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Fri Mar 14, 2014, 12:46 PM

"Environmental, State-Level Regulatory Factors Affect Incidence of Autism & Intellectual Disability"


Environmental and State-Level Regulatory Factors Affect the Incidence of Autism and Intellectual Disability

Andrey Rzhetsky, Steven C. Bagley, Kanix Wang, Christopher S. Lyttle, Edwin H. Cook Jr, Russ B. Altman, Robert D. Gibbons
Published: March 13, 2014DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003518


Many factors affect the risks for neurodevelopmental maladies such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID). To compare environmental, phenotypic, socioeconomic and state-policy factors in a unified geospatial framework, we analyzed the spatial incidence patterns of ASD and ID using an insurance claims dataset covering nearly one third of the US population. Following epidemiologic evidence, we used the rate of congenital malformations of the reproductive system as a surrogate for environmental exposure of parents to unmeasured developmental risk factors, including toxins. Adjusted for gender, ethnic, socioeconomic, and geopolitical factors, the ASD incidence rates were strongly linked to population-normalized rates of congenital malformations of the reproductive system in males (an increase in ASD incidence by 283% for every percent increase in incidence of malformations, 95% CI: [91%, 576%], p<6×10−5). Such congenital malformations were barely significant for ID (94% increase, 95% CI: [1%, 250%], p = 0.0384). Other congenital malformations in males (excluding those affecting the reproductive system) appeared to significantly affect both phenotypes: 31.8% ASD rate increase (CI: [12%, 52%], p<6×10−5), and 43% ID rate increase (CI: [23%, 67%], p<6×10−5). Furthermore, the state-mandated rigor of diagnosis of ASD by a pediatrician or clinician for consideration in the special education system was predictive of a considerable decrease in ASD and ID incidence rates (98.6%, CI: [28%, 99.99%], p = 0.02475 and 99% CI: [68%, 99.99%], p = 0.00637 respectively). Thus, the observed spatial variability of both ID and ASD rates is associated with environmental and state-level regulatory factors; the magnitude of influence of compound environmental predictors was approximately three times greater than that of state-level incentives. The estimated county-level random effects exhibited marked spatial clustering, strongly indicating existence of as yet unidentified localized factors driving apparent disease incidence. Finally, we found that the rates of ASD and ID at the county level were weakly but significantly correlated (Pearson product-moment correlation 0.0589, p = 0.00101), while for females the correlation was much stronger (0.197, p<2.26×10−16).

Author Summary

Disease clusters are defined as geographically compact areas where a particular disease, such as a cancer, shows a significantly increased rate. It is presently unclear how common such clusters are for neurodevelopmental maladies, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID). In this study, examining data for one third of the whole US population, the authors show that (1) ASD and ID display strong clustering across US counties; (2) counties with high ASD rates also appear to have high ID rates, and (3) the spatial variation of both phenotypes appears to be driven by environmental, and, to a lesser extent, economic incentives at the state level.


Citation: Rzhetsky A, Bagley SC, Wang K, Lyttle CS, Cook EH Jr, et al. (2014) Environmental and State-Level Regulatory Factors Affect the Incidence of Autism and Intellectual Disability. PLoS Comput Biol 10(3): e1003518. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003518

Received: September 25, 2013; Accepted: February 1, 2014; Published: March 13, 2014


More Evidence Environmental Exposures Contribute to Autism
Where birth defects increased, so did diagnoses of the developmental disorder, study showed

Thursday, March 13, 2014

THURSDAY, March 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A large U.S. study suggests environmental pollution might be contributing to autism risk, although the specific culprit toxins remain unknown.

Researchers analyzed medical records and found a correlation between U.S. counties' autism rates and their rates of genital birth defects in boys, which could be a sign of some common environmental contributors.

However, the findings, which were reported March 13 in the journal PLoS Computational Biology, do not prove that any particular environmental exposure directly raises the risk for the developmental disorder, experts said.


