Posts

September 20, 2014

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8:51 AM | Antibiotics and risk of pediatric Crohn's disease
I couldn't let the meta-analysis from Ryan Ungaro and colleagues [1] pass without a brief mention. Concluding that: "Exposure to antibiotics appears to increase the odds of being newly diagnosed with CD [Crohn's disease] but not UC [ulcerative colitis]" and further: "This risk is most marked in children diagnosed with CD", the implications from this and other findings in this area may be far-reaching.I've talked before on this blog about antibiotic exposure and risk of […]

September 19, 2014

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6:24 PM | A Single Insurer Holds Obamacare's Fate In 2 States
Where have the insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act struggled the most? The answer lies in commerce, not politics.
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6:00 PM | The Business of Surgery: Has Love Been Lost?
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8:08 AM | Increasing parental age and autism severity?
An interesting paper by David Geier and colleagues [1] (open-access here) caught my eye recently, concluding that there was a lack of support for the suggestion that: "increasing parental age was associated with increasing autism spectrum disorder phenotypic severity"."the snozzberries taste like snozzberries".Before progressing through the paper and its possible implications, the eagle-eyed out there might have already spotted the name Dr Brian Hooker on the authorship list of the Geier paper. […]

Geier DA, Hooker BS, Kern JK, Sykes LK & Geier MR (2014). An Evaluation of the Effect of Increasing Parental Age on the Phenotypic Severity of Autism Spectrum Disorder., Journal of child neurology, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25163730

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September 18, 2014

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8:50 AM | Anxiety and sensory over-responsivity linked to gut issues in autism
"The name's Lonnegan! Doyle Lonnegan!"Consider this micropost an extension of some previous discussions on this blog about how gastrointestinal (GI) issues present in cases of autism might show some connection to the presence of anxiety and sensory issues (see here). Today I'm discussing further research by Micah Mazurek and colleagues [1] which follows a previous publication by this author [2] on this topic.In the latest paper, Dr Mazurek and colleagues describe the course of abdominal pain in […]

Mazurek, M., Keefer, A., Shui, A. & Vasa, R. (2014). One-year course and predictors of abdominal pain in children with autism spectrum disorders: The role of anxiety and sensory over-responsivity, Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8 (11) 1508-1515. DOI: 10.1016/j.rasd.2014.07.018

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8:40 AM | Congrats Deepa!
Deepa Varkey is a PhD student in my group working on how marine cyanobacteria adapt to different temperatures. She has just won a prize for the best poster at the 9th European Workshop on the Molecular Biology of Cyanobacteria in the Netherlands. Great job Deepa!Deepa and her prize winning poster
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1:41 AM | Born to be Wild (Sort of)
“Civilisation; it’s all about knives and forks.” —David Byrne As a child I was not nature-deprived. I lived in small towns and villages in rural Somerset in England, and enjoyed nature study in primary school but I know that I’ve never … Continue reading →

September 17, 2014

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10:29 AM | Autoimmune disease risk and eating disorders
"We were set up. The cops were waiting for us.""We observed an association between eating disorders and several autoimmune diseases with different genetic backgrounds. Our findings support the link between immune-mediated mechanisms and development of eating disorders".So said the paper by Anu Raevuori and colleagues [1] (open-access) based on an analysis of over 2300 people "treated at the Eating Disorder Unit of Helsinki University Central Hospital between 1995 and 2010" compared with […]

September 16, 2014

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4:36 PM | faulty cement well casings cause of fracking related contamination
A new study finds that the well casing – the cement that seals the drill holes – to be the cause of fracking related water contamination.  It has been a little unclear if the well casings were the cause of … Continue reading →
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6:50 AM | The schizophrenias (plural)
A micropost if you will, to draw your attention to the paper by Javier Arnedo and colleagues [1] mentioning the concept of 'the schizophrenias' (plural). Some media coverage of this paper can be found here and here. The crux of the paper is that although currently unified by a diagnostic label, schizophrenia seems to be comprised of various conditions: "caused by a moderate number of separate genotypic networks associated with several distinct clinical syndromes"."... dogs and cats living […]

Javier Arnedo, Dragan M. Svrakic, Coral del Val, Rocío Romero-Zaliz, Helena Hernández-Cuervo, Molecular Genetics of Schizophrenia Consortium, Ayman H. Fanous, Michele T. Pato, Carlos N. Pato, Gabriel A. de Erausquin & C. Robert Cloninger (2014). Uncovering the Hidden Risk Architecture of the Schizophrenias: Confirmation in Three Independent Genome-Wide Association Studies, The American Journal of Psychiatry, Other:

