Neurotransmitter in the brain linked with autism

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Varelse
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17 Dec 2015, 1:02 pm

For first time, neurotransmitter in the brain linked with autistic behavior

It is reassuring that these researchers stress the complexity of neurotransmitter activity in the brain, and are careful to emphasize that this is just one more breakthrough, not 'the' explanation.



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17 Dec 2015, 1:36 pm

I'll add it to my list of autism "links".


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cathylynn
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17 Dec 2015, 1:51 pm

interesting



goatfish57
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17 Dec 2015, 3:48 pm

Thanks for the link, it is an interesting article


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17 Dec 2015, 6:38 pm

Varelse wrote:
For first time, neurotransmitter in the brain linked with autistic behavior

It is reassuring that these researchers stress the complexity of neurotransmitter activity in the brain, and are careful to emphasize that this is just one more breakthrough, not 'the' explanation.



GABA - Glutamate imbalances are implicated in a host of mental and developmental disorders, including ADHD and autism, so this study isn't anything new (IMO). A lot of "bio-med" parents in the autism / ADHD community dose their kids up with GABA, because GABA supposedly calms children down and "controls" ADHD symptoms. I always cringe when I read these claims because --- as with anything else in the human body --- a delicate homeostasis also exists in the brain, and messing with the GABA (in hopes of "controlling" the glutamate on the opposite end of the seesaw) cannot bring any good in the long run. But quacks, "DAN" doctors and my neighbour's grandmother all believe that GABA is some miracle stuff and encourage me to liberally dose my baby with it (in addition to shooting oxytocin up his nostrils to help him become more "social").

My son had a lumbar puncture performed a year ago. All of his neurotransmitter levels are "normal", including GABA (although I was pushing my neuro to do the test because I was more worried about his glutamate levels), but despite the "normal" results returned, my son is still severely autistic. In fact, all tests ever done on him (except his EEG) have been / are normal, although he is anything but.

The EEG abnormality is especially questionable for me given his glutamate readings -- which are usually not normal in children with epilepsy (however mild).

Neurochemistry is damned complex. I believe that it will be at least another 25 years before we have a clear picture on what causes autism and if there's any help for these issues at all, whatsoever. This study is but a start.


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Varelse
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17 Dec 2015, 6:48 pm

HisMom wrote:
Neurochemistry is damned complex. I believe that it will be at least another 25 years before we have a clear picture on what causes autism and if there's any help for these issues at all, whatsoever. This study is but a start.

I totally agree, and in fact I am beginning to believe that even that timeline is optimistic.



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17 Dec 2015, 7:10 pm

I'd prefer a cause and cure for depression, really. The serotonin hypothesis is obviously not the complete answer, and you'd think a somewhat ephemeral thing like a depressive episode would be comparatively easy to study.
So, yes, one more for the statistical links list.


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17 Dec 2015, 7:53 pm

shlaifu wrote:
I'd prefer a cause and cure for depression, really. The serotonin hypothesis is obviously not the complete answer, and you'd think a somewhat ephemeral thing like a depressive episode would be comparatively easy to study.
So, yes, one more for the statistical links list.


I think very often when it comes to mood disorders like depression, there is a psychological as well as physiological component to the disease; I think it's also why many people suffering from anxiety and depression turn to substance abuse, to self-medicate when actual pharmaceutical medication from the doctor doesn't work. If you only address the physiological aspect with medication and you fail to address the psychological component (intrusive thought patterns, behavioural contributions like focusing on the negative aspect of things, etc) you're going to get mixed/unsatisfactory results. Ultimately, with the help of meds, the ideal treatment for depression/anxiety is to get to a place medically (through self-care like eating and sleeping well and exercising and also through pharmaceutical intervention where appropriate) where one is stable enough to address the psychological contributions to one's disorder with some kind of talk or behavioural therapy. I think it is extremely rare to have a mood disorder develop in someone completely based on disordered brain chemistry with no influence from environmental stressors or psychological trauma of some kind--there is almost always a psychological component to the disease.



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17 Dec 2015, 10:23 pm

Hm, this might just be more than the "autism cause" theory of the week.


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17 Dec 2015, 10:42 pm

Question, please: How does this imply a mechanism of autism itself, rather than the mechanism behind a correlating symptom of autism, that of a person being highly sensitive/unable to filter stimulus?


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Varelse
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18 Dec 2015, 1:19 pm

Edenthiel wrote:
Question, please: How does this imply a mechanism of autism itself, rather than the mechanism behind a correlating symptom of autism, that of a person being highly sensitive/unable to filter stimulus?

It looks to me as if the researchers understand this to be a correlating symptom which may present itself earlier than other diagnostic criteria.

"If these findings hold true in children as well as adults...right now we cannot diagnose autism in children who cannot speak, but that's when early intervention would be most effective," she continued. "But before children can talk they can see, so we may be able to use this type of visual task to screen children and see if there's something imbalanced in their brain."

The results may not point directly to a cure or treatment for symptoms of autism, but I am encouraged by their caution, and the care with which they emphasize the complexity of the brain. I have seen so many other bold, incautious, reductionist claims that have left me very concerned about the influence of the study. These people, in my view, are behaving as I would hope all researchers would (ethically and responsibly reporting their findings). It was noted by HisMom that GABA has already been linked with autism by other research. The article does acknowledge that, however, the research was in animal models. This research was done with human adults diagnosed with autism, and non-autistic controls. That is why the researchers refer to it as a "first".



