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Friday, May 24, 2013 Reader Supported.
Epilepsy And Autism May Be Linked, Researchers Say
By Christie Rizk medicaldaily.com
New research suggests possible overlaps between epileptic and autistic individuals, arguing social challenges often go undiagnosed in epileptics.
For the first time ever, researchers believe there may be a link between the effects of epilepsy on the brain and some traits of autism, reports the Daily Mail. Adults with epilepsy demonstrate certain traits of autism and Asperger's syndrome, the paper says. Epileptic seizures disrupt the brain functions dealing with social interaction - including communication with others and repetitive interests - leading to some of the same social behaviors exhibited by people with autism spectrum disorders.
University of Bath researcher SallyAnn Wakeford told the Daily Mail that such traits in epileptics can sometimes go undiagnosed for many years, leading to difficulties in everyday life. "The social difficulties in epilepsy have been so far under-diagnosed and research has not uncovered any underlying theory to explain them," she said. "This new research links social difficulties to a deficit in somatic markers in the brain, explaining these characteristics in adults with epilepsy."
This effect is especially apparent in people with temporal lobe epilepsy, the Daily Mail adds, possible because epilepsy treatments are less effective in people with temporal lobe epilepsy, and the severity of the autistic traits seemingly increases in conjunction with seizure activity.
Wakeford says it is unknown whether the adults with epilepsy had a normal childhood development and only developed the autistic traits at the onset of their disease, or whether they had a predisposition toward autism before they started suffering epileptic seizures.
"However what is known is that the social components of autistic characteristics in adults with epilepsy may be explained by social cognitive differences, which have largely been unrecognized until now," Wakeford told the Daily Mail. She also believes the findings could lead to better treatments for both autistic and epileptic patients, and also access to better health services for adults with epilepsy.
Some are urging caution about the results, however. Mark Lever, head of the National Autistic Society, told the Daily Mail that no one should jump to conclusions about this suggested link between epilepsy and autism until the research has been reviewed. "For some time research has suggested an association between some forms of epilepsy with autism traits," he told the paper. "We would like to study this particular research in more detail when it gets published to see if it builds on our understanding. Autism is a very complex condition and is thought to be the result of many different underlying physical and genetic factors."
FDA Approves First Study On Ecstasy-Assisted Therapy For Social Anxiety In Autistic Adults
By Eric W. Dolan rawstory.com
The U.S. Federal Drug Administration in late April approved a study to examine whether the drug ecstasy could help autistic adults suffering from social anxiety. But the first-of-its-kind study still has some hurdles to jump over before it can begin.
“The study could start enrolling subjects in several months,” Brad Burge, the communications director at Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), told Raw Story.
“However, it could be six months or more depending on how long the [Institutional Review Board] review process takes, how long it takes to set up the study site at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center/Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, font-size: 11px;how long it takes to recruit subjects, and other factors. I estimate it will be four to eight months."
Ecstasy, known scientifically as N-methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDMA), has the reputation of being a raver’s drug of choice. Due to its wanton use at electronic dance parties, MDMA was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance in 1985, a category reserved for dangerous drugs with no medical value.
But the drug has sparked interest among researchers who believe it could aid the process of psychotherapy. MDMA is known for its so-called “empathogenic effects” and has been found to reduce the fear of emotional harm while promoting feelings of social connection. The drug also produces a sense of euphoria and mild hallucinations. Though “street ecstasy” often contains dangerous contaminants, the researchers believe using pure MDMA in a controlled setting could help certain patients.
The study would investigate the safety and therapeutic potential of MDMA-assisted therapy for treating social anxiety in 12 autistic adults..
“This study will be the first time MDMA-assisted therapy has been explored in a clinical trial for social anxiety, and the first time it’s been explored to help adults on the autism spectrum,” Burge explained. “The many case reports collected by study co-investigator Alicia Danforth in her recently submitted doctoral dissertation indicate that it is likely to provide at least some benefit."
