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April 2, 2009, 5:11 AM CT

A sweeping new theory for autism

A sweeping new theory for autism
Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have proposed a sweeping new theory of autism that suggests that the brains of people with autism are structurally normal but dysregulated, meaning symptoms of the disorder might be reversible.

The central tenet of the theory, reported in the recent issue of Brain Research Reviews, is that autism is a developmental disorder caused by impaired regulation of the locus coeruleus, a bundle of neurons in the brain stem that processes sensory signals from all areas of the body.

The new theory stems from decades of anecdotal observations that some autistic children seem to improve when they have a fever, only to regress when the fever ebbs. A 2007 study in the journal Pediatrics took a more rigorous look at fever and autism, observing autistic children during and after fever episodes and comparing their behavior with autistic children who didn't have fevers. This study documented that autistic children experience behavior changes during fever.

"On a positive note, we are talking about a brain region that is not irrevocably altered. It gives us hope that, with novel therapies, we will eventually be able to help people with autism," says theory co-author Mark F. Mehler, M.D., chairman of neurology and director of the Institute for Brain Disorders and Neural Regeneration at Einstein.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


April 2, 2009, 4:56 AM CT

Autism stress hormone level Link

Autism stress hormone level Link
Some of the symptoms of the autistic condition Asperger Syndrome, such as a need for routine and resistance to change, could be associated with levels of the stress hormone cortisol, suggests new research led by the University of Bath.

Normally, people have a surge of this hormone shortly after waking, with levels gradually decreasing throughout the day. It is thought this surge makes the brain alert, preparing the body for the day and helping the person to be aware of changes happening around them.

However, a study led by Dr Mark Brosnan and Dr Julie Turner-Cobb from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, and Dr David Jessop from the University of Bristol, has observed that children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) do not experience this surge.

The scientists believe these findings may help to explain why individuals with this condition have difficulties with minor changes to their routine or changes in their environment.

The study has been reported in the peer-evaluated journal Psychoneuroendocrinology

Dr Brosnan explained: "Cortisol is one of a family of stress hormones that acts like a 'red alert' that is triggered by stressful situations allowing a person to react quickly to changes around them.

"In most people, there is a two hundred percent increase in levels of this hormone within 30 minutes of waking up, with levels gradually declining during the day as part of the internal body clock.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 31, 2009, 5:30 AM CT

Is time of conception linked to birth defects?

Is time of conception linked to birth defects?
A study reported in the April 2009 issue of the medical journal Acta Pdiatrica is the first to report that birth defect rates in the United States were highest for women conceiving in the spring and summer. The scientists also observed that this period of increase risk correlated with increased levels of pesticides in surface water across the United States.

Studying all 30.1 million births which occurred in the U.S. between 1996 and 2002, the scientists found a strong association between the increased number of birth defects in children of women whose last menstrual period occurred in April, May, June or July and elevated levels of nitrates, atrazine and other pesticides in surface water during the same months. While a number of of these chemicals, including the herbicide atrazine which is banned in European countries but permitted in the U.S., are suspected to be harmful to the developing embryo, this is the first study to link their increased seasonal concentration in surface water with the peak in birth defects in infants conceived in the same months.

The connection between the month of last menstrual period and higher rates of birth defects was statistically significant for half of the 22 categories of birth defects reported in a Centers for Disease Control database from 1996 to 2002 including spina bifida, cleft lip, clubfoot and Down's syndrome.........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


March 30, 2009, 5:28 AM CT

How autism skews developing brain?

How autism skews developing brain?
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) tend to stare at people's mouths rather than their eyes. Now, an NIH-funded study in 2-year-olds with the social deficit disorder suggests why they might find mouths so attractive: lip-syncthe exact match of lip motion and speech sound. Such audiovisual synchrony preoccupied toddlers who have autism, while their unaffected peers focused on socially meaningful movements of the human body, such as gestures and facial expressions.

