Chapter 5. Hormones and the Brain

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By Dina Fine Maron Suspicions of a link between prenatal ultrasound scans and autism spectrum disorder are nothing new. The technology has exploded in recent decades, giving expectant parents more detailed images of their developing offspring than ever before. And as ultrasound use has sharply increased, so too have diagnoses of autism—prompting questions about a potential relationship. A rigorous new study examining the association between ultrasounds during the first or second trimester of pregnancy and later development of autism spectrum disorder, however, delivers some good news. The study, which analyzed the medical records and ultrasound details of more than 400 kids who were born at Boston Medical Center, found there was no increase in the number of prenatal scans or duration of ultrasound exposure in children with autism compared with kids with typical development or separate developmental delays. In fact, the group with autism had less average exposure time during its first and second trimesters of development than individuals without autism did. The finding adds weight to earlier studies that suggested such scans—which use high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the fetus, placenta and surrounding maternal organs—are not a powerful enough environmental risk to cause autism on their own. But the new study, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, did leave one question unanswered: Does the depth of the actual ultrasound scan make a difference? The work found the children with autism were exposed to prenatal ultrasounds with greater penetration than the control group: During the first trimester, the group with autism had scans with an average depth of 12.5 centimeters compared with 11.6 centimeters for the control group. And during the second trimester the group with autism had scan depths of 12.9 centimeters compared with 12.5 centimeters for the typical development control group. Ultrasounds may not be uniform for reasons including the position of the fetus in the womb. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24655 - Posted: 02.13.2018

Lee Burdette Williams The call came from a former colleague who coaches college students on the autism spectrum. “We’ve got someone who’s in trouble, and we could use some advice. It’s one of those Title IX things.” She told me the story. The student loves punk music and wanted to start a band. He put up fliers on the campus, which in itself was an issue because he violated the institutional posting policy. But even in today’s climate, I thought, that doesn’t usually rise to a Title IX complaint. She continued. “He wrote something in Morse code on the flyer, a message directed to women, because he was trying to recruit some to join the band. It was a little ‘stalky-creepy’ -- OK, pretty creepy -- but this guy is totally harmless and clueless and just doesn’t know how to meet women.” My first reaction was to smile. Morse code? How many college students even know what it is? But it didn’t surprise me to learn this about a student with Asperger’s syndrome, the commonly used term for those with high-functioning autism. Indeed, this kind of situation, I have come to realize, exemplifies a disastrous nexus of two trends on college campuses: the increased awareness of Title IX’s expectations for student behavior and institutional response, and the growing number of students with a diagnosis (or simply just characteristics) of autism who are attending college. I imagined the student had learned Morse code at the age of 5 and was no doubt still fluent in it. In his mind, a wondrous place created by the distinct neural connections common among those with this diagnosis, the use of Morse code to signal his interest in meeting women made perfect sense. To those who know him, it is one of many quirky characteristics -- some of them sweet, some of them annoying -- that require a bit of translation for him and about him as he moves within the world of higher education. © 2018

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24644 - Posted: 02.12.2018

By RONI CARYN RABIN Most dieters know the hard truth: Sticking to a weight loss regimen gets more difficult as the day wears on. But while those who give in to food cravings and binge at night may blame flagging willpower, a new study suggests the problem could lie in the complex orchestra of hormones that drive hunger and signal feelings of satiety, or fullness. The small study of 32 obese men and women, half of whom had a habit of binge eating, suggests that satiety hormones may be lower during the evening hours, while hunger hormones rise toward nightfall and may be stoked even higher by stressful situations. Overweight binge eaters may be particularly susceptible to the influence of fluctuations in these appetite-regulating hormones, the researchers found. “There’s more opportunity to eat in the evening, but this study is showing that hormonal responses are setting them up to do this,” said Susan Carnell, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who was a first author of the study along with Charlotte Grillot of Florida State University. It’s not clear whether these hormonal patterns precede and cause the binge eating behaviors or are conditioned by an individual’s eating habits, Dr. Carnell said. But either way, “you can get stuck in the cycle.” The study is an important reminder that myriad factors contribute to weight gain, and that shaming and blaming people for their weight problems is inappropriate, said Kelly Costello Allison, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the new research. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24591 - Posted: 01.31.2018

