Research into newborn horses may help unlock mystery of autism

Davis, CA – Professor of Veterinary Science at U.C Davis Dr. John Madigan is conducting a new study on autism. It will feature samples from 80 children, some on the spectrum, while others are not, and it’s based on his earlier research.

He became inspired to research autism after witnessing a strange malady in newborn horses. Five percent of horses are born with a condition called neonatal maladjustment syndrome (NMS). Symptoms of NMS include wandering, detachment, and disinterest in nursing,something Madigan noticed in children on the spectrum.

Madigan told news outlet Healthline that: “Watching foals in this state, it was easy to draw a parallel to autism. We’re measuring something that hasn’t been measured before.” Also like autism, he added, NMS plagued vets for years. The cure was usually intense and expensive. Today, the sure is as easy as rope.

When a foal is growing in its’ mothers womb their brains produce eight known neurosteroids that act as a sedative to ensure the foal won’t gallop. When a foal is squeezed through the birth canal the tight pressure it feels flips a “switch” that turns off the neurpsteroids. If a horse is birthed too quickly or two slowly, the switch isn’t pulled which leaves them too sedated to bond properly with their mother.

To combat this, Madigan has developed what’s been dubbed the “Madigan Foal Squeeze.” Vets take soft rope and wrap it around the foal and apply the same amount of pressure they’d get during birth. Much like a sleeper hold, this pressure causes the foal to go to sleep and tells the brain to stop producing neurosteroids. Twenty minutes later the foal wakes up cured. In fact, twenty minutes seems to be magic birthing time. Most healthy foals move through the birth canal in about twenty minutes.

While it would be easy to say horses are not humans, a research review published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry noted that babies born via C-section have a 23 percent greater chance to be on the spectrum. Because C-sections may be overused the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has written clinical guidelines to ensure it’s only used when medically needed.
Madigan told Healthline that: “The birthing process is one of the more highly maladjusted processes today.”

Source: Brian Krans on HealthLine news: Horses May Provide Clues to the Origin of Autism