"Typically developing children pay special attention to human movement from very early in life, within days of being born. But in children with autism, even as old as two years, we saw no evidence of this," explained Ami Klin, Ph.D., of the Yale Child Study Center, who led the research. "Toddlers with autism are missing rich social information imparted by these cues, and this is likely to adversely affect the course of their development."

Klin, Warren Jones, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Yale, report the findings of their study, funded in part by the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Mental Health, online March 29, 2009 in the journal Nature

For the first time, this study has pinpointed what grabs the attention of toddlers with ASDs," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. "In addition to potential uses in screening for early diagnosis, this line of research holds promise for development of new therapies based on redirecting visual attention in children with these disorders."........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 30, 2009, 5:05 AM CT

Infant weight gain linked to childhood obesity

Infant weight gain linked to childhood obesity
As childhood obesity continues its thirty-year advance from occasional curiosity to cultural epidemic, health care providers are struggling to find out whyand the reasons are a number of. Increasingly sedentary environments for both adults and children, as well as cheap and ubiquitous processed foods no doubt play a role, but scientists are finding more evidence that the first clues for childhood obesity appears to begin as far back as early infancy.

A newly released study led by scientists in the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, as well as Children's Hospital Boston, has observed that rapid weight gain during the first six months of life may place a child at risk for obesity by age 3.

"There is increasing evidence that rapid changes in weight during infancy increase children's risk of later obesity," says main author Elsie Taveras, assistant professor in the HMS Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention and co-director of the One Step Ahead clinic, a pediatric overweight prevention program at Children's Hospital Boston. "The mounting evidence suggests that infancy appears to be a critical period during which to prevent childhood obesity and its related consequences."

These findings are reported in the April edition of the journal Pediatrics........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 19, 2009, 5:19 AM CT

Longer bouts of exercise to prevent childhood obesity

Longer bouts of exercise to prevent childhood obesity
Kinesiology and Health Studies professor Ian Janssen
Photo by Stephen Wild
Children who exercise in bouts of activity lasting five minutes or longer are less likely to become obese than those whose activity levels are more sporadic and typically last less than five minutes each, Queen's University scientists have discovered.

Led by Kinesiology and Health Studies professor Ian Janssen, the newly released study supports Canada's Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Youth, which call for children to accumulate at least 90 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity over the course of the day, in bouts of at least five to 10 minutes' duration. Until now there has been no scientific evidence to support the recommendation of sustained, rather than sporadic exercise.

"Even in 60-minute physical education classes or team practices, children are inactive for a large portion of the time and this would not necessarily count as sustained exercise," says Dr. Janssen. "When children engage in longer periods of sustained physical activity, there is a smaller likelihood that they will be overweight or obese." .

The findings are reported in the recent issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Conducted by Dr. Janssen and graduate student Amy Mark, the study analyzed data from 2,498 youth aged eight to 17, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Sporadic (one to four minutes), short (five to nine minutes) and medium-to-long (10 minutes and longer) bouts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity were measured using motion sensors. Participants' body mass index (BMI) was used to classify them as normal weight or obese.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 12, 2009, 0:24 AM CT

Learning difficulties for extremely premature children

Learning difficulties for extremely premature children
Children born extremely prematurely are at high risk of developing learning difficulties by the time they reach the age of 11.

A study carried out by the University of Warwick, in collaboration with University College London and the University of Nottingham, showed almost two thirds of children born extremely prematurely require additional support at school.

Extremely premature refers to children who are born below 26 weeks gestation.

Scientists looked at 307 extremely preterm children born in the UK and Ireland in 1995. 219 were re-assessed at 11 years of age and in comparison to 153 classmates born at term.

The scientists found extremely preterm children had significantly lower reading and maths scores than classmates. Also extremely preterm boys were more likely to have more serious impairments than girls.

This study, published recently (10) in the Archives of Disease in Childhood Fetal Neonatal Edition , is the latest report from the EPICure study group. This group has produced two prior papers examining the children at aged two and a half and six years old.