By Jessica Wright Nearly 20 years ago, a new strain of mice debuted in a California laboratory. The mice were missing a gene called SCN2A that helps neurons transmit electrical currents. And the study announcing their genesis was the last word on the matter for many years. About a decade later, the mouse’s creator, Maurice Montal, sacrificed the few animals left from the colony. He had sent some of his mice to other researchers, and some ended up with a team in Houston, Texas. But they, too, eventually stopped working with the strain. Perhaps the only one who continued to work with the mice was a postdoctoral researcher named Edward Glasscock, who brought the mice from Houston to the University of Louisiana when he launched his own lab. After years of work, Glasscock found that a mutation in SCN2A can muffle the effect of another mutation that triggers sudden death in people with epilepsy. That turned out to be only the beginning of the mice’s comeback. In June 2016, Kevin Bender, an autism researcher, sent Glasscock an urgent request asking for the mice. Requests from two other autism researchers quickly followed. Soon the mice were populating labs in San Francisco, Baltimore, and France. “I was surprised that there would be such a rush to get them,” says Glasscock, assistant professor of cellular biology and anatomy at Louisiana State University. “Back when I first started working with the mice, it would never have been on my radar that they would have been an important gene for autism.” © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24586 - Posted: 01.30.2018

By Jessica Wright, The prevalence of autism in the United States remained relatively stable from 2014 to 2016, according to a new analysis. The results were published January 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers report the frequency of autism in the U.S. as 2.24 percent in 2014, 2.41 percent in 2015 and 2.76 percent in 2016, respectively. The new data come from the National Health Interview Survey—a yearly interview in which trained census workers ask tens of thousands of parents about the health of their children. These questions include whether a healthcare professional has ever told them that their child has autism. The new figures, released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), represent the highest autism prevalence in the U.S. reported by the agency to date. “We cannot consider autism as rare a condition as people previously thought,” says lead researcher Wei Bao, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa. The peak is likely to result from the fact that the data are based on parent reports. These reports may capture children with relatively mild autism features better than do approaches that rely on medical records, Bao says. Autism’s reported prevalence in the U.S. has climbed steadily in the past few decades. Researchers attribute most of this increase to changes in how the prevalence is measured, increased awareness of the condition and shifts in the criteria for diagnosing autism. © 2018 Scientific American,

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24522 - Posted: 01.12.2018

Aimee Cunningham Internist Gail Povar has many female patients making their way through menopause, some having a tougher time than others. Several women with similar stories stand out in her mind. Each came to Povar’s Silver Spring, Md., office within a year or two of stopping her period, complaining of frequent hot flashes and poor sleep at night. “They just felt exhausted all the time,” Povar says. “The joy had kind of gone out.” And all of them “were just absolutely certain that they were not going to take hormone replacement,” she says. But the women had no risk factors that would rule out treating their symptoms with hormones. So Povar suggested the women try hormone therapy for a few months. “If you feel really better and it makes a big difference in your life, then you and I can decide how long we continue it,” Povar told them. “And if it doesn’t make any difference to you, stop it.” At the follow-up appointments, all of these women reacted the same way, Povar recalls. “They walked in beaming, absolutely beaming, saying, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t do this a year ago. My life! I’ve got my life back.’ ” That doesn’t mean, Povar says, that she’s pushing hormone replacement on patients. “But it should be on the table,” she says. “It should be part of the discussion.” Hormone replacement therapy toppled off the table for many menopausal women and their doctors in 2002. That’s when a women’s health study, stopped early after a data review, published results linking a common hormone therapy to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots. The trial, part of a multifaceted project called the Women’s Health Initiative, or WHI, was meant to examine hormone therapy’s effectiveness in lowering the risk of heart disease and other conditions in women ages 50 to 79. It wasn’t a study of hormone therapy for treating menopausal symptoms. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018.