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Reply "Environmental, State-Level Regulatory Factors Affect Incidence of Autism & Intellectual Disability" (Original post)
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 OP
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #1
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #2
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #3
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #4
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #5
nadinbrzezinski Mar 2014 #6
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #7
nadinbrzezinski Mar 2014 #8
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #12
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #9
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #10
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #11
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #18
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #13
KamaAina Mar 2014 #14
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #15
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #16
proverbialwisdom Mar 2014 #17

Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Fri Mar 14, 2014, 02:40 PM

2. STUDY: “Environment and incentives affect the incidence of autism and intellectual disability"



Autism and intellectual disability incidence linked with environmental factors
By Kevin Jiang
MARCH 12, 2014

An analysis of 100 million U.S. medical records reveals that autism and intellectual disability (ID) rates are correlated at the county level with incidence of genital malformations in newborn males, an indicator of possible congenital exposure to harmful environmental factors such as pesticides.

Autism rates—after adjustment for gender, ethnic, socioeconomic and geopolitical factors—jump by 283 percent for every one-percent increase in frequency of malformations in a county. Intellectual disability rates increase 94 percent. Slight increases in autism and ID rates are also seen in wealthier and more urban counties.

The study, published by University of Chicago scientists in the March 13 issue of PLOS Computational Biology, confirms the dramatic effect of diagnostic standards. Incidence rates for autism and ID on a per-person basis decrease by roughly 99 percent in states with stronger regulations on diagnosis of these disorders.

“Autism appears to be strongly correlated with rate of congenital malformations of the genitals in males across the country,” said study author Andrey Rzhetsky, professor of genetic medicine and human genetics. “This gives an indicator of environmental load and the effect is surprisingly strong.”

Although autism and intellectual disability have genetic components, environmental causes are thought to play a role. To identify potential environmental links, Rzhetsky and his team analyzed an insurance claims dataset that covered nearly one third of the U.S. population. They used congenital malformations of the reproductive system in males as an indicator of parental exposure to toxins.

Male fetuses are particularly sensitive to toxins such as environmental lead, sex hormone analogs, medications and other synthetic molecules. Parental exposure to these toxins is thought to explain a large portion of congenital reproductive malformations, such as micropenis, hypospadias (urethra on underside of the penis), undescended testicles and others.

The researchers created a statistical baseline frequency of autism and ID across the country. They then looked at the actual rates of these disorders, county by county. Deviations from the baseline are interpreted as resulting from local causes. Factors such as age, ethnicity, socioeconomic groups and geopolitical statuses were analyzed and corrected for.

The team found that every one-percent increase in malformations in a county was associated with a 283-percent increase in autism and a 94-percent increase in ID in that same county. Almost all areas with higher rates of autism also had higher rates of ID, which the researchers believe corroborates the presence of environmental factors. In addition, they found that male children with autism are almost six times more likely to have congenital genital malformations. Female incidence was linked with increased malformation rates, but weakly so. A county-by-county map of autism and ID incidence above or below the predicted baseline for the entire U.S. is included in the study.

Non-reproductive congenital malformations and viral infections in males were also associated with double digit increases in autism and ID rates. Additionally, income appeared to have a weak effect—every additional $1,000 of income above county average was correlated with around a three percent increase in autism and ID rates. An increased percentage of urban population in a county also showed a weak increase in rates.

The most striking negative effect was state regulation. State-mandated diagnosis of autism by a clinician for consideration in special education was linked with around a whopping 99 percent decrease in the rate of incidence for autism and ID. Certain ethnic backgrounds, such as Pacific Islanders, had significantly lower risk for both diseases.

While the effect of vaccines was not analyzed as part of this study, Rzhetsky notes that the geographic clustering of autism and ID rates is evidence that if vaccines have a role, it’s a very weak one as vaccinations are given uniformly across the US.