Overall, just under half of the extremely premature children have serious disabilities, such as learning difficulties, cerebral palsy and impaired vision or hearing.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 5, 2009, 6:13 AM CT

Childhood obsessive symptoms and OCD

Childhood obsessive symptoms and OCD
A research group led Miguel ngel Fullana, researcher at the Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine, psychology expert the Institute of Psychiatric Treatment of Hospital de Mar in Barcelona and researcher at King's College Institute of Psychiatry, London, has carried out a first study which connects the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive rituals in childhood with the risk of developing an obsessive-compulsive disorder as adults. One of the main conclusions of the study is that children who repeatedly manifest having obsessions and compulsions notably increase their risk of suffering from a disorder during the later part of life.

The research used data from the Dunedin Study which has been carried out with citizens of Dunedin, New Zealand since 1973. It is the only place in the world where a long-term follow-up of different psychological variables has taken place from childhood to adulthood with a sample of one thousand people. Scientists assessed the evolution of two variables in participants at ages 11, 26 and 32: the repeated presence of obsessive ideas (e.g. recurrent and undesired thoughts to harm others) and compulsive rituals (a need to wash their hands constantly, to check up on small everyday tasks to prevent harm or repeatedly carrying out activities that seem meaningless, etc.).........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 3, 2009, 6:13 AM CT

TV viewing before the age of 2

TV viewing before the age of 2
A longitudinal study of infants from birth to age 3 showed TV viewing before the age of 2 does not improve a child's language and visual motor skills, as per research conducted at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School. The findings, reported in the recent issue of Pediatrics, reaffirm current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that recommend no television under the age of 2, and suggest that maternal, child, and household characteristics are more influential in a child's cognitive development.

"Contrary to marketing claims and some parents' perception that television viewing is beneficial to children's brain development, no evidence of such benefit was found," says Marie Evans Schmidt, PhD, main author of the study.

The study analyzed data of 872 children from Project Viva, a prospective cohort study of mothers and their children. In-person visits with both mothers and infants were performed immediately after birth, at 6 months, and 3 years of age while mothers completed mail-in questionnaires regarding their child's TV viewing habits when they were 1 and 2 years old. It was conducted by scientists in the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's and the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


February 20, 2009, 6:10 AM CT

Alleviating your child's fears of dental visit

Alleviating your child's fears of dental visit
For a number of children, a trip to the doctor or dentist is a stressful experience. The sensory environment (i.e., the sounds, smells, and lights linked to the clinical setting) can cause a child's anxiety levels to rise. This is particularly true in children with developmental disabilities who may have difficulty understanding the unfamiliar clinical environment. A newly released study soon to be published in The Journal of Pediatrics explores the relationship between the sensory environment and anxiety levels in children.

Dr. Michele Shapiro of the Issie Shapiro Educational Center and his colleagues from Hebrew University in Israel studied the effects of the sensory environment on a child's anxiety levels during two separate routine cleaning visits to the dentist. The scientists observed 35 children between the ages of 6-11 years, 16 of whom were developmentally disabled. They measured the anxiety levels of the children during each visit using a behavior checklist and monitored each child's electro-dermal activity, an objective measure of arousal.

The first trip included the typical sensory experiences of a dental office, including fluorescent lighting and the use of an overhead dental lamp. During the second trip, however, the scientists created a sensory adapted environment that modified the experience of the children. No overhead lighting was used, a slow moving repetitive color lamp was added, and the dental hygienist wore a special LED headlamp that directed the light into the child's mouth. The children listened to soothing music and were wrapped in a heavy vest that created a "hugging" effect. The dental chair itself was also modified to produce a vibration.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Adolescents who suffer physical injuries are vulnerable to emotional distress in the months following their hospitalization, yet almost 40 percent of hospitalized adolescents interviewed for a new study had no source for the follow-up medical care that could diagnose and treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress. These young trauma survivors are at risk for high levels of post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, as well as high levels of alcohol use, according to research by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.

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