Chapter 5. Hormones and the Brain

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By Darold A. Treffert How many children have “autism”? Is that number increasing? Is there an “epidemic” of autism or have we merely been continually refining it, expanding it and moving the goalposts since it was first described by Leo Kanner in 1943? I met my first child with autism in 1959, almost 60 years ago. I had the good fortune to learn about autism firsthand from Kanner himself, when he was a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and I was a medical student there. Then, in 1962, I started a Children’s Unit at Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Wisconsin, on which almost all the children were autistic. That’s also the unit on which I met my first savant. The question of autism prevalence engaged me even then. In 1970, I carried out the first U.S. study of the epidemiology of infantile autism, published in Archives of General Psychiatry. Actually, autism was then most commonly diagnosed formally as childhood schizophrenia. At that time, the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human services provided me with a printout listing all patients age 12 and under seen for evaluation or treatment and given a diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia between fiscal 1962 and 1967 in 30 community mental health and child guidance clinics; four state and county mental hospitals; three colonies NOT REAL NAMES and training schools; and the children’s treatment center, children’s diagnostic center and university hospitals. © 2018 Scientific American,

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 25014 - Posted: 05.24.2018

By Simon Baron-Cohen, The Austrian paediatrician Hans Asperger has long been recognized as a pioneer in the study of autism. He was even seen as a hero, saving children with the condition from the Nazi killing programme by emphasizing their intelligence. However, it is now indisputable that Asperger collaborated in the murder of children with disabilities under the Third Reich. Historian Herwig Czech fully documented this in the April 2018 issue of Molecular Autism (a journal I co-edit; see H. Czech Mol. Autism 9, 29; 2018). Now, historian Edith Sheffer’s remarkable book Asperger’s Children builds on Czech’s study with her own original scholarship. She makes a compelling case that the foundational ideas of autism emerged in a society that strove for the opposite of neurodiversity. Advertisement These findings cast a shadow on the history of autism, already a long struggle towards accurate diagnosis, societal acceptance and support. The revelations are also causing debate among autistic people, their families, researchers and clinicians over whether the diagnostic label of Asperger’s syndrome should be abandoned. In 1981, psychiatrist Lorna Wing published the paper in Psychological Medicine that first brought Asperger’s clinical observations to the attention of the English-speaking medical world, and coined the term Asperger’s syndrome (L. Wing Psychol. Med. 11, 115–129; 1981). A decade later, in the book Autism and Asperger Syndrome (1991), developmental psychologist Uta Frith translated into English the 1944 treatise by Asperger in which he claimed to have discovered autism. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24989 - Posted: 05.18.2018

By Lina Zeldovich, You can draw a straight line from the initial descriptions of many conditions—claustrophobia, for example, or vertigo—to their diagnostic criteria. Not so with autism. Its history has taken a less direct path with several detours, according to Jeffrey Baker, professor of pediatrics and history at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Autism was originally described as a form of childhood schizophrenia and the result of cold parenting, then as a set of related developmental disorders, and finally as a spectrum condition with wide-ranging degrees of impairment. Along with these shifting views, its diagnostic criteria have changed as well. Here is how the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the diagnostic manual used in the United States, has reflected our evolving understanding of autism. Why was autism initially considered a psychiatric condition? When Leo Kanner, an Austrian-American psychiatrist and physician, first described autism in 1943, he wrote about children with “extreme autistic aloneness,” “delayed echolalia” and an “anxiously obsessive desire for the maintenance of sameness.” He also noted that the children were often intelligent and some had extraordinary memory. As a result, Kanner viewed autism as a profound emotional disturbance that does not affect cognition. In keeping with his perspective, the second edition of the DSM, the DSM-II, published in 1952, defined autism as a psychiatric condition—a form of childhood schizophrenia marked by a detachment from reality. During the 1950s and 1960s, autism was thought to be rooted in cold and unemotional mothers, whom Bruno Bettelheim dubbed “refrigerator mothers.” © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24959 - Posted: 05.10.2018