Rzhetsky acknowledges that there are potential confounders to the study; for example, ease of access to data could differ between counties, or uneven genetic distribution beyond the factors for which the scientists controlled could have an effect. The team anticipates future studies could leverage data from the Environmental Protection Agency and other sources to identify links between specific environmental causes and increased rates of autism and ID.

“We interpret the results of this study as a strong environmental signal,” Rzhetsky said. “For future genetic studies we may have to take into account where data were collected, because it’s possible that you can get two identical kids in two different counties and one would have autism and the other would not.”

The study, “Environment and incentives affect the incidence of autism and intellectual disability,” was funded by the National Institute for Mental Health and Chicago Biomedical Consortium. Additional authors include Steven Bagley, Kanix Wang, Christopher Lyttle, Edwin Cook, Jr., Russ Altman and Robert Gibbons.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Fri Mar 14, 2014, 02:54 PM

3. Previous OP: How Environmental Toxins Can Cause Autism


How Environmental Toxins Can Cause Autism

Environmental factors such as toxins and pesticides can cause severe health problems, especially for pregnant women and fetuses. For male fetuses, the harmful effect of exposure to these toxins work like this: Toxins can cause genital malformations, which are then linked to autism and intellectual disability, according to a study from the University of Chicago published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.

The analysis looked at 100 million U.S. medical records and examined them at a county level. Autism rates jumped 283 percentage points for every one percent increase in frequency of malformations per county. In total, male children with autism were six times more likely to have genital malformations.

"Autism appears to be strongly correlated with rate of congenital malformations of the genitals in males across the country," said study author Andrey Rzhetsky, Ph.D., professor of genetic medicine and human genetics at the University of Chicago, in a press release. "This gives an indicator of environmental load and the effect is surprisingly strong."

Genital malformations — such as micropenis and undescended testicles — indicate a possible exposure to harmful toxins, including environmental lead, medications and other synthetic molecules. Researchers concluded that the malformations also correlated with an increase in autism rates, therefore demonstrating a link between environmental toxins and autism.

"We interpret the results of this study as a strong environmental signal," Rzhetsky said.


PHOTO CAPTION: Ways Air Pollution Hurts - Recently, the World Health Organization officially acknowledged air pollution as a carcinogen, and stressed the importance of cleaning up the globe’s air. What are some other health risks of air pollution? Click through to find out. (Thinkstock/Digital Vision)

LINK FROM: http://annedachel.com/2014/03/13/the-weather-channel-vaccines-at-most-they-play-a-very-weak-role/

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Fri Mar 14, 2014, 03:09 PM

4. Respectful Insolence critiques study, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, more.


Autism clusters and “toxins”
Posted by Orac on March 14, 2014



March 14, 2014

The study isn’t solid proof of environmental influences on autism, but there’s virtually never solid proof of any influence of any environmental factor on anything where free-living humans are concerned. When you’re dealing with substances that humans consume voluntarily, the best you can get is prospective observational studies combined with animal studies. When substances that are consumed, breathed, etc. unintentionally are involved, especially when you do not assume that only one such substance has any effect, it may be that population-level studies are the best you can manage.

There are now an increasing number of studies that measure bisphenol A levels in individual pregnant women, for example, and correlate them with unwanted outcomes in the offspring. But you couldn’t possibly do such a study that measured exposures to every conceivable pesticide and plasticizer. Nor could you do one with millions of mothers, so participant numbers are relatively small and results easy to handwave away. Hence an alternative approach is the population-level study. Attempting not just to acknowledge that method’s real and significant limitations, but to dismiss all such studies altogether with scientistic claims that they constitute this or that Fallacy, is the behavior of someone who suspects that such studies may give results that will not suit his ideology.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 11:24 AM

5. Nice reporting in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, WaPo, LA Times... Oh, wait, NOTHING. (nt)

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Reply #5)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 11:42 AM

6. Mind if I take it though and forward it


This is actually fascinating and far from surprising

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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #6)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 12:56 PM

7. Actually, here's explicit validation from GoTeamKate: "Stop Making the Conversation Controversial."


Stop Making the Conversation Controversial

We need autism to be a part of the collective conscience. We need people dialoging all the time about autism. Those of us directly involved do that anyway. We need the others; the elusive and rare untouched among us to start talking. And you know what? When we fight within the community and get hung up on the semantics of it all; we scare them away.

