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Friday, May 3, 2013

What Causes Autism? Take Your Pick.

What causes autism?  The list continues to grow.  Even if all the science is perfectly good, it would be understandable if concerned laypeople just threw up their hands in frustration.

In BMJ [formerly British Medical Journal], Dheeraj Rai and colleagues finger antidepressants:
In utero exposure to both SSRIs and non-selective monoamine reuptake inhibitors (tricyclic antidepressants) was associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders, particularly without intellectual disability. Whether this association is causal or reflects the risk of autism with severe depression during pregnancy requires further research. However, assuming causality, antidepressant use during pregnancy is unlikely to have contributed significantly towards the dramatic increase in observed prevalence of autism spectrum disorders as it explained less than 1% of cases.
The Daily Beast mentions ultrasound:
Manuel Casanova, a neurologist who holds an endowed chair at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, is one medical doctor who is listening. Casanova contends that Rakic’s mice research helps confirm a disturbing hypothesis that he and his colleagues have been testing for the last three years: that ultrasound exposure is the main environmental factor contributing to the exponential rise in autism. 
The Wall Street Journal cites studies on insecticides and air pollution:
Researchers at an international conference on autism on Friday presented three new studies lending strength to the notion that environmental influences before birth may play a role in the risk for the condition.

In one study, pregnant women who were exposed to certain levels of air pollution were at increased risk of having a child with autism. Another presentation suggested that iron supplements before and early in pregnancy may lower the risk, and a third suggested some association between use of various household insecticides and a higher risk of autism.
A release from the University of Manchester discusses research into birth weight:
The biggest study of fetal growth and autism ever has reported that babies whose growth is at either extreme in the womb, either very small or very large, are at greater risk of developing autism.

It is the first time that a clear link has been made between babies who grow to above average size at birth and risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder and follows from a study of more than 40,000 child health records in Sweden.

To view the paper, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, click here. To view the editorial article in the Journal about the research, please click here.