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September 15, 2014

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8:47 AM | Zinc and copper and autism
The paper by Li and colleagues [1] looking at serum copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) levels in a group of participants diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the source material for today's post. Highlighting how "mean serum Zn levels and Zn/Cu ratio were significantly lower in children with ASD compared with normal cases... whereas serum Cu levels were significantly higher" the continued focus on the metallome in autism carries on at a pace. I should at this point out that I'm not […]

Li SO, Wang JL, Bjørklund G, Zhao WN & Yin CH (2014). Serum copper and zinc levels in individuals with autism spectrum disorders., Neuroreport, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25162784

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September 12, 2014

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3:47 PM | Insulin, growth hormone and risk of schizophrenia?
"Overall, the present findings suggest that metabolic and hormonal disturbances such as effects on insulin and growth hormone may represent a vulnerability factor to develop mental disorders". That was the conclusion reported by van Beveren and colleagues [1] (open-access) looking at "disruption of insulin and growth factor signaling pathways as an increased risk factor for schizophrenia"."Years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars"Drawing on data derived from participants taking part […]

van Beveren NJ, Schwarz E, Noll R, Guest PC, Meijer C, de Haan L & Bahn S (2014). Evidence for disturbed insulin and growth hormone signaling as potential risk factors in the development of schizophrenia., Translational psychiatry, 4 PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25158005

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9:05 AM | Managing Innovation: Step-by-step approach rarely yields better performance
Paul Hünermund, who was a young scientist at #lindauecon14 explains his research on innovation management. Step by step to innovation success? Being an innovative company is easier said (or included in a mission statement) than done. Managers of innovative companies have to spend large R&D budgets on projects with highly uncertain outcomes. In high-tech industries […]

September 11, 2014

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1:55 PM | Treating autism in the first year of life
I had been waiting y'know. Waiting a while for the paper by Sally Rogers and colleagues [1] to finally appear quite a few days after the media headlines about 'reducing', 'reversing' and even 'eliminating' the signs and symptoms of autism in early infancy had appeared. Personally, I prefer the New Scientist headline: 'Early autism intervention speeds infant development' given the text of the paper. I should perhaps also add the words 'for some' to that sentence as you will hopefully […]

S. J. Rogers, L. Vismara, A. L. Wagner, C. McCormick, G. Young & S. Ozonoff (2014). Autism Treatment in the First Year of Life: A Pilot Study of Infant Start, a Parent-Implemented Intervention for Symptomatic Infants, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Other:

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8:42 AM | Omega-3 fatty acids rescues Fragile X phenotypes in Fmr1-Ko mice
"These results demonstrate that n-3 PUFAs dietary supplementation, although not a panacea, has a considerable therapeutic value for FXS [Fragile X syndrome] and potentially for ASD [autism spectrum disorder], suggesting a major mediating role of neuroinflammatory mechanisms".A view @ Wikipedia That was the conclusion reached by Susanna Pietropaolo and colleagues [1] who "evaluated the impact of n-3 PUFA dietary supplementation in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome […]

Pietropaolo S, Goubran MG, Joffre C, Aubert A, Lemaire-Mayo V, Crusio WE & Layé S (2014). Dietary supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids rescues fragile X phenotypes in Fmr1-Ko mice., Psychoneuroendocrinology, 49C 119-129. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25080404

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7:29 AM | Eureka Awards
Last night, I was at the Eureka Awards Dinner. The Eureka Awards have been described as the Australian Science equivalent of the Oscars. While not quite as glamorous as the Oscars, it was nevertheless a black tie event at the Sydney Town Hall, and we did have some media celebrities present, such as Adam Spencer and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. It was also the second top hottest topic on Twitter yesterday in Australia.I was not nominated for an Award, but was there to fly the flag for Macquarie […]
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2:58 AM | Indigo V and Citizen Oceanography
Martin has beaten me to it and already put up a blog post about the Indigo V expedition and our paper in PLoS Biology. I just have a couple of things to add. Martin and Federico were interviewed on ABC radio on Wednesday morning, here is a link for anyone who wants to listen or read the transcript. I like Martin's line- "Every second breath we take the oxygen is being produced by microbes in the ocean.Also, I wanted to highlight the beautiful photo from the Indigo V expedition, taken by Rachel […]
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2:54 AM | Marine Reserves in All UK Overseas Territories?
The U.S. isn't the only country to have the will and ability to protect huge areas of the ocean. A proposal to Parliament calls for the U.K. to create the world's largest marine protected areas.