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24512 - Posted: 01.10.2018

By Sarah DeWeerdt Older men and women are more likely than young ones to have a child with autism, according to multiple studies published in the past decade. Especially regarding fathers, this effect is one of the most consistent findings in the epidemiology of autism. The link between a mother’s age and autism is more complex: Women seem to be at an increased risk both when they are much older and much younger than average, according to some studies. Nailing down why either parent’s age influences autism risk has proved difficult, however. How do we know that older men are at elevated risk of fathering a child with autism? Epidemiologists have gathered data on large numbers of families and calculated how often men of different ages have a child with autism. The first rigorous study of this type, published in 2006, drew on medical records of 132,000 Israeli adolescents. It showed that men in their 30s were 1.6 times as likely to have a child with autism as men younger than 30. Men in their 40s had a sixfold increase in risk. Since then, scientists have conducted similar analyses of data on children born in California, Denmark and Sweden, as well as of an international data set on 5.7 million children. Nearly all of this research has shown an increased prevalence of autism among the children of older fathers. At what age does the risk increase for men? No one knows. The age ranges and ages of the men differ across studies, making results hard to compare. Overall, the findings indicate that the risk increases steadily over time rather than suddenly rising after a certain age. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Autism; Epigenetics
Link ID: 24436 - Posted: 12.18.2017

By Mitch Leslie Scientists once had high hopes that inhibiting a hormone named ghrelin would be the key to preventing obesity. Ghrelin didn’t turn out to be a weight loss panacea. But now, the discovery of the first molecule naturally made by the body that blocks ghrelin’s effects may open up new avenues for treating other conditions, including diabetes and anorexia. The finding may also explain some of the benefits of bariatric surgery, which shrinks or reroutes the stomach to control weight. “It’s a very impressive piece of research,” says bariatric physician Carel le Roux of University College Dublin, who wasn’t connected to the study. “I think it will have significant clinical impact.” When researchers discovered ghrelin about 20 years ago, they dubbed it the “hunger hormone” because early results suggested it ramped up our appetite. But studies soon found that thwarting the molecule didn’t curtail food consumption or promote weight loss in mice. Still, the hormone induces a variety of other positive changes in our metabolism. For example, ghrelin may bolster muscle strength, spurring scientists to test whether drugs that mimic the hormone can counteract the muscle deterioration and weakness often suffered by cancer patients. The new study didn’t start as a hunt for ghrelin-blocking compounds. Instead, a team headed by researchers at NGM Biopharmaceuticals in South San Francisco, California, was investigating how bariatric surgery overhauls metabolism. The scientists operated on obese mice, performing a type of bariatric surgery called vertical sleeve gastrectomy that involves removing most of the stomach. They then examined which genes became more or less active after the procedure. As they report online today in Cell Metabolism, the rodents’ downsized stomachs produced 52 times more of a protein named LEAP2 than normal. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Obesity; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24407 - Posted: 12.08.2017

By Shawna Williams While humans aren’t as smell-dependent as many other animals, studies have shown we respond differently to others when they’re emitting certain olfactory signals—even if we can’t consciously detect them. In a study published today in Nature Neuroscience, researchers find that men with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) sometimes respond differently to these chemical cues in human sweat than do people without the disorder, indicating that such responses may partly explain the disorder’s symptoms. In one experiment, the researchers asked 20 men with ASD and 20 typical men to perform cognitive tasks while they smelled either pads with sweat from skydivers (which contained high levels of cortisol, indicating fearfulness), or pads with no sweat. Just a few participants in each group reported being able to consciously detect scent from the sweat-infused pads, but the men in the non-ASD group showed an increase in electrodermal activity, a proxy for an aroused nervous system, while ASD participants did not. To see what effect the smell of fear might have on behavior, the researchers rigged up two mannequins to “talk” and emit the odor of either fear-related sweat or workout sweat. Participants received clues from the mannequins on how to complete a task, and the researchers measured their performance on the task as a measure of trust. “[W]e observed a dissociation whereby [typically developed] participants had increased trust in the control-smell [mannequin], yet ASD participants had increased trust in the fear-smell [mannequin],” the study’s authors write. © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Autism; Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 24374 - Posted: 11.29.2017

By Sarah DeWeerdt, Young adults with autism have an unusual gait and problems with fine motor skills. Researchers presented the unpublished findings today at the 2017 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Motor problems such as clumsiness, toe-walking and altered gait are well documented in autism. But most studies have been limited to children or have included adults only as part of a broad age range. “Studies haven’t focused on just adults,” says Cortney Armitano, a graduate student in Steven Morrison’s lab at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, who presented the work. The researchers looked at 20 young adults with autism between the ages of about 17 and 25, and 20 controls of about the same age range. They put these participants through a battery of standard tests of fine motor skills, balance and walking. When it comes to simple tasks—such as tapping a finger rapidly against a hard surface or standing still without swaying—those with autism perform just as well as controls do. But with activities that require more back-and-forth between the brain and the rest of the body, differences emerge. Adults with autism have slower reaction times compared with controls, measured by how fast they can click a computer mouse in response to seeing a button light up. They also have a weaker grip. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Autism; Movement Disorders
Link ID: 24329 - Posted: 11.15.2017

