Latest Autism Research: August 17 2013 Week in Review

CC BY-SA by Egan Snow

CC BY-SA by Egan Snow

Link found between 5 major psychiatric disorders

Kenneth Kendler, M.D, and his team have found substantial overlap between the congenital risk factors producing 5 of the most common psychiatric disorders, namely, depression, autism, ADHD, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The study published in Nature Genetics’ Advance Online journal builds on other research published earlier in The Lancet this year reporting specific single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs were associated with multiple psychiatric disorders that tend to occur during one’s lifetime.

The team used a novel statistical method to obtain by far the best picture till date explaining the degree of similarity between the genetics of these major psychiatric diagnoses. The researchers hope to develop a more scientific diagnosing system using their model and open newer avenues for better treatment.


Autism linked to hypothyroid moms

As reported earlier today in Autism Daily Newscast, The Annals of Neurology  reported a new study that shows that pregnant mothers with inadequately functioning thyroid gland are 4 times more likely to produce a kid who will go on to be diagnosed with autism.

Studying over 4000 Dutch moms and their kids, the team of scientists lead by Gustavo Roman, M.D, at the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute and Erasmus Medical Centre, uncovered the association between deficient thyroid hormone production in pregnant mothers and autistic children. The team also reported that children had more severe symptoms of autism if the mother was significantly deficient in T4, the chief thyroid hormone.

The study is suggestive but not conclusive. Further research or more conclusive evidence would help expectant mothers in treating thyroid disorders before they become pregnant.


Oxytocin for treating autism: Beware

 Furthering the controversy over utility of oxytocin for treatment of autism, schizophrenia etc, a new study was published this week in the Biological Psychiatry warning anxious parents against the use of oxytocin for long term therapy for children on autism spectrum. The research lead author Dr. Karen Bales studied voles with the on-going recommended dosages of intranasal oxytocin and found temporary improvement in social behaviour with deficit in typical behaviour after use for long durations.

Contradictory behavioural changes by the same substance over time, has prompted the researchers to throw a cautionary warning to parents before they enrol their child on the autistic spectrum for oxytocin therapy, until more positive evidence emerges.

On the other hand: Oxytocin found to improve emotion and face recognition

As the debate continues, another paper by Dr. Gregor Domes has added weight to the utility of oxytocin, the love hormone, in improving some key symptoms of children on the autism spectrum.

Using 14 people with ASD and an equal number of control peers, Dr. Gregor and his team found that the controversy-riddled hormone increased responses in the brain area called the amygdala, which is known for face and emotion processing and vigilance in-case of a threat. The finding comes as a further boost to companies rooting for the oxytocin nasal spray as part of social stimulus therapy for autistic children.

The small study published in Biological Psychiatry itself might need further research before the therapy frenzy catches on in the autism community. Improvement is social stimuli processing in individuals on the autism spectrum by a single dose spray of oxytocin does go on to add more positivity to the theory of it really being the love hormone.