“Existing research also shows that MDMA is safe enough for use in clinical research,” he added. “It’s a promising area of research, and indicates a real shift in how the public sees MDMA and other psychedelics."
The FDA concluded on April 30 that the study was “reasonably safe to proceed as currently written,” but also offered some safety recommendations (PDF).
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Twin Study Finds Epigenetic Imprint Of Autism Traits
By Virginia Hughes sfari.org
Twin peaks: Identical twins who are discordant for autism show intriguing differences in DNA methylation, a type of epigenetic mark.
Epigenetics, or the chemical markings on DNA that affect its expression, plays a role in some cases of autism, according to a new study of 50 identical twins published 23 April in Molecular Psychiatry1.
Autism has strong genetic roots: If one identical twin has autism, the likelihood that the other also has the disorder is about 70 percent2. But the other 30 percent of the time, the twins are discordant, meaning that one has autism and the other does not.
The new study finds many differences in DNA methylation between twins discordant for autism. Methylation is a type of epigenetic change in which methyl groups are added to DNA and switch on or off the underlying gene. The researchers also found methylation differences between twins who differ on tests of autism traits.
Epigenetic marks can be influenced by any number of environmental exposures, from everyday behaviors to diet and stress. Studying identical twins, who share the same genetic material, helps researchers zero in on environmental differences, says Robert Plomin, professor of behavioral genetics at King’s College London in the U.K., who co-led the study. “It’s a neat tool for getting at environmental factors that could be causing autism,” Plomin says.
Some of the epigenetic marks crop up in genes that have not been linked to autism before, whereas others implicate known autism candidates, such as AUTS2, GABRB3, NLGN3, NRXN1, SLC6A4 and UBE3A.
“When the same loci show up again and again, it probably means that they’re relevant for disease,” says Schahram Akbarian, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the new study. Akbarian’s team has also implicated AUTS2 in epigenetic screens of postmortem brain tissue from individuals with autism. “Both our study and the new study propose that the epigenetic risk architecture of autism shows significant overlap with the genetic risk architecture of the disorder."
Plomin and his collaborators mapped the epigenetic profiles of 50 pairs of identical twins, a subset of a much larger project in the U.K. called the Twins Early Development Study.
Participants in the project were all born between 1994 and 1996. When they were 8 years old, they took the Childhood Autism Symptom Test, or CAST, a 31-item questionnaire that measures autism traits such as speech delay and difficulty making conversation. The researchers collected blood samples from the participants at age 15.
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• • •
Autism and Dietary Therapy: Case Report and Review of the Literature.
Herbert MR, Buckley JA. J Child Neurol. 2013 May 10. [Epub ahead of print] pubmed
1Pediatric Neurology and TRANSCEND Research, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
We report the history of a child with autism and epilepsy who, after limited response to other interventions following her regression into autism, was placed on a gluten-free, casein-free diet, after which she showed marked improvement in autistic and medical symptoms. Subsequently, following pubertal onset of seizures and after failing to achieve full seizure control pharmacologically she was advanced to a ketogenic diet that was customized to continue the gluten-free, casein-free regimen. On this diet, while still continuing on anticonvulsants, she showed significant improvement in seizure activity.
This gluten-free casein-free ketogenic diet used medium-chain triglycerides rather than butter and cream as its primary source of fat. Medium-chain triglycerides are known to be highly ketogenic, and this allowed the use of a lower ratio (1.5:1) leaving more calories available for consumption of vegetables with their associated health benefits. Secondary benefits included resolution of morbid obesity and improvement of cognitive and behavioral features. Over the course of several years following her initial diagnosis, the child's Childhood Autism Rating Scale score decreased from 49 to 17, representing a change from severe autism to nonautistic, and her intelligence quotient increased 70 points. The initial electroencephalogram after seizure onset showed lengthy 3 Hz spike-wave activity; 14 months after the initiation of the diet the child was essentially seizure free and the electroencephalogram showed only occasional 1-1.5 second spike-wave activity without clinical accompaniments.
