July 4, 2011

New autism findings

From the NYT:
New Study Implicates Environmental Factors in Autism 
By LAURIE TARKAN 
A new study of twins suggests that environmental factors, including conditions in the womb, may be at least as important as genes in causing autism. 
The researchers did not say which environmental influences might be at work. But other experts said the new study, released online on Monday, marked an important shift in thinking about the causes of autism, which is now thought to affect at least 1 percent of the population in the developed world. 
“This is a very significant study because it confirms that genetic factors are involved in the cause of the disorder,” said Dr. Peter Szatmari, a leading autism researcher who is the head of child psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at McMaster University in Ontario. “But it shifts the focus to the possibility that environmental factors could also be really important.” 
... Other experts have cited factors like parental age, multiple pregnancies, low birth weight and exposure to medications or maternal infection during pregnancy. 
... In the new study, the largest of its kind among twins, researchers looked at 192 pairs of identical and fraternal twins whose cases were drawn from California databases. At least one twin in each pair had the classic form of autism, which is marked by extreme social withdrawal, communication problems and repetitive behaviors. In many cases, the other twin also had classic autism or a milder “autism spectrum” disorder like Asperger’s syndrome. 
Identical twins share 100 percent of their genes; fraternal twins share 50 percent of their genes. So comparing autism rates in both types of twins can enable researchers to measure the importance of genes versus shared environment. 
The study found that autism or autism spectrum disorders occurred in both twins in 77 percent of males and 50 percent of females. As expected, the rates among fraternal twins were lower: 31 percent of males and 36 percent of females. 
But surprisingly, mathematical modeling suggested that only 38 percent of the cases could be attributed to genetic factors, compared with the 90 percent suggested by previous studies.
And more surprising still, shared environmental factors appeared to be at work in 58 percent of the cases. 
“We, like everyone else, were very surprised because we didn’t expect it to be that high,” said a senior author of the study, Neil Risch, a geneticist and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. 
In siblings who are not twins, the rate of autism is much lower, suggesting that the conditions the twins shared in the womb, rather than what they were exposed to after birth, contributed to the development of autism. 
A second article in the same journal found an elevated risk of autism in children whose mothers took a popular type of antidepressant during the year before delivery. But the authors reassured women taking these drugs — so-called S.S.R.I.’s like Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro — that the risk was still quite low: 2.1 percent in children whose mothers used them in the year before delivery, and 2.3 percent in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Autism is another one of those medical syndromes, like schizophrenia, that seems implausible to explain wholly genetically, since full-blown autistics don't have many children, so why wouldn't it die out?

You could make the argument that autism might be like sickle cell anemia, a hereditary disease that is fatal without medical care in people with two copies of the gene, but one copy makes you more likely to survive the most lethal form of malaria. 

Nerds are more functional versions of autistics, and nerds are more likely to invent the weapons and other technology that help one tribe conquer another. But then you get into the usual problems with trying to argue the logic of group selection. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's not easy. 

This article should be commended for at least mentioning the word "infections" as an example of potential environmental influences. I'm not saying that germs contribute to autism or schizophrenia but that there's no reason not to mention it as a possibility. Similarly, the genetic contributions to these kind of syndromes might not be so much positive as negative -- i.e., it might be that your genes less make you autistic or schizophrenic as that your particular genes give you less defense against whatever it is in the environment that causes autism or schizophrenia. Or, autism could be an occasional cost of a defense system, like sickle cell anemia. 

We need a consciousness-raising campaign that infections can possibly be a cause of long term medical problems.

78 comments:

Eteocles said...

How bizarre, a disease that is partially caused by genes and partially caused by environmental factors.

Stop the presses!

Thomas O said...

Based on what I remember from Psyc classes in college (I minored in psyc) there was some evidence that schizophrenia was also linked to environmental causes. One study found it higher in babies born during the winter, when viral infections like colds are more likely. Another found rates higher among women who had undergone starvation/deprivation while pregnant during war.

Anonymous said...

I know too many scientists and engineers with autistic kids to not think it has a major genetic component, and that the recent upswing is largely the result of assortative mating. But (also anecdotally), a lot of autistic kids had difficult deliveries or a really severe early childhood illness. I think there's mainly a genetic component with an environmental trigger. I also think that the label "autism" encompasses a lot of different, only slightly related phenomena.

David said...

"environmental factors, including conditions in the womb [...] The researchers did not say which environmental influences might be at work."

That's when I suspected this was junk science.

"In siblings who are not twins, the rate of autism is much lower, suggesting that the conditions the twins shared in the womb, rather than what they were exposed to after birth, contributed to the development of autism."

The only way they can spin 90% of cases being attributed (in other studies) to genetic factors is to redefine environmental factors to include anything (= unspecified) that goes on in the womb.

If Neil Risch is a gay Mexican, then I eat my words, of course.

DH said...

In the comments to a gnxp post a while back about homosexuality Greg Cochran said that " You expect higher failure due to mutational load in extremely complex systems, ones that depend on the action of many genes: thus, you see a higher frequency of genetic retardation than you do, say, genetic albinism. Such a syndrome would be caused by mutations in many genes: we know of more than 100 that can cause congenital deafness. Of the many mutations causing such a grab-bag mutational load syndrome, some will be syndromic – i.e. will have other distinctive phenotypic effects, such as the white streak of hair in Waardenburg syndrome deafness, or macroorchidism in fragile X. In the case of congenital deafness, about 15% of causal mutations are syndromic."

You shouldn't take Cochranesque reasoning too far- mental retardation is horrible for fitness too, and yet Down Syndrome exists. Building a brain is an extremely complex process and a few bad mutations can derail everything. Unlike with homosexuality and schizophrenia, there are quite a few syndromic forms of autism, Fragile X for instance.

I always thought the most interesting thing I ever heard about autism is that a huge fraction of congenitally blind children (around half) are autistic, with the remainder often displaying autistic-like deficits in theory of mind tasks. You'd think a smart person would be able to make something of this-maybe autistic hypersensitivy causes them to avoid locking gaze with others and thus learning crucial social skills or something.