I don't wish to diminish a person's right to be called 'autistic' or a 'person with autism' or a "free lovin' hippie" for that matter. You can choose your moniker in my view and you can relax when someone else chooses theirs. People can be afraid to talk about autism because they are afraid to offend someone. For the sake of the conversation could you allow these differences to live together for now? The divide within the community works against us. This isn't news, right?

I understand the power of language. I understand that words and phrases change meaning. I also understand that when you make the conversation controversial people will decide to stay out of it. They don't feel prepared to talk about it. They've heard or seen someone crucified for forgetting to use person-first language or they're timid to enter the conversation.

Now, I am the first one to call out someone for saying something rude or insensitive (on this blog anyway, because I am too chicken to do that in person) but I feel that we are placing this topic so far out of of reach of the average person when we assign strict and ridged rules to the discussion.

If someone is being kind when they approach the topic then they are doing it right in my book.

More: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10024324593

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Reply #7)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 01:02 PM

8. True, and thanks for the links by the way


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Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #8)

Mon Mar 17, 2014, 06:57 PM

12. You're welcome.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 02:09 PM

9. Discussion continued.

LOCKED: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1014756282

8. New study says _____ MAY be caused by _______________.

fill in the blanks. There are lots of studies that suggest lots of things.

This one is a good example. What it is saying is a condition may be caused by poison. You think?

REPLY: I wouldn't presume to vet the science a) myself or b) via anonymous posters on some internet forum.

This breakthrough publication by scientists from University of Chicago at Illinois, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago exploring environmental factors involved in the etiology of autism (by examining records of a population of 100,000,000) indicates a promising direction in research. Of course, some will oppose this on principle preferring exclusive focus on genetics, although that has not panned out particularly and cannot explain the dramatic increase in prevalence (wait for the April 2014 CDC update on NJ to 1:32, as described during the 1/2014 IACC meeting).

Coupled with absent US media coverage, these researchers are already being disparaged personally here: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/03/14/autism-clusters-and-toxins/

OTOH, this great article by Katie Wright.


Katie Wright on Autism Speaks' Science Department: A Year in Review
By Katie Wright
Posted by Age of Autism at January 08, 2014

Part 1

Almost a year ago Dr. Rob Ring became Autism Speaks new Chief Scientific Officer. I was told that this would be a new era at AS science. Dr. Ring would be introducing more innovative, original research, reducing the amount of learn the signs studies and prioritizing underserved, severely affected people, biomedical interventions and meaningful here and now treatment for all. Sounds good right?

Well first the good news. AS funded an excellent $120,000 study on wandering prevention and another really terrific study on vocational training for young ASD adults. Earlier this year, thanks the very dedicated work of an AS board member, AS also funded a highly innovative study on $100,000 study on PANDAS. .

I allowed the entire year of 2013 to pass without any public comment because I wanted to give Dr. Ring the opportunity to follow through with his proposed reforms. However, we are now eight months into Dr. Ring’s tenure, looking at the most recent slate of grants, the third grant cycle under Dr. Ring’s authority. These grants are largely disappointing and so painfully conservative in nature that I cannot remain silent. I have tried, very hard, behind the scenes, for years, to lobby for better research. No one at AS science is listening. Our ASD children and young adults deserve so much better.

In 2013 virtually ALL the Weatherstone Predoctoral Fellowships were either genetic, early intervention or brain imaging in nature. It is my understanding that Weatherstone was intended to draw innovative young investigators into the field of autism, with special emphasis on the GAP areas in ASD research. AS has saturated the field early intervention and learn the signs research with money. There is absolutely no need to continue to subsidize growth in this area. To a large degree the same problem applies towards the fields of genetics and brain imaging.