By Simon Baron-Cohen Five years ago, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) established autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as an umbrella term when it published the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), the primary guide to taxonomy in psychiatry. In creating this single diagnostic category, the APA also removed the subgroup called Asperger syndrome that had been in place since 1994. At the 2018 annual meeting of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR), there will be plenty of discussion about diagnostic terminology: Despite the many advantages of a single diagnostic category, scientists will be discussing whether, to achieve greater scientific or clinical progress, we need subtypes. The APA created a single diagnostic label of ASD to recognize the important concept of the spectrum, since the way autism is manifested is highly variable. All autistic individuals share core features, including social and communication difficulties, unusually narrow interests, a strong need for repetition and, often, sensory issues. Yet these core features vary enormously in how they are manifested, and in how disabling they are. This variability provides one meaning of the term spectrum, and the single diagnostic label ASD makes space for this considerable variability. The term spectrum also refers to the heterogeneity in autism. There are huge disparities in many areas, such as language development or IQ, and in the presence or absence of co-occurring medical conditions and disabilities. This heterogeneity is also part of what is meant by a spectrum. And some autistic people also have very evident talents. This is another sense of the term spectrum, and the single diagnostic label makes room for this source of diversity, too. © 2018 Scientific America

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24943 - Posted: 05.05.2018

By Andrew Joseph, Researchers have been left empty-handed so far in their quest to uncover some measurable biological signal that could be used to diagnose autism spectrum disorder, leaving clinicians to identify the condition just based on a child’s behavior. But on Wednesday, scientists reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine that a hormone that regulates blood pressure could be one of those signposts. They found that low concentrations of the molecule—called arginine vasopressin, or AVP—in the cerebrospinal fluid corresponded to autism-like social behavior in male monkeys, while a high AVP concentration signaled the most social animals. And they discovered similar results when looking at AVP concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, of a small group of boys. “It’s really exciting work,” said Dr. Mollie Meffert, a molecular neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins, who was not involved in the study. “One of the most interesting things is the finding that the vasopressin in the CSF correlates with sociality in the macaques and in autism with children.” Meffert said if vasopressin concentrations are confirmed to correspond to autism, they could perhaps be used to diagnose the condition and as a gauge to measure the effect of treatment candidates. And Karen Parker, the lead author of the study and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, said that the hormone could become a drug target if future studies show boosting its levels can assuage the social impairments of autism spectrum disorder. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Autism; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24942 - Posted: 05.05.2018

By Edith Sheffer Millions of people are identified with Asperger’s syndrome, as a diagnosis, an identity and even an adjective. Asperger’s name has permeated our culture—yet I believe we should no longer invoke it. Naming medical diagnoses after individuals is an honor, meant to recognize those who discover conditions and to commend their work. While there is a move toward descriptive diagnostic labels in medicine, certain eponyms have entered our everyday language and will likely endure. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, for example. Hans Asperger, however, neither described Asperger syndrome as we understand it today nor merits commendation. I have spent seven years researching his past in Nazi Vienna, uncovering his complicity in the Nazi regime and its “euthanasia” program that murdered children considered to be disabled. Contrary to Asperger’s reputation as a resister in the Third Reich, he approved the transfer of dozens of children to Vienna's killing center, Spiegelgrund, where they perished. He publicly spoke—and published—about the need to send the most “difficult cases” to Spiegelgrund. He was also close colleagues with top euthanasia figures in Vienna, including Erwin Jekelius, the director of Spiegelgrund, who was engaged to Hitler’s sister. Nazi ideology shaped Asperger’s research. Children in the Third Reich were to display community spirit, being enthusiastic participants in collective activities such as the Hitler youth. In Germany in the 1930s, Nazi psychiatrists identified children whom they believed lacked social feeling, unable to join the national community. Asperger, in his early 30s, warned against classifying children, arguing that they should be regarded as individuals. But right after the Third Reich annexed Austria in 1938—and the purge of his Jewish and liberal associates from the University of Vienna—Asperger followed his senior colleagues in Nazi child psychiatry and introduced his own diagnosis of social detachment: “autistic psychopathy.” © 2018 Scientific American,