Anonymous said...

The incidence of nerdiness varies across populations. On average Finns are nerdier than Sicilians, East Indians are nerdier than Arabs, etc., etc. Has anyone here ever seen a black nerd either in person or on TV? An Amerindian nerd?

That seems to imply that genes are involved, doesn't it?

As a big nerd myself, I can say that I do have some nerds in my family tree: my maternal grandfather and a cousin of my father's.

Anonymous said...

I know too many scientists and engineers with autistic kids to not think it has a major genetic component, and that the recent upswing is largely the result of assortative mating.

Assortative mating seems dubious.

Male nerds haven't been reproducing much these past couple generations.

Before that, not only would male nerds reproduce more, they would grow up in very homogeneous areas, and assort and mate with women very close to them genetically. They would not have been much different in intelligence and psychology.

Anonymous said...

Steve, group selection is no longer controversial amongst the top evolutionary biologists. David Sloan Wilson, who was always an advocate for group selection, has written some excellent summaries of the controversy (eg, Truth and Reconciliation in Group Selection http://scienceblogs.com/evolution/truth_and_reconciliation_in_gr/)

Average Joe said...

It might be that with all the immigration from Third World countries that we have been experiencing over the last 40 years or so, pregnant woman are now being exposed to a whole host of pathogens that their ancestors were not exposed to. While these pathogens might only cause minor problems for the woman themselves they may cause abnormal development in the fetuses that they are carrying.

Anonymous said...

Google renders lots of hits for "schiz and infection," including a possible connection with maternal STDs during pregnancy.

Lots of grants, however, go to geneticists for genome scans. Those guys protect their turf, and as with other battles (such as the resistance of researchers and pharma to give the time of day to guys like Barry Marshall, the guy who linked peptic ulcers to h. pylori)it'll be hard to wrest money away from them and direct it to epidemiologists, parasitilogists, etc.

Anonymous said...

" Based on what I remember from Psyc classes in college (I minored in psyc) there was some evidence that schizophrenia was also linked to environmental causes."

The seasonal connection has long been verified. IIRC, a similar connection between season of birth exists with bi-polar sufferers.

Anonymous said...

"I know too many scientists and engineers with autistic kids to not think it has a major genetic component, and that the recent upswing is largely the result of assortative mating. But (also anecdotally), a lot of autistic kids had difficult deliveries or a really severe early childhood illness."

Yes, but think about the other correlations between people in such high IQ fields and the circumstances of the prenancies and their kids' births: such people have kids at a later age than low IQ people; they live in urban areas; unlike low IQ folk, they travel often and to places that might offer challenges to the immune system. There are lots of ways these peoples' lives differ from the waitress at Denny's and those circumstances might weigh much more heavily on the outcome than IQ or some cognitive vagaries.

How the SIDS Back to Sleep Campaign Caused the Autism Epidemic said...

Here is a potential environmental factor that may explain the increase in Autism. The SIDS Back to Sleep campaign began in Europe in 1987 and the U.S. in 1992.

Graph of Autism Rates (A) and Infant Back Sleep Rates (B)

85%____________________________.85
80%___________________________A.80
75%____________________________.75
70%_________________________A_B.70
65%______________________B__B__.65
60%______________________A_____.60
55%__________________AB________.55
50%________________AB__________.50
45%____________________________.45
40%__________AB__A_____________.40
35%______A_______B_____________.35
30%____A_______________________.30
25%_A____B_____________________.25
20%____________________________.20
15%_B__B_______________________.15
**1992*93*94*95*96*97*98*99*00*01*

Pearson Correlation Coefficient=0.97 (MS Excel)
9.97*0.97=0.94
0.94*100=94%


Infants who sleep on their backs (supine) compared to infants who sleep on their stomachs (prone)
are impacted in the following ways:
- Social skills delays at 6 months (Dewey, Fleming, et al, 1998)
- Motor skills delays at 6 months (Dewey, Fleming, et al, 1998)
- Increased rates of gastroesophageal reflux (GER) (Corvaglia, 2007)

Anonymous said...

The womb however is the one "environment" that is free of social engineering, so not much Uncle Sam can do about that one.

SFG said...

"I know too many scientists and engineers with autistic kids to not think it has a major genetic component, and that the recent upswing is largely the result of assortative mating."

Everyone says this, and it may be true. But why is it only occurring now? There aren't enough geek girls to go around, as any visit to Slashdot will tell you.

Anonymous said...

A little off-topic, but does anyone know about the quality of the advice which is dispensed at Schizophrenia.com?

I ask because it's an organ of the Tides Center, and, as Glenn Beck has spent a great deal of time warning us, Tides is one seriously nasty organization.

Jason Malloy said...

"Nerds are more functional versions of autistics, and nerds are more likely to invent the weapons and other technology that help one tribe conquer another. But then you get into the usual problems with trying to argue the logic of group selection."


You don't need to resort to group selection to explain the reproductive success of nerds. Autism is the extreme collection of genes related to several key aspects of paternal effort-- that is monogamous mating strategy-- such as planning and resource acquisition. Monogamous mating strategy has been very successful in the low parasite, high female dependency areas of Europe and Asia, and these are the populations that disproportionately experience autism. The relatives of autistics are more often engineers and scientists, who have more stable relationships and fewer lifetime sexual partners.

The flipside of autism is schizophrenia (underdeveloped theory of mind vs. hyperactive theory of mind), which is likewise the extreme collection of genes related to several key aspects of mating effort-- that is promiscuous mating strategy-- such as spontaneous creative expression. Promiscuous mating strategy has been very successful in the high parasite, low female dependency areas of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa and these are the populations that disproportionately experience schizophrenia. The relatives of schizophrenics are more often artists, who have less stable relationships and more lifetime sexual partners.

tom said...