Imagine if the NIH were to subsidize more research into the dangers of smoking cigarettes, which is what is happening here.

There are already 1,295 studies on autism and brain imaging/ fMRI and at least 1,000 more in the pipeline. Simons, Cold Springs Harbor and the NIH are MORE than happy to fund this area of research, AS needs to move on. Brain imaging is all about looking at brain inflammation, we need to know what environmental triggers are CAUSING this to happen. There are over 5,000 published studies on autism and genetics. Naturally some genetics research is indeed valuable but why are most AS grants still genetic in nature? Dr Ring knows this is NOT what AS families want. There are 11,000 published studies on the signs of autism. That is e-n-o-u-g-h; there are over 6,000 studies on early intervention. Additionally there are p-l-e-n-t-y of geneticists and brain imagers in the field or autism research. Weatherstone should be subsidizing predoctoral students in the biomedical and environmental sciences fields, neglected by AS and the NIH. Weatherstone could also be supporting researchers to study the biological functions of autism via GI, autoimmune and food allergies. How refreshing that would be!

Let’s take a look a the biggest Autism Speaks grants of 2013: MORE AT LINK.


Katie Wright is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism. (Her parents founded Autism Speaks)

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 03:15 PM

10. Study suggests potential association between soy formula and seizures in children with autism.


Study suggests potential association between soy formula and seizures in children with autism

March 13, 2014 by David Tenenbaum

A University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher has detected a higher rate of seizures among children with autism who were fed infant formula containing soy protein rather than milk protein.

The study found excess seizures among girls and in the total sample of 1,949 children. The soy-seizure link reached borderline significance among boys, who comprised 87 percent of the children described in the database under study.

Seizures — caused by uncontrolled electrical currents in the brain — occur in many neurological disorders including epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Down syndrome and autism.

About 25 percent of infant formula sold in the United States is based on soy protein.

Study author Cara Westmark, a senior scientist in the UW-Madison Department of Neurology, says her investigation was sparked by mouse studies of a drug that, it was hoped, would inhibit seizures by blocking signals that excite nerve cells. "It was pure serendipity that we happened to look at soy," she says.


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Response to proverbialwisdom (Reply #10)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 10:18 PM

11. More links from Dr. Martha Herbert.

Martha Herbert ‏@marthaherbertmd Feb 20
MT - Beyond Hopelessness: Autism as a complex, chronic, whole-body disorder (not a permanent, brain-based trait)

Retweeted by Autism Revolution
Healthy U NOW ‏@HUNFoundation May 15
New detailed article on diet and autism in Journal of Child Neurology- by Drs. Martha Herbert and Julie Buckley! pic.twitter.com/2poXsb3TIJ


Retweeted by Autism Revolution
Martha Herbert ‏@marthaherbertmd 25 Jul 2012
Synapses, glial cells, brain energy & more: all highly environmentally vulnerable–to many things. #ASD @marthaherbertmd @AutismRevolutio

Retweeted by Autism Revolution
Martha Herbert ‏@marthaherbertmd 25 Jul 2012
Probably won’t find a single enviro culprit for #autism – many env agents, fewer physiological pathways. @AutismRevolutio @marthaherbertmd


Public release date: 15-Jan-2013
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health

Study documents that some children lose autism diagnosis

Small group with confirmed autism now on par with mainstream peers -- NIH-funded study

Some children who are accurately diagnosed in early childhood with autism lose the symptoms and the diagnosis as they grow older, a study supported by the National Institutes of Health has confirmed. The research team made the finding by carefully documenting a prior diagnosis of autism in a small group of school-age children and young adults with no current symptoms of the disorder.

The report is the first of a series that will probe more deeply into the nature of the change in these children's status. Having been diagnosed at one time with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), these young people now appear to be on par with typically developing peers. The study team is continuing to analyze data on changes in brain function in these children and whether they have subtle residual social deficits. The team is also reviewing records on the types of interventions the children received, and to what extent they may have played a role in the transition.

"Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. "For an individual child, the outcome may be knowable only with time and after some years of intervention. Subsequent reports from this study should tell us more about the nature of autism and the role of therapy and other factors in the long term outcome for these children."

The study, led by Deborah Fein, Ph.D., at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, recruited 34 optimal outcome children, who had received a diagnosis of autism in early life and were now reportedly functioning no differently than their mainstream peers. For comparison, the 34 children were matched by age, sex, and nonverbal IQ with 44 children with high-functioning autism, and 34 typically developing peers. Participants ranged in age from 8 to 21 years old.


Link from: https://www.facebook.com/TheAutismRevolution

Dr. Martha Herbert is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, a Pediatric Neurologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and an affiliate of the Harvard-MIT-MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, where she is director of the TRANSCEND Research Program (Treatment Research and Neuroscience Evaluation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders). The author of The Autism Revolution: Whole Body Strategies for Making Life All it Can Be, Dr. Herbert is a leading voice in the medical community, helping to bridge the gap between the lagging medical science and the reality of what she was actually seeing in her patients.


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Response to proverbialwisdom (Reply #11)

Fri Mar 21, 2014, 01:44 PM

18. Dr Martha Herbert: "A Whole Body Approach to Brain Health," 3/21 @ 3pm. Free and open to the public!


Tools for Well-Being Talk Series: Martha Herbert
A Whole Body Approach to Brain Health

Friday, March 21, 2014 | 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: MIT Media Lab (see link)

Speaker: Martha Herbert
Host/Chair: Rosalind W. Picard

Physical and biological needs of the brain must be met as a precondition for "higher" functions to be performed. Basic physical and biological functions are performed by an array of cell and tissue types without which neurons could not live or function. The quality of health, lifestyle, and environment can profoundly affect these physical and biological parameters. Transduction of molecular and metabolic biology into electrophysiological signaling is vulnerable to poor physical and biological health, and conversely can be tuned up by improving whole-body health. Many chronic neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative conditions can potentially be modulated, improved or slowed in their progression in this fashion. In addition, poor health status can increase vulnerability to stress, brain injury and brain disease, while good health status may confer protective resiliency. Taking a whole body approach to brain health can open the way to many practical ways to support the brain through presently available health practices, and improve effectiveness of medical practice and can open new avenues for systems brain-body research.


Martha Herbert, PhD, MD is a pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where she is an assistant professor in neurology. She is an affiliate of the Harvard-MIT-MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging where she directs the TRANSCEND Research Program, which uses advanced brain imaging techniques and biomarkers to look at metabolic, perfusion, and brain function measures of brain change. She received her medical degree at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, her residency training at New York Hospital-Cornell and Massachsetts General Hospital-Harvard, and her doctorate at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her academic research interests include how changes in whole-body physiology, structure and organization of movement may impact electrophysiology to alter brain function, development and structure; how environmental influences can act through our physiology to degrade molecular, tissue and neuroglial function—or create improvement and fulfill potential; and how emerging bioinformatics and small-scale measurement technologies can facilitate crowdsourcing of health and lifestyle data and build motivation to make these healthful changes. She works to convey to the scientific, policy and public communities that there is a better, more inclusive and action-promoting way of looking at autism, brain health and chronic disease, which is the message of her book, The Autism Revolution: Whole Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be (Harvard Health Publications and Random House, 2012, www.AutismRevolution.org and www.autismWHYandHOW.org).

