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Psych Cents


Various Proposed Causes of Autism

Autism was first recognized in the 1930s and considered to be a rare disorder.  Today the US Dept Of Health and Human Services reports that autism occurs in 1 in every 150 children. 1 in 94 male children meet criteria on the autism spectrum.  Autism is defined as a developmental disorder involving language and communication difficulties, sociability problems with a particular deficit of empathy, and differences in perceptions from others.
Autism is a complex neurological disorder with many etiologies.  Viral infections in pregnant women increase the risk for schizophrenia and autism in their offspring (Shi, Fatemi, Sidwell, and Patterson 2003).  HLA Type DR4 and DRb1 are strongly associated with autism (Warren, Reed P).  See link for article: http://www.enabling.org/ia/celiac/aut/hla-war2.html ) 
Interestingly, HLA type DR4 is associated with more neurological and arthritic damage in patients with Lyme.  Link for article: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=280920
The artificial hormone Pitocin, which is given to pregnant women to induce labor has been associated with autism.  Pitocin is a synthetic counterpart of the natural hormone oxytocin which stimulates the uterus to contract thus inducing labor.
Thyroid function and autism connections have had controversial research results.  Some researchers hypothesize that an in utero hypothyroidism may be a trigger for autism.  See link:  http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0022510X07004376
Genetic/chromosomal aberrations have been implicated in cases of autism.  Chromosome 15 is suspect.  http://www.springerlink.com/content/q155p373413410m6/
Adenosine deaminase activity may play a role in the cause of some cases of autism.  Adenosine deaminase is important in purine metabolism, immune function, and peptide enzyme activity for proteins.  Research in this area has been difficult since there may be a racial/ethnic relationship.  http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/76502506/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0
Biochemical and neuropsychological studies have posed the etiology of some cases of autism to be related to mitochondrial disorders disturbing the energy metabolism in the brain.  http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0306987798902705
Heavy metal toxicities have been implicated, particularly mercury toxicity from childhood vaccinations and lead poisoning from paint.  Vaccine antigen overload is another avenue that has been investigated.
The following article reviews various treatments that have been tried: 
Chronic disseminated Lyme Disease or neuroborreliosis as it is called when the nervous system is infected, is another proposed cause of autism.  The following abstract briefly describes and implicates Lyme and other infections as a cause for some cases of autism.
    The association between tick-borne infections, Lyme borreliosis and autism spectrum disorders . 
    Medical Hypotheses , Volume 70 , Issue 5 , Pages 967 - 974
    R . Bransfield , J . Wulfman , W . Harvey , A . Usman
Chronic infectious diseases, including tick-borne infections such as Borrelia burgdorferi may have direct effects, promote other infections and create a weakened, sensitized and immunologically vulnerable state during fetal development and infancy leading to increased vulnerability for developing autism spectrum disorders.
A dysfunctional synergism with other predisposing and contributing factors may contribute to autism spectrum disorders by provoking innate and adaptive immune reactions to cause and perpetuate effects in susceptible individuals that result in inflammation, molecular mimicry, kynurenine pathway changes, increased quinolinic acid and decreased serotonin, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and excitotoxicity that impair the development of the amygdala and other neural structures and neural networks resulting in a partial Klüver–Bucy Syndrome and other deficits resulting in autism spectrum disorders and/or exacerbating autism spectrum disorders from other causes throughout life.
John Martin on Autism
Folate Metabolism and Autism
Amy Yasko and Genomic Testing
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