This sounds like Seth Roberts talking about squirrels a couple of years ago, and how one squirrel of a test group was affected by the to the unnaturally weaker light of a lab (in a test of setting circadian rhythms):

http://blog.sethroberts.net/2009/07/14/genes-or-environment-or-environment/

agnostic said...

Nerds didn't invent weapons -- those would be the gearheads. The "techie" guys in pre-state societies are not generally described as nerdy in behavior. I haven't read about every tribe out there, but I've yet to hear of one where the inventive types were used to illustrate the "psychic unity of mankind," i.e. because the Bongo-Bongo have nerds too!

Inventing new weapons or improving on old ones is pretty useful, but that's not what nerds gravitate to. They pick apart really pointless stuff like labyrinthine anime plotlines, libertarian politics, and other topics whose Wikipedia pages are longer than those for Shakespeare and Newton.

The fact that their minds are turned on only by useless junk, and are turned off by anything of consequence, is further evidence for autism being a disease, a brain that mis-wired itself due to an early infection (or whatever).

Kind of like a male brain that was turned on by guys but turned off by girls.

Jimbo said...

The twin data reported here seem on the surface like yet another strong argument for high heritability--I'd be interested to understand what the presumably fancier "mathematical modeling" was in this study that somehow indicated that most cases were not genetically caused.

Steve said Nerds are more functional versions of autistics, and nerds are more likely to invent the weapons and other technology that help one tribe conquer another. But then you get into the usual problems with trying to argue the logic of group selection. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's not easy.

Actually, in this kind of case it is easy and group selection is not required: we just have to suppose that the guy who invents better weapons is a well respect member of the village, and being well respected helps him find a mate.

We need a consciousness-raising campaign that infections can possibly be a cause of long term medical problems.

I don't disagree, but what good is going to come of this consciousness-raising campaign exactly? More widespread use of antibiotics in cases where there is no clear diagnosis of a bacterial infection? More use of anti-bacterial handsoap? Or what?

nooffensebut said...

Don't forget the research that shows that older fathers with younger wives are more likely to have autistic children. Genetic causation can also be new spontaneous changes made more common by modern mating habits.

Gian said...

Was not womb exposure to ultrasound recently linked with autism?

Bill said...

Eh, they're really taking their time on this one. It seems pretty obvious to me that clomid and the onset of the autism epidemic are connected, with other forms of ART having a similar effect.

Of course there are genetic, epigenetic and other environmental factors as well, but go to the source of the flood first to understand it.

Personally, I think these paradoxical disorders such as autism, homosexuality and schizophrenia are side effects of something that gives an overall reproductive advantage -- perhaps extended female fertility or the like. Maybe ART induces this higher prevalence by mimicking the factors that allow for this advantage. Who knows. It will take some time to tease out, but there's a smoking gun in plain view IMO.

dearieme said...

"The womb however is the one "environment" that is free of social engineering, so not much Uncle Sam can do about that one."

Then it's vital that billions of bucks be spent on researching womb-equalisation methodologies.

Discrimination in the womb is unamerican.

stari_momak said...

Remember, there is only one condition that is totally attributable to genetics, no environmental factors, no 'in the womb' treatable factors. That is homosexual orientation.

Everything else, intelligence, social skilz, etc, that is all determined mostly by environment.

Anonymous said...

"They pick apart really pointless stuff like labyrinthine anime plotlines, libertarian politics, and other topics whose Wikipedia pages are longer than those for Shakespeare and Newton."

In a modern setting yes, where nerds are free to self-manipulate their reward systems to the max.

In the past, nerds would not have had that opportunity.

agnostic said...

"In a modern setting yes, where nerds are free to self-manipulate their reward systems to the max.

In the past, nerds would not have had that opportunity."

Sure they would have -- every culture has some kind of religion, folklore / mythology, etc., that they could pick apart. Not to mention some set of technology to obsess over pointlessly rather than improve on meaningfully. Again, the "tech" guys in pre-state societies are not described as nerds or geeks.

Nerds don't show up until the Age of Reason, which means they're part of the Greg Clark story. Whatever psychological changes that Europeans went through that made them able to industrialize and modernize, part of it was to push the average mind in the autistic direction.

Could've been the lower need for face-to-face social skills in a top-down economy, where you just need to do what you're told rather than figure other people out in order to earn your wage.

Social skills already took a big hit when we left hunting and gathering, which is social and chummy, for intensive agriculture, which is slavery. Look at how bad Central Americans and East Asians are at comedy -- they just don't get people, and they're two of the most extreme cases of intensive agriculture societies.

Pastoralism reintroduces social skills because it's more like a band of brothers on your side, plus you have to read the minds of your livestock in order to be a good herder.

Now that everyone's moving even further away from face-to-face ways of making a living, it'll only be a matter of time before everyone's got Asperger's.

Anonymous said...

Has daycare in infancy been looked at? Many women put their two-week-olds in daycare and plausibly, some newborns might shut down as a result of the separation-trauma.

Anonymous said...

The figure of more than 2% autism for children of mothers who take SSRIs during pregnancy is STAGGERINGLY, BREATHTAKINGLY HIGH:

It means if you have six children while taking Prozac, you have about 1 in 8 chance one of them will be autistic.

NB: there are no warnings addressed to expectant mothers on any such drugs, so no one is making an informed decision.

tens of millions of pregnant women take these drugs, so we are talking about tens of thousands of autism cases caused by them.

Beyond dispute is the fact that autism rates have mushroomed during the same period that SSRIs became wildly popular in the US.

Why is this earthquake news treated here as unworthy of comment?

Anonymous said...

It'd be an interesting experiment to see if the siblings of autistic kids tend to have higher than average IQs.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone here ever seen a black nerd either in person or on TV?

Yes, actually, I've met several black nerds. They're not as rare as you might think.

Anonymous said...

Pastoralism reintroduces social skills because it's more like a band of brothers on your side, plus you have to read the minds of your livestock in order to be a good herder.