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18 Dec 2015, 2:51 pm

Interesting, thanks for sharing.



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18 Dec 2015, 3:43 pm

I forgot to mention that GABA is not, unfortunately, the first neurotransmitter to be implicated in autism. That dubious distinction goes to Oxytocin, which has been suspected to have a role in the impaired social functioning of the autistic brain. There are quite a few studies researching this now, including one at Stanford that is examining the roles of both oxytocin and it's precursor, vasopressin, in social functioning in autism. I am in touch with the lead investigator of both studies, and my son will probably be participating in the oxytocin one. We'll see.

As an aside, my son was past his due date, and showed no sign of emerging, so we had to evict him. Guess what was used to induce my labour with him ? Yep... the old faithful oxytocin. And what should make the rounds recently in that forum of autism moms that I devotedly follow ? Yes, again... supposedly mothers whose labours were induced by oxytocin were more likely to have children with autism. Allegedly, by some unknown mechanism, pitocin causes otherwise full-term babies to develop autism. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and these mothers are on a witch hunt, looking desperately for what caused their offspring to develop a developmental disability after a picture perfect pregnancy.

But for me, this "theory" is just one more thing, in a long list of things, for me to feel guilty about where my little boy is concerned. :roll: :roll:


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Varelse
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19 Dec 2015, 1:17 pm

HisMom wrote:
But for me, this "theory" is just one more thing, in a long list of things, for me to feel guilty about where my little boy is concerned. :roll: :roll:

There is nothing quite like guilt where you could not possibly have been at fault, is there?

And unjustified guilt is a lot like an infestation of roaches:

1) The most extreme measures fail to eradicate it
2) You can think you've won until you turn on the light or open a cupboard door and out they come
3) People are more likely to judge and blame you for having the problem than they are to empathize (unless they've had this problem themselves)
4) Others who haven't ever experienced this are often the most overconfident when it comes to advice on how to 'eliminate' the problem

I regret that this is your battle, and I hope in some small way to be of support, or at least to avoid making things more difficult.

Research is needed and wanted to protect future populations against increased risk, it is desired in order to better understand the contributing factors, but we need to remember to be cautious, empathetic and compassionate toward all who have had to make their critical life choices before the knowledge was confirmed and widely accepted. We definitely should avoid jumping to conclusions about the meaning of results from one or two studies, especially those conducted on nonhuman animal models.



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19 Dec 2015, 3:49 pm

Just to point out: GABA & Oxytocin affect each others' action in exceedingly complex ways. And that co-regulation ties in with a number of *other* neurotransmitters. Endocrinologists are just figuring out that just like a dynamic network of neurons, so act our brain's neurotransmitters. So it's exceedingly unlikely that any one neurotransmitter is to "blame"; they are best thought of as a giant soup of co-regulators, each affecting the others and the firing or inhibiting of individual neurons.

And as far as brain development goes, well, it's been an Aspie special interest of mine for about eight years now. And it seems that all the easy discoveries - the ones where a researcher can make a simple, 1:1 correlation of cause and effect - are long picked over, by decades in fact. The state of the science now is in recognizing that minute quantities of various hormones and 'transmitters during really limited windows of time are what determine much of neuro-development.

I'm not looking for causes or blames. But having experienced a reduction in the disabling severity of some of the worst symptoms after working with an endocrinologist, I recognize how much potential such research can have. Not to prevent us from existing, but to allow us to enjoy being ourselves, as unique, productive individuals who happen to live near one end of the human spectrum.


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19 Dec 2015, 4:10 pm

Varelse wrote:
I regret that this is your battle, and I hope in some small way to be of support, or at least to avoid making things more difficult.

Research is needed and wanted to protect future populations against increased risk, it is desired in order to better understand the contributing factors, but we need to remember to be cautious, empathetic and compassionate toward all who have had to make their critical life choices before the knowledge was confirmed and widely accepted. We definitely should avoid jumping to conclusions about the meaning of results from one or two studies, especially those conducted on nonhuman animal models.


Than you, Varelse.

Neurochemistry is very very complex. I think these preliminary studies are the setting the stages for more advanced studies to happen over the next several decades.

While I get the argument that non-human animal models may not accurately reflect human neurochemistry, the fact remains that many non-human animal studies have been precursors to studies on human subjects, and results from non-human animal studies are more likely (than not) to be valid and reproducible when applied to human models.


Edenthiel wrote:
And as far as brain development goes, well, it's been an Aspie special interest of mine for about eight years now. And it seems that all the easy discoveries - the ones where a researcher can make a simple, 1:1 correlation of cause and effect - are long picked over, by decades in fact. The state of the science now is in recognizing that minute quantities of various hormones and 'transmitters during really limited windows of time are what determine much of neuro-development.


Then, I hope, for my son's sake, that the science is wrong. If this were true, it fills me with dread for my son's prognosis as I've stubbornly held on to the belief / hope that there is no such thing as a "magical window of opportunity during which brain development must happen or else....."

Edenthiel wrote:
I'm not looking for causes or blames. But having experienced a reduction in the disabling severity of some of the worst symptoms after working with an endocrinologist, I recognize how much potential such research can have.


Edenthiel, are you referring to the symptoms of autism ? If so, then I'd be interested in learning more and very grateful to you for any help you can give me in this matter -- I don't know how to help my son and your feedback would help a lot. Thanks in advance !


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That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.
At least I'm sure it may be so in "Denmark".

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