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24937 - Posted: 05.03.2018

By Kerry Grens Neena Schwartz, a reproductive biologist at Northwestern University who discovered the hormone inhibin and its role in the regulation of reproductive cycles, died this month (April 15). She was 91. “She was a tremendous scientist, a pioneer for women in the sciences, and a leader in our discipline of endocrinology,” Teresa Woodruff and Kelly Mayo, both of Northwestern University, write in a memorial in Endocrine News. Among numerous leadership roles throughout her career, Schwartz founded the American Women in Science (AWIS) in 1971 and was a president of the Endocrine Society in the early 1980s. Schwartz was born in Baltimore, earned her undergraduate degree from Goucher College, and received her doctorate from Northwestern University in 1953. After a faculty position at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, she joined Northwestern in 1973 and remained as a professor there until her retirement in 1999. Her early work focused on rats’ hormonal cycles, and the insight she derived from her studies contributed to a basic understanding of the so-called HPG axis, the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal crosstalk of hormones that controls reproduction. Schwartz later discovered a peptide-based feedback system controlling hormone levels in the ovaries, and described the hormone inhibin, which blocks follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). The presence of inhibin had been proposed decades earlier, but nobody had searched for it in the follicle fluid of ovaries—until Schwartz and her colleague at the University of Maryland, Cornelia Channing took up the cause. Channing had sent Schwartz the fluid, and Schwartz found that it made FSH levels drop. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24925 - Posted: 05.01.2018

By CEYLAN YEGINSU LONDON — The anti-vaccine movement has come for the pets. A spreading fear of pet vaccines’ side effects has prompted the British Veterinary Association to issue a startling statement this week: Dogs cannot develop autism. The implicit message was that dog owners should keep vaccinating their pets against diseases like distemper and canine hepatitis because any concerns that the animals would develop autism after the injections were unfounded. The warning has a long tail. It grew out of an anti-vaccine theory that rippled across the United States and Europe as networks known as “anti-vaxxers” claimed that childhood vaccinations could cause autism. The belief, promoted by some celebrities like the television personality Jenny McCarthy, who says her son has autism, spurred many parents to begin boycotting traditional vaccines. The theory gained prominence in 1998, after a study published in the medical journal The Lancet purported to show a link between autism and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccination. It caused a firestorm in health circles and among parents, resulting in a significant drop in vaccination rates for children in Britain. But the study has since been thoroughly discredited. It was formally retracted by the medical magazine and its lead author, Andrew Wakefield, who at the time was a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital in London, was subsequently struck off the British medical register over ethical lapses. The theory, however, has jumped species. It is increasingly being applied to pets in the United States and is gaining momentum in Britain — raising concerns that the already low vaccination rates in this country could fall further. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24914 - Posted: 04.28.2018

By Matt Warren There is no one gene that, when mutated, causes autism. But over the past decade, researchers have identified hundreds of gene variations that seem to affect brain development in ways that increase the risk of autism. However, these scientists mainly searched for variants in the DNA that directly encodes the building blocks of proteins. Now, a new study probing so-called noncoding DNA has found that alterations in regions that regulate gene activity may also contribute to autism. And surprisingly, these variations tended to be inherited from fathers who aren’t autistic. “This is a really good article—it’s somewhat provocative and it makes us think about [autism genetics in a] different way,” says Lucia Peixoto, a neuroscientist and computational biologist at Washington State University in Spokane, who was not involved in the research. “I think it’s a great contribution to the field.” Research into the genetic risk for autism has mainly focused on how mutations that arise spontaneously in an individual’s genome—rather than being inherited from a parent—disrupt protein-coding regions and lead to the condition. That’s because these sporadic mutations have relatively large effects and studies have shown that such mutations, although individually rare, together contribute to about 25% to 30% of cases, says Jonathan Sebat, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego. But only about 2% of the genome consists of protein-coding areas. Sebat says the large noncoding portion of our DNA—often previously referred to as “junk DNA”—has so far been ignored in autism research. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Autism; Epigenetics
Link ID: 24886 - Posted: 04.21.2018

By CEYLAN YEGINSU A new study has shed more light on the revelations that Hans Asperger, the Austrian pediatrician for whom a form of autism is named, had collaborated with the Nazis and actively assisted in the killing of disabled children. Published on Wednesday in the journal Molecular Autism by the medical historian Herwig Czech, the report relies on eight years of research that included the examination of previously unseen Nazi-era documents. The study concludes that though Dr. Asperger was not a member of the Nazi Party, he had participated in the Third Reich’s child-euthanasia program, which aimed to establish a “pure” society by eliminating those deemed a “burden.” Dr. Asperger referred disabled children to the notorious Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna, where hundreds were either drugged or gassed to death from 1940 to 1945. “The picture that emerges is that of a man who managed to further his career under the Nazi regime, despite his apparent political and ideological distance from it,” Mr. Czech, of the University of Vienna, wrote in his study. Asperger syndrome is a lifelong developmental disability associated with autism that affects perception and social interaction. About one in 68 children in the United States have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24885 - Posted: 04.21.2018