Temple Grandin is an autistic who specializes in "reading the minds" of livestock to design humane, efficient slaughterhouses. She attributes her sensitivity to animal "thinking" to her autism.

Polistra said...

Environmental factors = changing diagnostic criteria.

Anonymous said...

Inventing new weapons was unlikely to take up much time by anyone back in the neolithic.

Nerd type traits would be useful in oral cultures for remembering and manipulating data about culture, the spirits, the law, property, kin relationships, the seasons, and so on. Or obsessive observation of minute changes in environment, etc., that might tell you something about prey and predators.

Maybe. I personally find that mating strategy stuff more convincing.

-osvaldo M.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the research that shows that older fathers with younger wives are more likely to have autistic children. Genetic causation can also be new spontaneous changes made more common by modern mating habits.

Preliminary correlation is not causation, at least not yet. Besides, "modern mating habits" involve partners who are much closer in age than the historical norm, and contemporaneous to the uptick in autism spectrum disorder diagnoses--otherwise you'd expect to read the sequel to Pride & Prejudice where all of Mr. & Mrs. Darcy's spawn turn out to have Asperger's Syndrome.

Dutch Boy said...

Since autism was first observed in children in the 1940s, the environmental factors that cause it are modern ones. From the 1940s until the late 1980s, the autism rate lingered in the 1-2/10,000 births range. Beginning in about 1988, the rate of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PSD) began to climb steadily to about 1/100 in the US and 1 in 64 in Great Britain (with similar increases in the full spectrum autism portion of PSD). The common factor both in the original autism cases and the subsequent explosion of PSD is immunizations. The DPT shot (containing mercury preservative) was introduced in the 1930s and aggressively promoted, coinciding with the first diagnoses of autism 5-6 years later. The late 1980s saw another substantial increase in immunizations including a new combination vaccine (MMR), followed by Hepatitis B (administered at birth), varicella, etc.. Along with the these new vaccines were various toxic adjuvants to potentiate the immune response to the vaccines. It is no coincidence that autism is characterized by chronic inflammation of the central nervous system and gut (both areas rich in immune system cellular components).
Naturally, the health authorities and their pharmaceutical corporation clients were not happy with those making this connection. They commissioned various studies to debunk the connection (Mr. Fox investigating the chicken coop raid), funded investigators with loopy theories (autism caused by an increase in nerd mating!) and spent a fortune on mostly fruitless genetic studies. Meanwhile, the autism plague continues with the American population alone headed for a total of 3 million in the not-too-distant future. Most of them will require lifelong care and economic support. Do no harm indeed.

catperson said...

Nerds are more functional versions of autistics, and nerds are more likely to invent the weapons and other technology that help one tribe conquer another. But then you get into the usual problems with trying to argue the logic of group selection. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's not easy.

Group selection is not required. If a nerd saves his tribe from genocide by inventing a new weapon, then his nerdieness will be passed down simply because other members of his tribe will share copies of his nerdy genes. So it's not group selection, it's simple kin selection or Rushton's genetic similarity theory. That's how racism evolved. People help members of their own race because their race share copies of their genes.

Anonymous said...

"Has anyone here ever seen a black nerd either in person or on TV? "

Absolutely. Try teaching, where you have large sample sizes to observe.

Anonymous said...

"In the comments to a gnxp post a while back about homosexuality Greg Cochran said that ' You expect higher failure due to mutational load in extremely complex systems, ones that depend on the action of many genes: thus, you see a higher frequency of genetic retardation than you do, say, genetic albinism. Such a syndrome would be caused by mutations in many genes: we know of more than 100 that can cause congenital deafness. Of the many mutations causing such a grab-bag mutational load syndrome, some will be syndromic – i.e. will have other distinctive phenotypic effects, such as the white streak of hair in Waardenburg syndrome deafness, or macroorchidism in fragile X. In the case of congenital deafness, about 15% of causal mutations are syndromic. '"

You shouldn't take Cochranesque reasoning too far- mental retardation is horrible for fitness too, and yet Down Syndrome exists.

-----------

Uh, and his next point, IIRC, was that homosexuality had no signs of being syndromic. You left that out.

Anonymous said...

Travel, and especially travel on airplanes, makes me suspect pathogens are more likely the perpetrators of things like this than ever before.

Anonymous said...

"... whose Wikipedia pages are longer than those for Shakespeare and Newton."

Agnostic, Newton was the biggest nerd ever. Bragged about being a virgin in his 80s.

Using a computer to bash nerds - hilariously pathetic. Nerds gave you this amazing tool, and all you've done with it is tell everyone how useless they are.

Anonymous said...

"Again, the "tech" guys in pre-state societies are not described as nerds or geeks."

Agnostc, this is not true. As I've told you before, there are ancient descriptions of Archemedes that emphsize his nerdy traits.

Anonymous said...

Autism is clearly a lot older than the 1930s. Read some of the literature on "changelings" and it's pretty clear that in many cases they're describing early childhood-onset autism.

Here's a description of one from none other than Martin Luther.

Eight years ago [in the year 1532] at Dessau, I, Dr. Martin Luther, saw and touched a changeling. It was twelve years old, and from its eyes and the fact that it had all of its senses, one could have thought that it was a real child. It did nothing but eat; in fact, it ate enough for any four peasants or threshers. It ate, shit, and pissed, and whenever someone touched it, it cried. When bad things happened in the house, it laughed and was happy; but when things went well, it cried. It had these two virtues. I said to the Princes of Anhalt: "If I were the prince or the ruler here, I would throw this child into the water--into the Molda that flows by Dessau. I would dare commit homicidium on him!"

Anonymous said...

"Whatever psychological changes that Europeans went through that made them able to industrialize and modernize, part of it was to push the average mind in the autistic direction."

But nerdiness occurs in all high-IQ populations. High-caste East Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, the Ashkenazim all produce some nerds. How the hell did the Age of Reason affect isolationist Japan?