September 10, 2014

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9:01 AM | Donepezil and D-cycloserine rescue behaviours in VPA exposed animals
In a post not-so-long-ago I talked about an interesting piece of research by Ahn and colleagues [1] suggesting that a ketogenic diet might yet hold some promise to "modify complex social behaviors and mitochondrial respiration" affected in the "prenatal valproic acid (VPA) rodent model of ASD [autism spectrum disorder]". The idea being that exposure to valproic acid (valproate) during the nine months that made us might carry some heightened risk for adverse effects on offspring development (see […]

Wellmann KA, Varlinskaya EI & Mooney SM (2014). D-Cycloserine Ameliorates Social Alterations That Result From Prenatal Exposure To Valproic Acid., Brain research bulletin, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25130667

Kim JW, Seung H, Kwon KJ, Ko MJ, Lee EJ, Oh HA, Choi CS, Kim KC, Gonzales EL, You JS & Choi DH (2014). Subchronic Treatment of Donepezil Rescues Impaired Social, Hyperactive, and Stereotypic Behavior in Valproic Acid-Induced Animal Model of Autism., PloS one, 9 (8) PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25133713

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September 09, 2014

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8:35 AM | The gondii and generalised anxiety disorder
Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) has been absent from discussions on this blog for a while now. I'm going to remedy that today with this post talking about the paper from Markovitz and colleagues [1] who concluded: "T. gondii infection may play a role in the development of GAD [generalized anxiety disorder]"."You have saved our lives. We are eternally grateful"Based on participants taking part in the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study exposure to T. gondii "defined by seropositivity […]

Markovitz A, Simanek AM, Yolken R, Galea S, Koenen KC, Chen S & Aiello AE (2014). Toxoplasma gondii and anxiety disorders in a community-based sample., Brain, behavior, and immunity, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25124709

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September 08, 2014

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8:22 AM | Homocysteine, MTHFR and schizophrenia studied AND meta-analysed
"Our study suggests that increased plasma total homocysteine levels may be associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia". Further: "The meta-analysis of the Japanese genetic association studies demonstrated a significant association between the MTHFR C677T polymorphism and schizophrenia".MTHFR (again!) @ Paul WhiteleySo said the results of the study and meta-analysis carried out by Akira Nishi and colleagues [1] (open-access) looking at the 'big H' alongside everyone's genetic […]

Nishi A, Numata S, Tajima A, Kinoshita M, Kikuchi K, Shimodera S, Tomotake M, Ohi K, Hashimoto R, Imoto I & Takeda M (2014). Meta-analyses of Blood Homocysteine Levels for Gender and Genetic Association Studies of the MTHFR C677T Polymorphism in Schizophrenia., Schizophrenia bulletin, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24535549

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4:20 AM | Out of Egypt
by Ruchira Paul “And suddenly I knew, as I touched the damp, grainy surface of the seawall, that I would always remember this night, that in years to come I would remember sitting here, swept with confused longing as I...

September 05, 2014

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9:04 AM | Extremes of a self-limiting diet in autism
I'll draw your attention to three papers in today's post which represent the extremes of where self-imposed dietary restrictions can potentially lead in relation to the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Issues with diet - outside of use of diet as an intervention measure - are something which have been talked about quite a bit in the autism research literature (see here)."You look like a gangster"The first paper by Baird & Ravindranath [1] describes a case report of an 11-year old with […]

Baird JS & Ravindranath TM (2014). Vitamin B Deficiencies in a Critically Ill Autistic Child With a Restricted Diet., Nutrition in clinical practice : official publication of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25112945

Gulko E, Collins LK, Murphy RC, Thornhill BA & Taragin BH (2014). MRI findings in pediatric patients with scurvy., Skeletal radiology, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25109378

Keown K, Bothwell J & Jain S (2014). Nutritional implications of selective eating in a child with autism spectrum disorder., BMJ case reports, 2014 PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24654242

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September 04, 2014

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8:32 PM | Aerial Census of Africa’s Elephants Aims to Help Conservation, Anti-Poaching Efforts
OKAVANGO DELTA, Botswana—”Fifteen elephants right!” ecologist Mike Chase shouts above the roar of the single-engine Cessna. The plane swoops low over the herd of gray bodies as they wade single-file across the floodplain below. We’re flying over the channels and islands on the western periphery of the vast Okavango Delta, as part of the Botswana leg…
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8:51 AM | Epigenetic processes and autism: focusing on immune function?
Although the title of this post talks about the science of epigenetics in autism, I'm actually going to be talking about two papers today, one of which also covers exposure to prenatal immune activation and what effect that might have on epigenetic processes in the mouse brain. This may also be relevant to at least some autism..."Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof"First off we have the paper from Nardone and colleagues [1] (open-access) which, following […]