By Edith Sheffer PALO ALTO, Calif. — My son’s school, David Starr Jordan Middle School, is being renamed. A seventh grader exposed the honoree, Stanford University’s first president, as a prominent eugenicist of the early 20th century who championed sterilization of the “unfit.” This sort of debate is happening all over the country, as communities fight over whether to tear down Confederate monuments and whether Andrew Jackson deserves to remain on the $20 bill. How do we decide whom to honor and whom to disavow? There are some straightforward cases: Hitler Squares were renamed after World War II; Lenin statues were hauled away after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But other, less famous monsters of the past continue to define our landscape and language. I have spent the past seven years researching the Nazi past of Dr. Hans Asperger. Asperger is credited with shaping our ideas of autism and Asperger syndrome, diagnoses given to people believed to have limited social skills and narrow interests. The official diagnosis of Asperger disorder has recently been dropped from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders because clinicians largely agreed it wasn’t a separate condition from autism. But Asperger syndrome is still included in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, which is used around the globe. Moreover, the name remains in common usage. It is an archetype in popular culture, a term we apply to loved ones and an identity many people with autism adopt for themselves. Most of us never think about the man behind the name. But we should. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24840 - Posted: 04.09.2018

by Nicholette Zeliadt Folic acid, a B vitamin, may lower autism risk and ease features of the condition, according to findings from five unrelated studies published over the past few months. Three of the studies suggest that prenatal supplements of folic acid offset autism risk associated with in utero exposure to epilepsy drugs or toxic chemicals. The supplements are also known to prevent birth defects. Another study found that people with autism and their immediate family members are more likely than those in a control group to carry immune molecules that could block folate’s passage into the brain. “These studies are particularly of interest because they suggest that people could potentially modify their risk of having a child with autism, even in the face of certain adverse exposures or conditions,” says Kristen Lyall, an assistant professor in the Modifiable Risk Factors Program at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute in Philadelphia, who was not involved in any of the studies. A fifth study reported results from a small clinical trial suggesting that folinic acid — a form of folic acid — can ease language and communication difficulties in people with autism. “It isn’t enough to say that kids with [autism] should be taking folinic acid, necessarily, but it is enough to motivate a larger study,” says Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, who was not involved in the trial. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Autism; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24813 - Posted: 04.03.2018

A new report says an estimated one in every 66 Canadian children and youth aged five to 17 has autism spectrum disorder. The report by the Public Health Agency of Canada, released on Thursday, is the first detailing the national prevalence of the neurodevelopmental disorder and is in line with estimates in the United States. Autism spectrum disorder is typically detected in early childhood and causes impairments in communication skills and social interactions, often combined with repetitive behaviours and restricted interests or activities. Boys are four to five times more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, than girls. "Understanding trends and patterns in ASD diagnosis is essential to developing meaningful programs and services to support people living with ASD and their families," said Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, noting that the estimates establish a baseline that will help researchers determine if prevalence rates are changing over time. The report includes data from six provinces and one territory and found prevalence ranged from a high of one in 57 children in Newfoundland and Labrador, to one in 126 in Yukon. Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, British Columbia and Yukon all contributed data to the report, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada said. ©2018 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24801 - Posted: 03.30.2018

By RANDI HUTTER EPSTEIN Getting a high testosterone reading offers bragging rights for some men of a certain age — and may explain in part the lure of testosterone supplements. But once you are within a normal range, does your level of testosterone, the male hormone touted to build energy, libido and confidence, really tell you that much? Probably not, experts say. Normal testosterone levels in men range from about 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter of blood. Going from one number within the normal zone to another one may not pack much of a punch. “You don’t see the big improvement once men are within the normal range,” said Dr. Shalender Bhasin, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The largest differences in terms of energy and sex drive are when men go from below-normal to normal levels. A 2015 study in JAMA found that sex drive improved among men who went from about 230, considered low, to 500, around the middle of what’s considered normal. There was no difference among men who moved within the normal range from 300 to 500. Testosterone does influence muscle size. The more testosterone a man takes, the larger the muscle — regardless of starting level, one reason the hormone is popular with young bodybuilders. But testosterone supplements do not seem to help frail older men walk farther or get out of chairs more easily, goals that doctors typically look for in aiding older patients. Beginning at age 30, testosterone levels drop, on average, about 1 percent a year. About 5 percent of men between the ages of 50 and 59 have low levels of testosterone along with symptoms like loss of libido and sluggishness, according to a few small studies. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24792 - Posted: 03.28.2018