"Look at how bad Central Americans and East Asians are at comedy -- they just don't get people, and they're two of the most extreme cases of intensive agriculture societies."

The English are spectacular at comedy, and they have agricultural, sedentary roots. Still waiting for that breakout Mongolian-American comedy act.

"Now that everyone's moving even further away from face-to-face ways of making a living, it'll only be a matter of time before everyone's got Asperger's."

The disappearance of the parental veto on marriage cboices in the West is bad for nerdiness, and hence for technological and scientific progress. Young women tend to view nerdiness in a much more negative light than young women's parents.

Anonymous said...

"Absolutely. Try teaching, where you have large sample sizes to observe."

Can you be more specific about that? I'm curious. What specific nerdy traits did you observe?

The closest thing to a black nerd I'm aware of is the linguist John McWhorter. But he's not a full-blown nerd, I don't think.

ben tillman said...

Identical twins share 100 percent of their genes; fraternal twins share 50 percent of their genes.

Arggghhh!!!

They share far more than 50% of their genes.

What the author should be writing is that they share genes at 50% of the loci where their parents differ genetically, but even that is only ON AVERAGE.

ben tillman said...

Steve, group selection is no longer controversial amongst the top evolutionary biologists. David Sloan Wilson, who was always an advocate for group selection, has written some excellent summaries of the controversy....

All you need to understand is that the units we think of as individuals (e.g., humans), are in fact groups. Thus, when we accept "individual" selection at the level of the human, we are in fact accepting group selection.

Read pages 87-98 of D.S. Wilson's Unto Others, and this should become clear.

Dunnyveg said...

Suffering from Asperger Syndrome myself, it's something I take more than a casual interest in. Personally, I think it is genetic. Both of my parents had the same thing mildly, and mine is more severe, though not debilitating.

Something else I have noticed is that AS, as well as regular autism, seem to be on the increase in a big way, which would suggest environmental factors. I don't buy that these increases are all due to better diagnostics, though that is certainly a factor (AS has only been recognized as a syndrome for less than twenty years).

I think it would be interesting to see AS and autism rates broken down by race, and then by rates in the Third World where the environmental factors would be different. It is telling that in my research, I have never encountered such figures.

Regular autism is only a curse, but AS has given the world much of its innovation, as our thinking differs markedly from that of normal people. Still I would like to see AS prevented, if not cured. Discerning autism's etiology would be a good first step.

Anonymous said...

Schizophrenia can be generated by brain-viruses.

Sort of like a weakened rabies, they scar the mind.

Because they afflict the mind, only, they have been left unremarked all this time.

Some street drugs also scar the brain -- crank, dust, etc. -- and their effect is permanent.

What may appear to be genetic links in schizophrenia can be as simple as a common infection passed within the family.

The notion of weakly transmitted diseases gets scant attention. Thusly, a chronic pandemic of brain viruses stays under the radar.

This is the real reason that mental illness is so common.

The same effect can be seen in the 3rd World -- wherein locals drink from contaminated water and think you odd for demanding bottled water. They make absolutely no association between their water and their stomach troubles.

Any disease/ parasite that targets the nervous system is going to be a slow propagator. However, it's also going to have a really awesome host -- providing it with an endless opportunity to carry on its reproductive impulse.

Anonymous said...

"Suffering from Asperger Syndrome myself, it's something I take more than a casual interest in. Personally, I think it is genetic. Both of my parents had the same thing mildly, and mine is more severe, though not debilitating."

1.) Pathogens are passed back and forth among family members--it's not a surprise when things "run in families" even if there are genetic mutations passed from one generation to another

2.) Your genes (and those of family members with the same genes) might offer great protection in one environment, yet be weak in offering protection in another environment.

Anonymous said...

"What may appear to be genetic links in schizophrenia can be as simple as a common infection passed within the family."

The "common infection passed within the family" is something Ewald & Cochran stressed about infectious causation of many chronic illnesses, including mental illness, many moons ago.

Anonymous said...

Do Aspies reproduce at a break- even rate?

kurt9 said...

The rate of Autism has increased more than 20 times over the past 25 years. A genetic cause cannot explain this increase.

Anonymous said...

It would shock most -- but todays livestock is all too commonly fed brains -- blended into their food.

This practice blew-up in England: it proved a route for spreading brain disease.

Because of the potential to complete a parasitic life-cycle oriented towards the central nervous system this practice needs to be stopped globally.

Anonymous said...

"1.) Pathogens are passed back and forth among family members--it's not a surprise when things "run in families" even if there are genetic mutations passed from one generation to another"


Sorry, I meant "even if there are NO genetic mutations passed...".

Anonymous said...

"But the authors reassured women taking these drugs — so-called S.S.R.I.’s like Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro — that the risk was still quite low: 2.1 percent in children whose mothers used them in the year before delivery, and 2.3 percent in the first trimester of pregnancy."
This statement cannot be true. Anon already correctly stated above this is a huge risk. In fact if it is true then the cause of surge in autism is at least partially due to women taking these S.S.R.I. drugs. 20,000+ per every million births in this population. Millions of women taking these drugs. What is the rate for people not taking these drugs? It is not mentioned. It has to be less than the 1% overall rate.

Anonymous said...

"Absolutely. Try teaching, where you have large sample sizes to observe."

Can you be more specific about that? I'm curious. What specific nerdy traits did you observe?
______

1. no demonstrated interest in sports
2. shy,soft-spoken, yes, even with the girls
3. an interest in science,math, history-- (lots of them watched the History Channel)
4. carried their materials in an organized fashion by carrying what we called a daily planner that zipped open, with a place for paper, pen, pencil, calendar, etc.
This trait was an instant "nerd identifier.

5. Could be found frequently before school, after school, and at lunch in the computer lab or in the library where there were a online computers that actually worked!

6. Some spent their lunch half hour in the biology teacher's classroom (which happened to be in my hall). Mr. Ball's room offered a safe haven from the noise and chaos of the cafeteria or the main arcade.