• • •
Implications of Dietary Therapy Into the 21st Century: Conclusion to Special Issue.
Thiele EA. J Child Neurol. 2013 May 10. [Epub ahead of print] pubmed
1MGH Center for Dietary Therapy of Epilepsy, Pediatric Epilepsy Program, Departments of Neurology and Pediatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
The concept of dietary therapy for epilepsy has played an important role in the approach to the treatment of seizures for centuries-particularly with the development and utilization of the classic ketogenic diet over the past 90 years. Recently, there has been developing interest in the utilization of diet in other medical disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, traumatic brain injury, degenerative neurologic disorders, and cancer. As the utilization of dietary therapy expands, there are several issues that need to be addressed and better characterized to better understand the role of diet in the treatment of epilepsy and other disease.
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Mass Spectrometry As A Tool For Studying Autism Spectrum Disorder
Alisa G Woods, Armand G Wetie, Izabela Sokolowska, Stefanie Russell, Jeanne P Ryan, Tanja Maria Michel, Johannes Thome and Costel C Darie Journal of Molecular Psychiatry 2013, 1:6 doi:10.1186/2049-9256-1-6 jmolecularpsychiatry.com
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are increasing in incidence but have an incompletely understood etiology. Tools for uncovering clues to the cause of ASDs and means for diagnoses are valuable to the field. Mass Spectrometry (MS) has been a useful method for evaluating differences between individuals with ASDs versus matched controls. Different biological substances can be evaluated using MS, including urine, blood, saliva, and hair. This technique has been used to evaluate relatively unsupported hypotheses based on introduction of exogenous factors, such as opiate and heavy metal excretion theories of ASDs. MS has also been used to support disturbances in serotonin-related molecules, which have been more consistently observed in ASDs. Serotonergic system markers, markers for oxidative stress, cholesterol system disturbances, peptide hypo-phosphorylation and methylation have been measured using MS in ASDs, although further analyses with larger numbers of subjects are needed (as well as consideration of behavioral data). Refinements in MS and data analysis are ongoing, allowing for the possibility that future studies examining body fluids and specimens from ASD subjects could continue to yield novel insights. This review summarizes MS investigations that have been conducted to study ASD to date and provides insight into future promising applications for this technique, with focus on proteomic studies.
Paper is open-access.
• • •
New Research Suggests Possible Direction For Treatment Of Autism
Treatment can be done at home or school at low cost, according to study
From the American Psychological Association eurekalert.org
In the first successful experiment with humans using a treatment known as sensory-motor or environmental enrichment, researchers documented marked improvement in young autistic boys when compared to boys treated with traditional behavioral therapies, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
The rationale for the new treatment is rooted in the fact that autistic children typically have sensory problems, the most common involving smell and touch sensitivity. Building on decades of work in animals documenting the profound effects of environmental enrichment on behavioral and neurological outcomes, the authors of the study predicted that similar enrichment in autistic children would have beneficial effects.
"Because parents can give their child sensory enrichment using items typically available in their home, this therapy provides a low-cost option for enhancing their child's progress," said study co-author Cynthia C. Woo, PhD, a project scientist at the University of California Irvine.
The study, which was published online in the APA journal Behavioral Neuroscience, involved 28 autistic boys, ages 3 to 12. Researchers placed the boys in two groups based on their age and autism severity. For six months, both groups participated in standard behavioral therapy but boys in one of the groups also underwent daily environmental enrichment exercises.