By Nicola Davis Your book is all about reproductive hormones, and their impact on our behaviour. It only focuses on female hormones. Why not look at men’s too? Two reasons. One is that the focus of research in my lab is to look at women’s hormones. The other is that I think there are problems with how people have viewed hormones and women, and I really want to debunk those myths, then pursue some of the implications for further exploring links between women’s hormones and their behaviour. I think they are really important for women’s wellbeing. You say that some people, including women, have pushed back against discussing the influence of hormones. Why is that? I get a strong sense that if you ascribe a woman’s behaviour to biology, people will automatically think that women are automatons, driven by their hormones and unable to regulate their own behaviour. That is false. There is a female stereotype, whereby any time a woman does something a little bit difficult to understand, then it is hormones that make women “irrational”. But nobody says that about men. For that reason, those who are concerned about women achieving equality with men worry that if we talk about women and hormones, then people will say such things as women shouldn’t hold higher office and so on. That’s silly, because men have hormones, too. Are you surprised by how recently we have begun investigating the impact of hormones on women? One reason is that scientists were content for many decades with studying the male as the default sex, and that was in part because women had cycles that made them messy. If you are doing a scientific experiment, you don’t want noise, you don’t want variation, you want everything to be strictly controlled. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24746 - Posted: 03.13.2018

By George Musser, Satsuki Ayaya remembers finding it hard to play with other children when she was young, as if a screen separated her from them. Sometimes she felt numb, sometimes too sensitive; sometimes sounds were muted, sometimes too sharp. As a teenager, desperate to understand herself, she began keeping a journal. “I started to write my ideas in my notebooks, like: What’s happened to me? Or: What’s wrong with me? Or: Who am I?” she says, “I wrote, wrote, wrote. I filled maybe 40 notebooks.” Today, at 43, Ayaya has a better sense of who she is: She was diagnosed with autism when she was in her early 30s. As a Ph.D. student in the history and philosophy of science at the University of Tokyo, she is using the narratives from her teen years and after to generate hypotheses and suggest experiments about autism — a form of self-analysis called Tojisha-Kenkyu, introduced nearly 20 years ago by the disability-rights movement in Japan. In Ayaya’s telling, her autism involves a host of perceptual disconnects. For example, she feels in exquisite detail all the sensations that typical people readily identify as hunger, but she can’t piece them together. “It’s very hard for me to conclude I’m hungry,” she says. “I feel irritated, or I feel sad, or I feel something [is] wrong. This information is separated, not connected.” It takes her so long to realize she is hungry that she often feels faint and gets something to eat only after someone suggests it to her. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24736 - Posted: 03.10.2018

By Shawna Williams In recent years, US society has seen a sea change in the perception of transgender people, with celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox becoming the recognizable faces of a marginalized population. Transgender rights have also become a mainstream political issue, and the idea that people should be referred to by the names and pronouns they find most fitting—whether or not these designations match those on their birth certificates, or align with the categories of male and female—is gaining acceptance. Yet a biological understanding of the contrast between the natal sex and the gender identity of transgender people remains elusive. In recent years, techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have begun to yield clues to possible biological underpinnings of the condition known as gender dysphoria. In particular, researchers are identifying similarities and differences between aspects of the structure and function of the brains of trans- and cisgender individuals that could help explain the conviction that one’s gender and natal sex don’t match. The results may not have much effect on how gender dysphoria is diagnosed and treated, notes Baudewijntje Kreukels, who studies gender incongruence at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. “It’s really important that it will not be seen as, ‘When you see [gender dysphoria] in the brain, then it’s true.’” But the insights from such research could go a long way toward satisfying the desire of some transgender people to understand the roots of their condition, she adds. “In that way, it is good to find out if these differences between them and their sex assigned at birth are reflected by measures in the brain.” © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24724 - Posted: 03.06.2018

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