Yeah, I wish there had been more demonstrating such traits, but I can assure you that the earnest, focused, black nerd exists.

Oh, one more thing--they didn't adorn themselves in sports-logoed apparel.

catperson said...

Has anyone here ever seen a black nerd either in person or on TV?

steve urkel. I had a black professor complain about him though for being an example of the dumb black stereotype. This professor's fascinating argument was that Steve was too smart for his own good, and thus dumb.

Reg C├Žsar said...

I think these paradoxical disorders such as autism, homosexuality and schizophrenia are side effects of something that gives an overall reproductive advantage... --Bill

Ever consider that these folks' low birth rate is a function of modern, urbanized 'free love' culture, and that in traditional village culture (or universal-marriage cultures like most Protestant sects), people with these characteristics may actually outreproduce their neighbors?

I know of one lesbian from a large family who "came out" after having an almost-as-large family of her own. She was 14% of her own generation, and her kids were at least 20% of theirs.


Don't forget the research that shows that older fathers with younger wives are more likely to have autistic children. --nooffensebut

Nice timing. My younger wife just tested positive today, so now I'll be sweating out the next eight months. (Especially if she renews her prescription.)

Anonymous said...

The rate of Autism has increased more than 20 times over the past 25 years. A genetic cause cannot explain this increase.

You are on the wrong forum. In HBD blog sphere everything is caused by genes. Everything!

Anonymous said...

My understanding was there was no upsurge in autism.

What there has been is an upsurge in noticing it and getting medical types to look at it and make diagnosis.

That kid who used to be nerdy and had a real urge to collect model cars now gets diagnosed as having mild (or not so mild) Aspergers.

And so on.

Anonymous said...

Here's a black nerd in a Harry Potter t-shirt. At Comic Con, no less.

http://www.blogcdn.com/www.comicsalliance.com/media/2010/07/untitled-2.jpg

Of course, in this photo he's just been arrested for stabbing another nerd with a pen in a Hall H seat dispute...

Old Dad said...

Autism, Older Parents Link Detailed

(CBS/ AP) A woman's chance of having a child with autism increase substantially as she ages, but the risk may be less for older dads than previously suggested, a new study analyzing more than 5 million births found.

"Although fathers' age can contribute risk, the risk is overwhelmed by maternal age," said University of California at Davis researcher Janie Shelton, the study's lead author.

Mothers older than 40 were about 50 percent more likely to have a child with autism than those in their 20s; the risk for fathers older than 40 was 36 percent higher than for men in their 20s.

Even at that, the study suggests the risk of a woman over 40 having an autistic child was still less than 4 in 1,000, one expert noted.

The new research suggests the father's age appears to make the most difference with young mothers. Among children whose mothers were younger than 25, autism was twice as common when fathers were older than 40 than when dads were in their 20s.

The findings contrast with recent research that suggested the father's age played a bigger role than the mother's. Researchers and other autism experts said the new study is more convincing, partly because it's larger. Older mothers are known to face increased risks for having children with genetic disorders, and genes are thought to play a role in autism.

The study was released Monday in the February issue of the journal Autism Research.

Anonymous said...

You are on the wrong forum. In HBD blog sphere everything is caused by genes. Everything!

It still is "caused by genes."

It just might be that those "genes" reside somewhere else - in some kind of pathogen.

rob said...

I'd be interested (I guess that's code for too lazy/can't figure out how to do it myself) in seeing developmental disorder frequency at say, age 5 vs. infant mortality rate delayed by five years.

I've have never seen, in pop science or the HBPshere, any mention of selection in autism. But with an autism rate of ~1%, and way more than 1% of children dying by age 5, there's been tons of room for selection against "autism" for most of human history, right up to modern times.

As far as I can tell, and I've mostly read reviews, not the original articles, basically none of the research on epigenetics in people considers that changes in the differential death rate in utero and early childhood could explain that for eg. a study of adults who were in utero during the ww2 starvation in the Netherlands concluded there was an epigenetic effect from maternal diet: the hungry moms' kids were healthier. They didn't check, but it is possible that hungry moms spontaneously aborted moms marginal fetuses, who didn't grow up to be marginal, troubled adults. With infectious diseases not culling every generation, gene combos that were pretty rare before can get common fast. It is interesting that parents with autistic kids often notice immune and GI {inflammation) symptoms.

Schizophrenia is probably like that too: the majority of schizophrenics are the first in the family to maybe 3 degrees, but don't quote me. There's no gene that breaks that often. If schizophrenia were a frequent failure mode of the brain, then having lots of slightly defective genes could put people over the cliff pretty often. This theory predicts that schizophrenics tend to be from families with high mutational load, and they will tend to have higher genetic load than their nearest relatives.

corvinus said...

I read something on the internet that blamed the use of vaccines made from aborted human embryos for autism.

Have you noticed how the hue and cry about embryonic stem cell research has died down? Apparently, embryonic stem cell research has horrible side effects (such as cancer in one Israeli study) and adult stem cells work just as well.

If big pharma is using aborted babies to make vaccines, it wouldn't be surprise that weird things like autism result.

Dunnyveg said...

"1.) Pathogens are passed back and forth among family members--it's not a surprise when things "run in families" even if there are genetic mutations passed from one generation to another"

Anon, anything is possible, but in this case highly unlikely. What are the chances that both of my parents, living in opposite ends of the country, contracted the same pathogens at the same time?

This would have to be the case, as all ASD (autism spectrum disorders) manifest themselves in childhood, and generally don't ameliorate in later life.

I'm NOT ruling out environmental causes at all, but merely noting that genetics does play a role. According to AS expert Tony Attwood, the forebears of aspie children tend to be engineers and scientists, especially computer geeks in much larger numbers than is seen in the normal population.

Nor do I buy the line that we've only become better at diagnosing these ASD's. I run a public library and have a kid with severe autism come in several times a week to shelve books. He's a nice kid, but this is about all he's capable of doing. What I'm getting at is that AS can be ignored, if not hidden. Regular autism cannot. If it had been as common in the past as it is now, it would've been noticed.

