services for individuals with autism and their families, is familiar with the realm of special-needs financial planning.
Two major milestones
She said there are two major financial milestones that a family of a person with disabilities must prepare for: when that individual turns 21, and when the caregiver passes away.
Gary Weitzen, of Freehold, is just starting to face the issue of planning for his son, Christopher, now.
"My son's 20 with autism. He's the joy of my life – he's incredible, even with his challenges. Not a day goes by that I'm not thankful that he's in my life," he said. "One thing I struggle with every single day is what happens when I'm dead? How do I take care of him after I pass?"
The key is financial planning, said Lori Sackler, senior vice president of wealth management at Morgan Stanely in Paramus.
"Integrating a financial plan is critical," Sackler said. "It alleviates stress and anxiety that parents are experiencing, and also makes sure the child has a sense of security and some dignity and autonomy."
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