Source: Twitter link http://ow.ly/uNn97
The video of the talk will be posted on http://wellbeing.media.mit.edu in the future but will not be streaming live.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Reply #10)

Mon Mar 17, 2014, 07:02 PM

13. PLOS ONE - Soy Infant Formula and Seizures in Children with Autism: A Retrospective Study


Soy Infant Formula and Seizures in Children with Autism: A Retrospective Study
Cara J. Westmark

Published: March 12, 2014DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080488


Seizures are a common phenotype in many neurodevelopmental disorders including fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome and autism. We hypothesized that phytoestrogens in soy-based infant formula were contributing to lower seizure threshold in these disorders. Herein, we evaluated the dependence of seizure incidence on infant formula in a population of autistic children. Medical record data were obtained on 1,949 autistic children from the SFARI Simplex Collection. An autism diagnosis was determined by scores on the ADI-R and ADOS exams. The database included data on infant formula use, seizure incidence, the specific type of seizure exhibited and IQ. Soy-based formula was utilized in 17.5% of the study population. Females comprised 13.4% of the subjects. There was a 2.6-fold higher rate of febrile seizures [4.2% versus 1.6%, OR = 2.6, 95% CI = 1.3–5.3], a 2.1-fold higher rate of epilepsy comorbidity [3.6% versus 1.7%, OR = 2.2, 95% CI = 1.1–4.7] and a 4-fold higher rate of simple partial seizures [1.2% versus 0.3%, OR = 4.8, 95% CI = 1.0–23] in the autistic children fed soy-based formula. No statistically significant associations were found with other outcomes including: IQ, age of seizure onset, infantile spasms and atonic, generalized tonic clonic, absence and complex partial seizures. Limitations of the study included: infant formula and seizure data were based on parental recall, there were significantly less female subjects, and there was lack of data regarding critical confounders such as the reasons the subjects used soy formula, age at which soy formula was initiated and the length of time on soy formula. Despite these limitations, our results suggest that the use of soy-based infant formula may be associated with febrile seizures in both genders and with a diagnosis of epilepsy in males in autistic children. Given the lack of data on critical confounders and the retrospective nature of the study, a prospective study is required to confirm the association.

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Response to proverbialwisdom (Original post)

Mon Mar 17, 2014, 07:35 PM

14. The existence of clusters of autism is old news.


Google "brick township new jersey autism" or "leominster massachusetts autism" for two well-known examples.

What is not known is what causes them, although speculation in Leominster centers around toxins from an old Foster Grant sunglasses plant.

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Response to KamaAina (Reply #14)

Mon Mar 17, 2014, 10:14 PM

15. If this was ho-hum nothin', paradoxically, it'd be plastered all over the media.

Last edited Tue Mar 18, 2014, 10:45 AM - Edit history (1)

Here's a huge takeaway:



Our results have implications for the ongoing scientific quest for the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders.

We provide evidence that routinely expanding the scope of inquiry to include environmental, demographic and socioeconomic factors, and governmental policies at a broad scale in a unified geospatial framework.

It appears that detailed documentation of environmental factors should be recorded and used in genetic analyses of ASDs and failure to do so risks omitting important information about possibly strong confounders.

Scant online coverage includes:


Women living in the top fifth of areas with high levels of air pollution were more than twice as likely to give birth to a child with autism than those in less polluted areas. Those with the greatest exposure to these pollutants were another 50 times more likely to have a child born with autism.

"The environment may play a very significant role in autism, and we should be paying more attention to it," Rzhetsky wrote in the study, which was published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.


By Tara Culp-Ressler on March 17, 2014

We don’t know everything about autism, but research in this area continues to advance. Most experts believe that autism is caused by some combination of genetic and environmental factors that varies from one child to another. Over the past several years, we’ve learning more about just how influential those environmental factors can be.

A large study published this month, which relies on the data from 100 million medical records here in the U.S., found a significant association between autism and “harmful environmental factors.” University of Chicago researchers studied genital malformation in boys, a type of birth defect that’s already been linked to exposure to pesticides, and found a strong link with autism rates. A one percent increase in those defects corresponded to a 283 percent increase in autism.

“This gives an indicator of environmental load and the effect is surprisingly strong,” Andrey Rzhetsky, a professor of genetic medicine and human genetics and the lead author of the study, said in a statement. Rzhetsky wants to use data from the Environmental Protection Agency to do follow-up research into the potential link between autism and toxins.