Dunnyveg said...

"If big pharma is using aborted babies to make vaccines, it wouldn't be surprise that weird things like autism result."

Corvinus, unless you are prepared to argue that the practice you describe above is hundreds of years old, it fails to account for people who exhibited AS symptoms centuries ago. I wouldn't presume to claim definitively that Einstein and Beethoven were fellow aspies, but the circumstantial evidence is very strong.

A minor digression: It was Nietzsche who said: "Be careful lest in casting out demons that you don't cast out the very best thing that's in you. This is definitely true of AS. The primary characteristic of AS is notable social deficits, which is a terrible curse in a hyper-social species such as ours. The good side is that we are not susceptible to social pressures either, which make cattle look like rugged individualists. It's not a problem for us to "think outside the box". We're not intuitively aware that such a box exists.

Anonymous said...

"Anon, anything is possible, but in this case highly unlikely. What are the chances that both of my parents, living in opposite ends of the country, contracted the same pathogens at the same time?"

Dunnyveg,

It's not uncommon for low IQs to wind up together, for high IQs to do the same, for the super-athlete to marry the beautiful cheerleader, for nerds to marry nerds, for the very socially successful to pair up, and on and on.

You know, birds of a feather stuff?

So, their children will lack a bit of diversity in certain traits with such pairings, no?

After I read about PANDAS years ago, I can believe just about anything when it comes to the power infectious agents to affect personality.

Dunnyveg said...

"You know, birds of a feather stuff?"

Anon, are you not referring to what Rushton calls assortative mating? I've never heard anybody suggest that we're attracted to a mate based on the pathogens they carry. Pheromones, yes. But pathogens? Since I find this claim implausible, I remain to be convinced.

As Mencken would say, just because a rose smells better than a cabbage does not mean it will make better soup. Every theory has its limits, and I think you've found them. I will also say I would be delighted to be proved wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Anon, are you not referring to what Rushton calls assortative mating? I've never heard anybody suggest that we're attracted to a mate based on the pathogens they carry.'

No, dammit.

I *am* suggesting that just because your mother and father were both Aspies doesn't mean it's their genes that were responsible for the development of the traits we associate with AS.

I AM suggesting that it's very possible, in fact, likely, that something in the environment is reponsible for both your mother and your father (who, as you say, came from different parts of the country)developing AS traits. And, where'd you get the notion that I suggested that they'd have to have "contracted the pathogens at the same time"?

Your mother's and father's AS traits may have resulted from exposure to some common pathogen that had an effect on their brain development neonatally, in early childhood, or in the womb. Surely it comes as no surprise to you that kids from all over the world are exposed to things like the measles, chicken pox, herpes viruses, polio virus, RSV, and on and on and on?

The "birds of a feather" remark meant that your dad and your mother, both lacking certain social traits common to most people, weren't going to be attractive to non-Aspies. They found each other. They were attracted to one another. Voila=birds of a feather.

You may be an Aspie because you have the same genetic tendencies that left you susceptible to a pathogen that would never trigger such traits in someone else.

So, yeah, genes+environment=AS, but w/out the trigger, your genes would be no problem.

David Davenport said...

Autism experts skeptical of study linking disorder to environment

Read more: Autism experts skeptical of study linking disorder to environment - FierceBiotech Research http://www.fiercebiotechresearch.com/story/autism-experts-skeptical-study-linking-disorder-environment/2011-07-04#ixzz1RNjSXUfs
Subscribe: http://www.fiercebiotechresearch.com/signup?sourceform=Viral-Tynt-FierceBiotech Research-FierceBiotech Research

Autism experts skeptical of study linking disorder to environment

July 4, 2011 — 11:45pm ET | By Howard Lovy


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Out of all the news organizations that covered the latest study on autism--this one linking it to environmental rather than purely genetic factors--the Los Angeles Times is one of the few to include extreme skepticism from other autism experts about the study's conclusions.

Here's what was found. First, the autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks--which is already predisposed to finding environmental factors in autism's cause--partially funded the research, appearing in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. The study suggests genetic factors account for 38 percent of the risk associated with autism spectrum disorders, while environmental factors during pregnancy and perhaps early infancy account for 58 percent of the risk. The research was based on a study of 192 pairs of twins, both identical and non-identical, where at least one of the twins in the pair had autism. The conclusions fly in the face of decades of previous research that said genetic inheritance is the biggest factor in determining a child's risk of autism.




Read more: Autism experts skeptical of study linking disorder to environment - FierceBiotech Research http://www.fiercebiotechresearch.com/story/autism-experts-skeptical-study-linking-disorder-environment/2011-07-04#ixzz1RNisxf2v
Subscribe: http://www.fiercebiotechresearch.com/signup?sourceform=Viral-Tynt-FierceBiotech Research-FierceBiotech Research

...

Despite this study, most autism experts believe that there is no one "smoking gun," and that a number of smaller factors contribute to a child developing autism spectrum disorders. One of those smaller factors appears elsewhere in the same psychiatric journal. It found that women who took antidepressants anytime during the year before delivery, her child's risk of autism doubled. During the first trimester, the risk tripled. Here, though, researchers cautioned not to jump to too many conclusions based on this first-ever study linking antidepressants to autism. All it means, the researchers say, is that more studies need to be done to rule out other factors.

Read more: Autism experts skeptical of study linking disorder to environment - FierceBiotech Research http://www.fiercebiotechresearch.com/story/autism-experts-skeptical-study-linking-disorder-environment/2011-07-04#ixzz1RNiiAIs5
Subscribe: http://www.fiercebiotechresearch.com/signup?sourceform=Viral-Tynt-FierceBiotech Research-FierceBiotech Research


I got this link from Instapundit.com

David Davenport said...

The common factor both in the original autism cases and the subsequent explosion of PSD is immunizations.