By Emily Willingham In their October 23 opinion piece “Why Does Autism Impact Boys More Often Than Girls?” Renee Joy Dufault and Steven G. Gilbert attempt to argue that autism diagnoses are on the increase because of inorganic mercury content in processed foods. Going a step further, they try to construct a rationale for blaming mercury for the perceived bias in autism rates among boys compared to girls. Using the example of one observational study reporting that mercury affects chemical tagging of a single gene in one cell type differently in boys and girls, the pair constructs a fragile chain of putative links between this single study and their claim that “inorganic mercury has been rising for many years in American blood.” The claims are problematic on many levels, but let’s just take a trip to the ground floor: evidence. First, mercury levels in “American blood” and urine are decreasing, not increasing. The latest analysis of values of inorganic mercury in urine and total blood mercury, published online September 6 in Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, finds that from 2005 to 2012 among all age groups, urinary inorganic mercury decreased. Total blood mercury, which includes organic (carbon-bound) and inorganic forms, also decreased in all age groups during that time. These conclusions are based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Meanwhile, other CDC data indicate that autism prevalence has increased. The trends for autism prevalence and mercury levels in people living in the United States are in opposite directions. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Autism; Neurotoxins
Link ID: 24287 - Posted: 11.04.2017

By Giorgia Guglielmi The popular claim that women in their fertile days prefer men with more masculine faces may not be true. That’s the conclusion of the largest study to analyze how sex hormones influence women’s preference for men’s faces. Researchers first created 10 prototype male faces by averaging 50 photos of young white men. Then, they tweaked the prototype faces to create a more masculine and a more feminine version of each (pictured, masculine version on the left, feminine version on the right). Finally, the scientists asked nearly 600 heterosexual women to look at these photos and rate men’s attractiveness for either a fling or a long-term relationship. The women also provided saliva samples, which the researchers tested for sex hormones such as estradiol and testosterone. Hormone levels were not significantly related to women’s preference for manly faces, the team reports on the preprint server bioRxiv. The researchers also didn’t find evidence that women using the birth control pill prefer more feminine faces, as had been suggested. However, women did prefer masculine faces over feminine ones, especially for short-term relationships. This could be because manly traits, like a large jaw and jutting cheekbones, signal good heritable characteristics, such as a strong immune system, but have also been linked to people that are less willing to invest time in personal relationships, the scientists say. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Scien

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24286 - Posted: 11.04.2017

Alison Abbott The first controlled, but controversial and small, clinical trial of giving young blood to people with dementia has reported that the procedure appears safe. It has also hinted that it may even produce modest improvements in the daily lives of people who have Alzheimer's disease. Researchers who conducted the trial and others caution that the results are based on just 18 people and therefore are only a first step in exploring this type of treatment. “This is a really very small trial and the results should not be over-interpreted,” says Tony Wyss-Coray, a neurologist at Stanford University in California who led the study. The trial was conducted by his start-up company Alkahest, which is based in San Carlos, California. The results suggest the procedure is safe and hint that it could even boost the ability of people with dementia to undertake everyday skills, such as shopping or preparing a meal. The team plans to present the results on 4 November at the 10th Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease conference in Boston, Massachusetts. Wyss-Coray and his colleagues tested people aged between 54 and 86 with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. The team gave the 18 subjects weekly infusions for four weeks. They received either a saline placebo or plasma — blood from which the red cells have been removed — from blood donors aged 18–30. During the study, the team monitored the patients to assess their cognitive skills, mood and general abilities to manage their lives independently. The study detected no serious adverse reactions. It saw no significant effect on cognition, but two different batteries of tests assessing daily living skills both showed significant improvement. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Alzheimers; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24279 - Posted: 11.02.2017