Parents of each of the 13 boys in the enrichment group received a kit that contained essential oil fragrances such as apple, lavender, lemon and vanilla to stimulate sense of smell. For touch, the kit contained squares of plastic doormat, smooth foam, a rubber sink mat, aluminum, fine sandpaper, felt and sponges. The kit also included pieces of carpet, hard flooring, pillows, cardboard and bubble wrap that parents laid on the floor to create a multi-textured walking path. Items for the children to manipulate included a piggy bank with plastic coins, miniature plastic fruits and a small fishing pole with a magnetic hook. Many household items were also used, such as bowls for holding water at different temperatures for the child to dip in a hand or foot and metal spoons that parents would warm or cool and touch to the child's skin.
Researchers instructed the parents of children in the enrichment group to conduct two sessions a day of four to seven exercises involving different combinations of sensory stimuli for touch, temperature, sight and movement. Each session took 15 to 30 minutes to complete. The children also listened to classical music once a day.
Following six months of therapy, 42 percent of the children in the enrichment group significantly improved in behaviors such as relating to people and responding to sights and sounds, compared to 7 percent of the standard care group, according to the study. The children in the enrichment group also improved on scores for cognitive function, which covers aspects of perception and reasoning, whereas the average scores for the children in the standard care group decreased. In addition, 69 percent of parents in the enrichment group reported improvement in their child's overall autism symptoms, compared to 31 percent of parents of the standard care group, the authors wrote.
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Tracking the Effects of Theater on Autistic Children
Donation Will Measure Benefits of Musical Theater Program
With a $250,000 gift from Myrna and Freddie Gershon, a new program brings musical theater and performances to Manhattan's P 94 schools, which primarily serves children on the autism spectrum.
By Melanie Grayce West stream.wsj.com
Freddie and Myrna Gershon
As executives in the entertainment industry, Myrna and Freddie Gershon had seen it all. But a theatrical performance put on by students of P 94 middle school in Manhattan, a special education school, changed their perspective on theater and has inspired a philanthropic legacy.
The couple—both in their 70s—made their careers, and a lot of their wealth, in the entertainment industry during the 1970s. Mrs. Gershon was a motion-picture executive who created merchandise and licensing deals. Her greatest hits include Flintstones vitamins, the Pebbles breakfast cereals and a deal with J.C. Penney to exclusively sell a white polyester suit inspired by “Saturday Night Fever.” That film also spawned a cologne that “smelled like Bay Ridge, Brooklyn,” quips Mr. Gershon.
By trade, Mr. Gershon is a lawyer who worked for Robert Stigwood Group, with clients that included the Bee Gees, Eric Clapton and film soundtracks for “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever.” Later in life, he became chairman and chief executive of Music Theatre International (MTI), a licensing company. Nearly 20 years ago, Mr. Gershon came up with the idea to create shortened versions of major musicals that could be performed in schools. His “Broadway Junior Collection” shows have been performed some 300,000 times, he says.
A few years ago and with the Shubert Foundation, MTI began a program with the New York City Department of Education to bring musical theater education to underserved middle schools. A middle school of P 94, which primarily serves children on the autism spectrum, was one of the included schools.
The Gershons attended a performance at the school and “saw what music and theater and dance could do to a nonverbal child,” recalls Mrs. Gershon. “It was mind-boggling.” Parents and members of the audience cried. “We cried,” she says.
P 94 only had a three-year commitment from the Department of Education to put on the musical theater program. On the fourth year, Mr. Gershon says he was approached by the school’s principal, Ronnie Shuster, to continue the program.
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Calgary One-Stop Shop Of Autism Services
By Pauline Tam, Ottawa Citizen
With the help of a $100 million endowment, The Child Development Centre in Calgary, Canada, offers free services ranging from diagnosis to therapy for children and adults with autism. One of their programs is the Ability Hub, housed at the center, which offers training in independent living and job skills to help teenagers transition to adulthood.
Photograph by: Christina Ryan , PostMedia News
Marc Bennie, 15, and his sister Julia, 13, have autism and are receiving support services at The Ability Hub. They are with their parents Maureen and Ron Bennie in Calgary on November 10, 2012.
