Field of Science

Alzheimer's, Autism & the NCAA: Science News for 3/17

Do vaccines give Somalis autism? Can diabetes give you Alzheimer's? Does losing make you win? Anyone scanning the science news articles this week would know the answers to these questions.

First, Freakonomics has a discussion of a recent paper showing that NCAA basketball teams are more likely to win if they are 1 point behind at halftime than if they are 1 point ahead. It seems that when people are slightly behind in a game at halftime, they work even harder in the second half relative to people who are way behind, slightly ahead or way ahead.

Second, the New York Times (byline: Donald McNeil Jr.) discusses the abnormally high rate of autism among Somali immigrants in Minneapolis. The article gives several explanatory hypotheses (including a statistical fluke), but a lot of time is spent on the "possibility" that these cases of autism are caused by vaccinations. The fact that the article doesn't mention that this is simply absurd is glaring (though it does mention "some children" had autistic tendancies before being vaccinated). More interesting is that many of these kids appear to have had seizures, something which is mentioned only in passing.

Finally, Amanda Schaffer at Slate discusses the possible relationship between insulin and Alzheimer's (Diabetes of the Brain: Is Alzheimer's disease actually a form of diabetes?).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See the following theory:
The ‘theory of mind’ (ToM) hypothesis of autism. Tom is an hypothesis first published in 1985.
Other articles ask what caused the autism epidemic?
The CDC studies say it is not MMR or Thimerosal. Other hypotheses have included autoimmune diseases, etc.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Data website:
Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) sleep position data:
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Birth Data:
2006 Median Income Data: - U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
NOTICE PDR-2006-01

Autism Spectrum Disorders, Asperger's Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorders - Not Otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
Gastrointestinal Disorders also known as GER is a common comorbidity
Autism patients tend to have minicolumn abnormalities and increased amounts of white matter
Casanova MF, van Kooten IA, Switala AE, Ven Engeland H, Heinsen H, Steinbusch HW, Hof PR, Trippe J, Stone J, Schmitz C. Minicolumnar abnormalities in autism. Acta Neuropathol. 2006 Sep; 112(3); 287-303.
Mostofsky SH, Burgess MP, Larson JCG. Increased motor cortex white matter volume predicts motor impairment in autism. Brain (2007), 130, 2117-2122

Maternal smoking decreased significantly between 1990 and 2002
Infant suffocation deaths increased 14% per year on average between 1996 and 2004
Centers for Disease Control. Smoking & Tobacco Use - Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWRs) – Smoking During Pregnancy – United States, 1990-2002 – October 7, 2004 / Vol. 53/ No. 39
Shapiro-Mendoza CK, Kimball M, Tomashek KM, Anderson RN, Blanding S.US Infant Mortality Trends Attributable to Accidental Suffocation and Strangulation in Bed From 1984 Through 2004: Are Rates Increasing? Pediatrics 2009;123;533-539

Here is a good article on diagnosing this:
Filipek P, Accardo P, Ashwal S, Baranek G, Cook E, Dawson G, Gordon B, Gravel J, Johnson C, Kallen R, Levy S, Minshew N, Ozonoff S, Prizant B, Rapin I, Rogers S, Stone W, Teplin S, Tuchman R, Volkmar F. Practice parameter: Screening and diagnosis of autism Report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society NEUROLOGY 2000;55:468–479

SIDS, Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Plagiocephaly, etc. are all
conditions that the medical profession is trying to treat.
The SIDS back sleep (Supine) sleep recommendations began in 1992
The SIDS "Back to Sleep" campaign began in 1994.
In 1996 the AAP SIDS Task Force, led by Dr. John Kattwinkel recommended the supine sleep position and not the side(lateral) or front(prone).
THe Netherlands began their SIDS Back to Sleep Campaign in 1987.
Sleep is necessary for memory consolidation, declarative learning, and procedural learning.

The following are useful articles which discuss many of these issues indepth:
American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Infant Positioning and SIDS. Positioning and SIDS. Pediatrics. 1992;89:1120-1126
Hogberg U, Bergstrom E. Suffocated Prone: The Iatrogenic Tragedy of SIDS. American Journal of Public Health. 2000;90:527-531
National Infant Sleep Position Household Survey. Summary Data. updated: 10/16/08 Website:
Kattwinkel J, Hauck F.R., Moon R.Y., Malloy M and Willinger M Infant Death Syndrome: In Reply, Bed Sharing With Unimpaired Parents Is Not an Important Risk for Sudden. Pediatrics 2006;117;994-996
Buzs├íki, G. 1989. Two-stage model of memory trace formation: A role for “noisy” brain states. Neuroscience 31: 551–570.
Hasselmo, M.E. 1999. Neuromodulation: Acetylcholine and memory consolidation. Trends Cogn. Sci. 3: 351–359.
Wierzynski DM, Lubenov EV, Gu M, Siapas AG. State-Dependent Spike-Timing Relationships between Hippocampal and Prefrontal Circuits during Sleep. Neuron 61, 587-596, February 26, 2009
Walker MP, Stickgold R. Sleep, Memory, and Plasticity. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2006. 57: 139-66
Gais S, Born J. Declarative memory consolidation: Mechanisms acting during human sleep. Learn Mem. 2004 Nov-Dec; 11(6): 679-685
Davis BE, Moon RY, Sachs HC, Ottolini MC. Effects of sleep position on infant motor development. Pediatrics. 1998 Nov; 102(5):1135-40.
Skadberg BT, Markestad T. Consequences of Getting the Head Covered During Sleep in Infancy. Pediatrics 1997;100;e6
AJ Williams, RD Jitendra, JB Phillips, Y Lin, T McCabe, FC Tortella. Neuroprotective Efficacy and Therapeutic Window of the High-Affinity N-Methyl-D-aspartate Antagonist Conantokin-G: In Vitro (Primary Cerebellar Neurons) and In Vivo (Rat Model of Transient Focal Brain Ischemia) Studies1
Stradling JR, Thomas G, Warley AR, Williams P, Freeland A. Effect of adenotonsillectomy on nocturnal hypoxaemia, sleep disturbance, and symptoms in snoring children. Lancet. 1990;335 :249 –253