By Rhianna Schmunk, CBC News Researchers from the University of British Columbia are retracting their scientific paper linking aluminum in vaccines to autism in mice, because one of the co-authors claims figures published in the study were deliberately altered before publication — an issue he says he realized after allegations of data manipulation surfaced online. The professor also told CBC News there's no way to know "why" or "how" the figures were allegedly contorted, as he claims original data cited in the study is inaccessible, which would be a contravention of the university's policy around scientific research. The paper looked at the effects of aluminum components in vaccines on immune response in a mouse's brain. It was published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry on Sept. 5. Co-authored by Dr. Chris Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, it reported aluminum-triggered responses "consistent with those in autism." Shaw said he and Tomljenovic drew their conclusions from data that was "compiled" and "analyzed" for the paper, rather than raw data. However, subsequent scrutiny has raised questions about the validity of the data, with one doctor calling the paper "anti-vaccine pseudoscience." By the middle of September, commenters on PubPeer — a database where users can examine and comment on published scientific papers — pointed out that figures in the study appeared to have been altered, and in one case lifted directly from a 2014 study also authored by Shaw and Tomljenovic. ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24199 - Posted: 10.16.2017

By Jessica Wright No one except Gregory Kapothanasis knows exactly what upset him today. On this hot day in July, he went to his day program for adults with developmental disabilities, as he has done without incident five days a week for the past four years. But then things unraveled. According to the program’s report, he grabbed a staff member’s arm hard enough to bruise it. Then, on the bus during the daily outing, he started screaming and hitting his seat. Now, several hours later, he is finally home, but there is a stranger in his living room. Bouncing from one couch to another, clutching a faded beige blanket stolen from his aunt’s dog, Kapothanasis still seems out of sorts. His mother, Irene — who has cared for him, with the help of home aides, for all of his 24 years — is playing over the day’s events, trying to figure out what triggered him. His outburst is disturbingly reminiscent of a difficult period that peaked six years ago but is uncharacteristic of the young man today. Kapothanasis loves interacting with other people, going to the beach and dining at DiMillo’s, a floating restaurant in a decommissioned car ferry in Portland, Maine. Kapothanasis has autism and speaks only a few words: He can’t explain what happened this morning. Did he have constipation and discomfort, as his doctor suggested? Did he get bored of the day’s program, causing him to act out? Had something occurred on the bus previously that made him fear that part of his day? All his mother can do is wonder — and try to make his evening better. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Autism; Stress
Link ID: 24168 - Posted: 10.10.2017

Grant Tomkinson and Makailah Dyer Examine your fingers. Which is longer? Is it the index finger (the finger you use to point with — technically the second digit, or 2D, counting the thumb), or the ring finger (the fourth digit, or 4D)? The relative length of the index and ring fingers is known as the digit ratio or the 2D:4D. For example, if your index finger is 2.9 inches (or 7.4 cm) long, and your ring finger is 3.1 inches (or 7.9 cm) long, your digit ratio is 0.935 (i.e., 2.9/3.1 or 7.4/7.9). Males typically have lower digit ratios (the ring finger in males is typically longer than the index finger) than females (the fingers are about the same length in females). The ratio does not change much with age. There is some indirect evidence that the digit ratio is determined during early fetal development — as early as the second trimester of pregnancy — by the balance between the steroid hormones testosterone and estrogen. The developing ring finger has a high number of receptors for testosterone: the more testosterone the fetus produces, the longer the ring finger, and so the lower the digit ratio. Our research team wanted to take this finger research a step further: could the differences predict athletic ability, and, if so, how?

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24062 - Posted: 09.14.2017

Phil Daoust As a man – the sort of thoughtful, Fawcett Society-supporting man who lowers the toilet seat after peeing, even when he has the house to himself – it’s hard to talk about women and their hormones. There’s no doubt that they affect minds and bodies, through puberty, pregnancy and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome’s list of “common” symptoms includes mood swings, depression, tiredness, anxiety, feeling out of control, irritability, aggression, headaches, sleep disorder, food cravings, breast tenderness, bloating, weight gain and clumsiness. Men can’t and shouldn’t ignore this catalogue of woes. But there’s a fine line between commiserating and condescending. It’s too easy – and tempting – to dismiss a woman’s actions or opinions because it’s “that time of the month”. Mostly it isn’t. Many women are lucky enough to escape PMS. And even when they don’t, sometimes she’s still right and you’re still wrong. For better or worse, however, we males must now face up to our own fluctuating chemistry. We may not routinely bloat and bleed, but a new study makes it clear that we too are at the mercy of our hormones – specifically, the one produced between our legs. After testing hundreds of men, researchers from the California Institute of Technology, Wharton School, Western University and ZRT Laboratory reported (pdf) “a clear and robust causal effect of testosterone on human cognition and decision-making” © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Aggression; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 23993 - Posted: 08.25.2017