Rzhetsky’s study adds to a growing body of research that suggests the environment could play some sort of a role in autism rates. Previous work in this field has found that kids who live in areas with high pollution rates are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. Kids with autism are more likely to have been born to a mother who lives with 1,000 feet of a freeway, and tend to have unusually high levels of exposure to air-pollutant chemicals. Researchers are quick to clarify that this doesn’t mean pollution single-handedly causes autism — it’s just one of the complex factors that can contribute to a kid’s risk of developing the disease, and something that should be investigated further.

Plenty of other evidence has already linked air pollution to a host of health issues, like heart damage and respiratory disease. This past fall, the World Health Organization officially classified it as a carcinogen. “The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances,” Kurt Straif, the head of the WHO department that ranks cancer-causing agents, explained at the time.

Again, "Researchers are quick to clarify that this doesn’t mean pollution single-handedly causes autism — it’s just one of the complex factors that can contribute to a kid’s risk of developing the disease, and something that should be investigated further."

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The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains

Leading scientists recently identified a dozen chemicals as being responsible for widespread behavioral and cognitive problems. But the scope of the chemical dangers in our environment is likely even greater. Why children and the poor are most susceptible to neurotoxic exposure that may be costing the U.S. billions of dollars and immeasurable peace of mind.

James Hamblin, MD
MARCH 18, 2014

Forty-one million IQ points. That’s what Dr. David Bellinger determined Americans have collectively forfeited as a result of exposure to lead, mercury, and organophosphate pesticides. In a 2012 paper published by the National Institutes of Health, Bellinger, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, compared intelligence quotients among children whose mothers had been exposed to these neurotoxins while pregnant to those who had not. Bellinger calculates a total loss of 16.9 million IQ points due to exposure to organophosphates, the most common pesticides used in agriculture.

Last month, more research brought concerns about chemical exposure and brain health to a heightened pitch. Philippe Grandjean, Bellinger’s Harvard colleague, and Philip Landrigan, dean for global health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, announced to some controversy in the pages of a prestigious medical journal that a “silent pandemic” of toxins has been damaging the brains of unborn children. The experts named 12 chemicals—substances found in both the environment and everyday items like furniture and clothing—that they believed to be causing not just lower IQs but ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. Pesticides were among the toxins they identified.

“So you recommend that pregnant women eat organic produce?” I asked Grandjean, a Danish-born researcher who travels around the world studying delayed effects of chemical exposure on children.

“That’s what I advise people who ask me, yes. It’s the best way of preventing exposure to pesticides.” Grandjean estimates that there are about 45 organophosphate pesticides on the market, and “most have the potential to damage a developing nervous system.”

Landrigan had issued that same warning, unprompted, when I spoke to him the week before. “I advise pregnant women to try to eat organic because it reduces their exposure by 80 or 90 percent,” he told me. “These are the chemicals I really worry about in terms of American kids, the organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos.”

For decades, chlorpyrifos, marketed by Dow Chemical beginning in 1965, was the most widely used insect killer in American homes. Then, in 1995, Dow was fined $732,000 by the EPA for concealing more than 200 reports of poisoning related to chlorpyrifos. It paid the fine and, in 2000, withdrew chlorpyrifos from household products. Today, chlorpyrifos is classified as “very highly toxic” to birds and freshwater fish, and “moderately toxic” to mammals, but it is still used widely in agriculture on food and non-food crops, in greenhouses and plant nurseries, on wood products and golf courses.

Landrigan has the credentials of some superhero vigilante Doctor America: a Harvard-educated pediatrician, a decorated retired captain of the U.S. Naval Reserve, and a leading physician-advocate for children's health as it relates to the environment. After September 11, he made news when he testified before Congress in disagreement with the EPA’s assessment that asbestos particles stirred into clouds of debris were too small to pose any real threat. Landrigan cited research from mining townships (including Asbestos, Quebec) and argued that even the smallest airborne asbestos fibers could penetrate deeply into a child’s lungs.


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