In 1999, when Maureen Bennie’s son, Marc, was diagnosed with autism at age two, she and her husband were left to cope on their own.
No one referred them to any support services for Marc, or even told them where they could find help. “I was given five pamphlets and I had one meeting with a social worker. That’s all the help I got,” Bennie recalled.
Instead of being steered immediately toward interventions that could have given Marc a fighting chance at blunting autism’s devastating course, Bennie wasted valuable time struggling to find speech and behavioural therapy — as well as ways to pay for those expensive services.
“It took me six months to figure it out on my own,” she said.
Still reeling from the shock of the diagnosis, Bennie felt so overwhelmed that she spiralled into a depression.
These days, with the creation of a one-stop shop of autism services, Calgary families are far better supported from the minute their children are diagnosed.
In a country where autism services remain scattered, disconnected and spotty at best, the Calgary model is one of a kind.
The Child Development Centre, located at the crossroads of the University of Calgary campus and the Alberta Children’s Hospital, houses an array of autism services for all ages.
On the second floor is a clinic, where children are assessed and diagnosed by pediatricians. One floor up is The Ability Hub, an autism support centre that provides a range of services for teens and adults.
For families with children who are newly diagnosed, The Ability Hub has a resource centre where parents can find information and connect one-on-one with other families who have experience living with autism and can offer advice or counselling.
Having all of these services under one roof not only helps parents find help more quickly and easily, it also makes them feel less alone as they adjust to the stresses of raising high-needs children, says Dr. Margaret Clarke, the developmental pediatrician who was instrumental in getting the centre built.
Since it opened in 2005, the centre has become a gathering place, not just for families and autism-service providers, but also child-development specialists and autism researchers who are testing promising ways to better support people on the spectrum at every stage of their lives.
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Caregivers Sentenced In Autism Case
By Teri Figueroa utsandiego.com
Two caregivers convicted of mistreating a severely autistic man in their care last summer were sentenced Monday to jail time, and one was also given probation.
Registered nurse Michael Garritson, 62, was convicted last month of two felonies and four misdemeanors for abusing Jamey Oakley, 24, at his family’s Valley Center home.
Vista Superior Court Judge Blaine Bowman sentenced Garritson to three years of probation and a year in jail. He had faced four years in prison.
The second caregiver, Matthew McDuffie, 28, was convicted of two misdemeanors. Bowman sentenced McDuffie to a year in jail.
The two men had each spent about eight months in jail awaiting trial, and that satisfied their one-year sentence. McDuffie was released last week; Garritson was to be released Monday.
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For Parents Of Autistic Boy, Florida Schools Must Offer Options
By Katy Bergen heraldtribune.com
Josh Bragg works with occupational therapist Margaret Correll on a Memorial Day decoration recently at the Broach School in Bradenton. Josh, 13, has autism. Staff Photo / Mike Lang
On a recent afternoon, Michael Bragg walked in on his son firing himself.
“I guess this isn’t working out,” Josh, 13, said. “I’m going to have to let you go."
Bragg was not phased by the quiet moment in which his son processed the concept of losing a job.
Josh has autism, a disorder that affects communication and interaction. He can take apart a model airplane and reassemble it without directions. He talks excitedly about Lego bricks for hours, unaware a listener is not interested. He struggled with bullying and finding the extra help he needed in public school.
Bragg and his wife, Shelley, believe the education of their son will rely on opportunities where Josh can learn without being held to the benchmarks of others. And they believe he has found the right support system through the Broach School in Bradenton and a special set of mentors at a local martial arts studio.
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Autistic Teen Says She Was Raped at North Atlanta High
By Justin Gray, FOX 5
An autistic North Atlanta High School student says she was raped by a 15-year-old boy in a school bathroom.
The mother of the 17-year-old student, who asked not to be identified, said that she is speaking out about the incident because she wants the alleged perpetrator to face charges.