By Ingfei Chen, Spectrum In October 2010, Lisa and Eugene Jeffers learned that their daughter Jade, then nearly 2 and a half years old, has autism. The diagnosis felt like a double whammy. The parents were soon engulfed by stress from juggling Jade’s new therapy appointments and wrangling with their health insurance provider, but they now had an infant son to worry about, too. Autism runs in families. Would Bradley follow in his big sister’s footsteps? "We were on high alert,” Lisa Jeffers says. “There were times I would call his name, and he wouldn't look.” She says she couldn’t help but think: Is it because he's busy playing or because he has autism? In search of guidance, the parents signed Bradley up for a three-year study at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) MIND Institute, a half-hour drive from their home near Sacramento. Researchers there wanted answers to some of the same questions the couple had: What are the odds that infants like Bradley—younger brothers or sisters of a child with autism—will be on the spectrum too? Could experts detect autism in these babies early on, so that they might benefit from early intervention? The infant-sibling study at UC Davis is one of more than 20 similar long-running investigations across the United States, Canada and United Kingdom, the first of which began around 2000. These ‘baby sib’ studies, which collectively have followed thousands of children, are among the most ambitious and expensive projects in autism research. Many of the scientists who run them anticipated that by tracking this special population, they would be able to spot signs of autism before age 1, and ultimately create an infant screen for the condition. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Autism; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23973 - Posted: 08.18.2017

Eric Deggans Like a lot of kids in high school, Sam worries that he doesn't fit in. "I'm a weirdo. That's what everyone says," declares the 18-year-old character at the center of Netflix's new dramatic comedy series Atypical. One reason Sam struggles to fit in: He has autism. As his character explains at the start of the first episode, sometimes he doesn't understand what people mean when they say things. And that makes him feel alone, even when he's not. Sam's family in Atypical is thrown in all sorts of new directions by his quest to date and find a girlfriend. Creator Robia Rashid says she wanted to tell a different kind of coming-of-age story, inspired by recent increases in autism diagnoses. "There are all these young people now who are on the spectrum, who know ... they're on the spectrum," she says. "And [they] are interested in things that every young person is interested in ... independence and finding connections and finding love." On-screen depictions of autism have come a long way since Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of Raymond Babbitt in the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man. Hoffman's Babbitt focused obsessively on watching The People's Court and getting served maple syrup before his pancakes. He could also memorize half the names in a phone book in one reading and count the number of toothpicks on the floor, moments after they spilled out of the box. For Atypical, Rashid says she researched accounts of adults with autism, has several parents of autistic children working in her crew and hired an actor with autism to play a minor role. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 23953 - Posted: 08.12.2017

By GINA KOLATA For middle-aged women struggling with their weight, a recent spate of scientific findings sounds too good to be true. And they may be, researchers caution. Studies in mice indicate that a single hormone whose levels rise at menopause could be responsible for a characteristic redistribution of weight in middle age to the abdomen, turning many women from “pears” to “apples.” At the same time, the hormone may spur the loss of bone. In mouse studies, blocking the hormone solves those problems, increasing the calories burned, reducing abdominal fat, slowing bone loss and even encouraging physical activity. The notion that such a simple intervention could solve two big problems of menopause has received the attention of researchers and has prompted commentaries in prestigious journals like The New England Journal of Medicine and Cell Metabolism. “It’s a super interesting idea,” said Dr. Daniel Bessesen, an obesity expert and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. With obesity rising, “we definitely need some new ideas.” The work began when Dr. Mone Zaidi, a professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, became curious about whether a reproductive hormone — F.S.H., or follicle-stimulating hormone — affects bone density. It had long been assumed that the hormone’s role was limited to reproduction. F.S.H. stimulates the production of eggs in women and sperm in men. Researchers knew that blood levels of F.S.H. soar as women’s ovaries start to fail before menopause. At the same time, women rapidly lose bone — even when blood levels of estrogen, which can preserve bone, remain steady. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 23929 - Posted: 08.08.2017