Retracted autism study an 'elaborate fraud,' British journal finds
By the CNN Wire Staff

January 5, 2011 8:14 p.m. EST

CNN) -- A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible.

"It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data."

Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license in May. "Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession," BMJ states in an editorial accompanying the work.

...

A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud"

Dunnyveg said...

Anon, do you think any pathogen can cause ASD's? If not, which specific pathogens are you referring to? If you don't know, then doesn't that negate your theory until you can produce evidence one way or the other? Don't you need evidence? And would ASD's be far more prevalent in Third World countries where these infectious diseases are far more common? How about children who have been inoculated against the maladies you mention? How about if ASD's can be traced back in a lineage many generations?

As far as mating affinity goes, assortative mating is valid, but hardly absolute. If we are smart, we also look for a mate who can compensate for our weaknesses.

For this reason, aspies tend not to get along. Think about it. Getting along is a social activity. So, when two people who are difficult to get along with meet, they likely won't get along with each other either. Most aspies who are married have a mate with excellent social skills. I'm not married, but my girlfriend does have excellent social skills. We complement each other's strengths and weaknesses.

It is true that more of the autistic are pairing up today, but this is because of the "aspie-rights" movements. See here:

http://www.wrongplanet.net/

The problem is that two autistic parents have children who are profoundly autistic. It's nothing more than leftwing agitation, and it's proof that the left doesn't care who they hurt.

Dutch Boy said...

BMJ Admits Competing Commercial Interests in Wakefield Attacks Warranted Disclosure
British Medical Journal’s editor has been forced into an embarrassing admission that the journal should have disclosed connections with MMR manufacturers Merck and GSK when publishing attacks on the integrity of Andrew Wakefield in January [surprise, surprise]!
http://www.ageofautism.com/2011/03/bmj-admits-competing-commercial-interests-in-wakefield-attacks-warranted-disclosure.html

Dutch Boy said...

Last year, Dr Peter Fletcher, formerly Chief Scientific Officer at the Department of Health [UK], accused the government of 'utterly inexplicable complacency' over MMR. (HERE) “As an expert witness for parents who believe their children were vaccine-damaged, Dr Fletcher studied thousands of documents.

“He has seen 'a steady accumulation of evidence' from scientists worldwide that the triple jab is causing brain damage in certain children.

Dutch Boy said...

In 2008, the following groups and individuals have advocated, or at least considered, further study of a possible vaccine-autism connection:

1) Presidenti-Elect Barack Obama,
2) Sen. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State Designee
3) Sen. John McCain, Senior Senator from Arizona and pivotal minority vote
4) Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of the CDC
5) Dr. Bernadine Healy, Former Director of the NIH and President of the American Red Cross
6) Rep. Brad Miller, (D-NC), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the House Committee on Science and Technology
7) Members of the HHS Vaccine Safety Working Group
8) Officials at the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office who drafted the federal vaccine safety research agenda, the National Vaccine Plan
9) Medical personnel at the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program of HHS, who ordered federal compensation to Hannah Poling for her vaccine-associated autism.
10) Members of the CDC’s Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Network (CISA)
11) America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the national association representing nearly 1,300 companies covering more than 200 million Americans
12) Research grant making officials at Autism Speaks
13) Dr. Douglas Wallace, Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of California, Irvine, Director of the UCI Center for Molecular and Mitochondrial Medicine in Genetics, and member of the Scientific & Medical Advisory Board of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation
14) Dr. Peter Fletcher, former Chief Scientific Officer at the UK Department of Health
15) Dr. Jon Poling, prominent neurologist and father to Hannah Poling
16) Dr. Isaac Pessah, Professor and Chair, VM: Molecular Biosciences,
Director, Center for Children’s Environmental Health, University of California, Davis, and member of the Strategic Planning Workgroup for Autism Spectrum Disorders of the federal Inter-Agency Autism Committee (IACC).
17) Dr. Martha Herbert, Assistant Professor, Pediatric Neurology Director, Transcend Research Program, Harvard Medical School, and member of the Strategic Planning Workgroup for Autism Spectrum Disorders of the federal Inter-Agency Autism Committee (IACC).
18) Dr. Geraldine Dawson, Chief Science Officer, Autism Speaks, and member of the Strategic Planning Workgroup for Autism Spectrum Disorders of the federal Inter-Agency Autism Committee (IACC).
19) Dr. Jacqueline R. Weissman, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
20) Dr. Richard I. Kelley, Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University Medical Center and Division of Metabolism, Kennedy Krieger Institute
21) Dr. Margaret L. Bauman, Department of Pediatrics and Learning and Developmental Disabilities Evaluation and Rehabilitation Services (LADDERS), Massachusetts General Hospital
22) Dr. Bruce H. Cohen, Neurological Institute and Pediatrics Institute, Cleveland Clinic
23) Dr. Katherine F. Murray, Genomic Department of Pediatrics and Learning and Developmental Disabilities Evaluation and Rehabilitation Services (LADDERS), Massachusetts General Hospital
24) Dr. Rebecca L. Mitchell, Genomic Medicine Institute, Cleveland Clinic
25) Dr. Rebecca L. Kern, Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University Medical Center and Division of Metabolism, Kennedy Krieger Institute
26) Dr. Marvin R. Natowicz, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine

“HONORARY MEMBER”:

HHS Secretary Designee Tom Daschel, who said in November of 2002: “Mercury-based vaccine preservatives actually have caused autism in children.”

Dutch Boy said...

According to Dr. Peter Fletcher, former Chief Science Advisor for the UK Department of Health, on the MMR vaccine, a major suspect in autism causation:
"There are very powerful people in positions of great authority in Britain and elsewhere who have staked their reputations and careers on the safety of MMR and they are willing to do almost anything to protect themselves."
"It is entirely possible that the immune systems of a small minority simply cannot cope with the challenge of the three live viruses in the MMR jab, and the ever-increasing vaccine load in general."
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-376203/Former-science-chief-MMR-fears-coming-true.htm