Nardone, S., Sharan Sams, D., Reuveni, E., Getselter, D., Oron, O., Karpuj, M. & Elliott, E. (2014). DNA methylation analysis of the autistic brain reveals multiple dysregulated biological pathways, Translational Psychiatry, 4 (9) DOI: 10.1038/tp.2014.70

Basil, P., Li, Q., Dempster, E., Mill, J., Sham, P., Wong, C. & McAlonan, G. (2014). Prenatal maternal immune activation causes epigenetic differences in adolescent mouse brain, Translational Psychiatry, 4 (9) DOI: 10.1038/tp.2014.80

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September 03, 2014

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8:36 AM | An observation-based classifier for rapid detection of autism risk
"Keep clear of the moors"Among the many researchers and research groups admired on this blog for their contribution to the world of autism research, the name Dennis Wall is fast becoming a real favourite. Aside from mention of the words 'systems biology' in his profile at Stanford University, I'm particularly interested in the way the Wall research group are looking at trying to apply machine-learning approaches to things like autism assessment.I've covered a few of their past research reports […]

M Duda, J A Kosmicki & D P Wall (2014). Testing the accuracy of an observation-based classifier for rapid detection of autism risk, Translational Psychiatry, 4 Other:

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September 02, 2014

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8:33 AM | The epigenetics of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
"These data are consistent with evidence of multisystem dysregulation in CFS [Chronic Fatigue Syndrome] and implicate the involvement of DNA modifications in CFS pathology". So said the paper by Wilfred de Vega and colleagues [1] (open-access here) which, I think, represents a bit of a first for CFS with their examination of the possible role of epigenetic modifications in relation to the condition(s) [2].Ladies first @ Wikipedia I have to say that I was really quite excited […]

de Vega WC, Vernon SD & McGowan PO (2014). DNA Methylation Modifications Associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome., PloS one, 9 (8) PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25111603

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September 01, 2014

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7:32 AM | Lithium for mood disorder symptoms in autism?
Modern classroom? @ Wikipedia The paper published by Matthew Siegel and colleagues [1] talking about some preliminary observations on the use of lithium where symptoms of mood disorder might be present in cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) caught my eye recently. Concluding that: "lithium may be a medication of interest for those who exhibit two or more mood disorder symptoms, particularly mania or euphoria/elevated mood" the sentiments of more research-to-do in this area […]

Siegel M, Beresford CA, Bunker M, Verdi M, Vishnevetsky D, Karlsson C, Teer O, Stedman A & Smith KA (2014). Preliminary Investigation of Lithium for Mood Disorder Symptoms in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder., Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25093602

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August 30, 2014

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7:34 AM | Under-recognised co-occurring conditions in autism
A brief post to direct you to the paper by Nicolaidis and colleagues [1] talking about primary care for adults on the autism spectrum and mention of an issue quite important to this blog: "the recognition of associated conditions"."When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not".Alongside the announcement of what seems like an interesting workshop organised by the US IACC (Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee) titled: "IACC Workshop on Under-Recognized Co-Occurring […]

August 29, 2014

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7:52 AM | Oxytocin and autism: the hype?
Consider some excerpts from two recent papers looking at oxytocin (OXT) - the "love hormone"(!) - and the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)...“It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage”"These findings indicate that dysregulated OXT biology is not uniquely associated with ASD social phenotypes as widely theorized, but instead variation in OXT biology contributes to important individual differences in human social functioning, including the severe social impairments which […]

Parker, K., Garner, J., Libove, R., Hyde, S., Hornbeak, K., Carson, D., Liao, C., Phillips, J., Hallmayer, J. & Hardan, A. & (2014). Plasma oxytocin concentrations and OXTR polymorphisms predict social impairments in children with and without autism spectrum disorder, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1402236111

Guastella AJ, Gray KM, Rinehart NJ, Alvares GA, Tonge BJ, Hickie IB, Keating CM, Cacciotti-Saija C & Einfeld SL (2014). The effects of a course of intranasal oxytocin on social behaviors in youth diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders: a randomized controlled trial., Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25087908

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