"He got her in there and pulled out a condom and showed it to her and told her if she did not participate in this sexual act, he was going to force it on her and he preceded in doing so," the mother of the 17-year-old girl said.
The girl said that she told the boy no and said she was crying as he forced her to have sex.
The alleged victim told a school administrator the next day, who called Atlanta police.
"I thought the school was the safest place for my child to go to. Now I'm looking at it as suspect,"
Atlanta police say the investigation is ongoing and it's been turned over to their special victims unit.
The 17-year-old girl attends North Atlanta High because they have a special program for autistic students.
"I think he did take advantage of her due to her disability," the mother said. "He needs to come clean about this case and turn himself in."
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• • •
Fifteen Years After A Vaccine Scare, A Measles Epidemic
Credit Geoff Caddick / AFP/Getty Images Luke Tanner, 7, gets vaccinated for measles at a clinic near Swansea, Wales, in April. Wales is at the center of a measles outbreak that has been linked to one death.
Originally published on Wed May 22, 2013 2:39 pm Great Britain is in the midst of a measles epidemic, one that public health officials say is the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children after a safety scare that was later proved to be fraudulent.
More than 1,200 people have come down with measles so far this year, following nearly 2,000 cases in 2012. Many of the cases have been in Wales.
Childhood vaccination rates plummeted in Great Britain after a 1998 paper by Dr. Andrew Wakefield claimed that the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella had caused autism in a dozen children. That study has since been proven fraudulent, but it fueled fears about vaccine safety in Great Britain and the United States.
"This is the legacy of the Wakefield scare," Dr. David Elliman, spokesman for the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, told The Associated Press.
Most of the measles cases have been in children and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 18, according to British health officials. In that age group, vaccination rates dropped below 50 percent in some parts of England after the Wakefield paper was published.
Immunization rates have increased since then, with 90 percent of children under age 5 now fully vaccinated against measles. The BBC has mapped the fall and rise of vaccinations after the Wakefield scare, which closely matches cases in the current epidemic.
"If someone came from another country with measles, it's going to run rampant in an area with a higher percentage of people who aren't vaccinated," says Dr. Aaron Glatt, an infectious disease specialist and chief administrative officer for Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Center, NY. He's a spokesman for the Infectious Disease Society of America.
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• • •
H.R. 1757: Vaccine Safety Study Act
To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct or support a comprehensive study comparing total health outcomes, including risk of autism, in vaccinated populations in the United States with such outcomes in unvaccinated populations in the United States, and for other purposes.
Apr 25, 2013 (113th Congress, 2013–2015)
Rep. Bill Posey [R-FL8]
Referred to Committee
The bill’s title was written by the bill’s sponsor. H.R. stands for House of Representatives bill.
To track this bill:
• • •
Texas High Court Hears Wakefield Appeal
Yesterday, the three judges of the Texas High Court heard the appeal over jurisdiction in the case of Andrew Wakefield against the British Medical Journal and journalist Brian Deer. The case was presented by attorney Brendan K McBride, which was felt to be well-conducted. It will now be between 1 and 6 months before the judges return their verdict.
• • •
Family Of Autistic Man Claims He Was Tortured At Bronx Group Home
By: NY1 News
The family of an autistic man has filed a lawsuit claiming he was tortured at a Bronx group home.
The suit alleges that 24-year-old Eduardo Sandoval was burned with a heated potato masher last June by employees at the home, which is run by the not-for-profit Leake and Watts.
Two former employees have been named in the civil suit.
One was arrested last year, but felony assault charges were dropped for lack of evidence.
Sandoval's lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein, said his client was left permanently disfigured.
"The state of New York approves these facilities, yet a young man was tortured, burned with a potato peeler, right here at this facility," Rubenstein said. "This should not be happening in this city, state or this country."
Rubenstein said that because of his client's autism, he couldn't describe the events or identify his attackers.
Leake and Watts said it fired all the employees believed to be involved, including the manager of the home, where Sandoval still lives.
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