Autism Awareness Absent in Africa

n many countries there is widespread knowledge of Autism diagnosis and treatments and awareness is rising. However, in Nigeria there are tens of millions of parents that have yet to be informed about Autism Spectrum Disorder and the related symptoms that their child may be exhibiting.

Autism symptoms are unique in that they don’t always develop in the same order for all children but they usually manifest fully at around 24 months of age. Before 24 months, a parent may notice a lack of language entirely or some language and then long lapses in development from there on out. In Nigeria, there is a lack of a system to provide the necessary early diagnosis and support for children with ASD and their parents and, due to the lack of knowledge, many people end up attributing Autism symptoms to cultural or spiritual causes.

The Guaranty Trust Bank, GTBank, is planning to change this by raising awareness with the 5th edition of their Annual Autism programme. Their primary concern, according to the Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank, Seguin Agbaje, is to make it well known that “children with disability can live a meanaingful life and can rise to the highest levels in the pursuit of their dreams when given a chance to cultivate their inner skills and maximize their potentials.”

The GTBank will be hosting a conference with different classes facilitated by well-known professionals concerning ASD to further support their community and they are hopeful for a large attendance.

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The “Route” of Autism – New Brain Map Reveals Neural Processes

Scientists have always taken advanced measures to get into your head but now, they’ve found a way to give themselves and others directions along the way. USC scientists are creating a map of uncharted territory in a mouse brain to see the roadblocks that cause Huntington’s disease and autism.

The scientists focused on the “cell highways” of the dorsal striatum, the center for motor learning, and located the main hubs that coordinate complex limb movements, as Parkinson’s disease, obsessive compulsive disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder all involve this brain region. Hong-Wei Dong, an associate professor of neurology at USC, believes that by beginning his brain mapping in an area known for circuit disruption with diseases, he can get a better idea of how to predict problem areas within this particular portion of the brain and hone in even further to figure out how to understand this phenomenon. Lead author and assistant professor of research, Houri Hiniryan, also stated, “If you have one big structure, it’s very difficult to know which part is the problem area.”

The mouse brain has always been the foundation of human brain research as the structure is so similar and the biggest differences between both concern the level of high-cognition. By understanding the mouse brain at great detail, scientists believe they will make great strides in new drugs and medical therapies.

Perhaps more important for autism, their research has now made the most detailed and complex map of the connection between the cerebral cortex and the dorsal striatum, which processes motor learning and attention. Because of this research, any circuit disruptions will become evident and researchers will be able to see the effects drugs make on specific disruptions and will know where to place stem cells.

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Autism and the Ability to See Sound

A recent study by Joanne Jao Keen of San Diego State University found that people with autism may be recruiting the visual areas of the brain to process sounds they hear. This could explain the sensory sensitivities that people with autism typically face as both auditory and visual portions of the brain are being used to register sound.
In the study, children were presented with 36 different tones that differentiated between high and low pitches. The first finding was that children with autism had slightly more difficulty than the control group distinguishing a high note from a low one. The more interesting finding though, was the representation of the brain that Keen saw on the MRI while the children performed this task.
It appeared that in typical individuals, when there was sound the visual cortex of the brain would turn off to allow the auditory portion of the brain to process the tones. However, for the children with autism, the visual cortex of their brain (specifically the left lingual gyrus) became more active when tones were played. As Autism severity increased, the research showed a corresponding higher level of activity in the visual cortex when sounds were registered. It seems that children with autism try to process sound as visual stimuli and furthermore, it may be possible that the children with autism have a certain capacity for seeing sound.


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MIT Scientist Uncovers Link Between Glyphosate And Autism

A new study conducted by Dr. Stephanie Seneff from the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory had shown that there is a link between Glyphosate and the increased rate in Autism.

Glyphosate is found in most of the pesticides and herbicides. Biotech scientists and others in the health and agriculture fields think that it is safe to expose humans to Glyphosate, however, findings in the new study indicate that the ingredient often used on genetically modified crops does indeed accumulate in human tissue.

According to a recent pilot study, Glyphosate can pass through breast milk and may cause an adverse health impact on a mother and her baby.

According to Dr Seneff, the side effects of autism closely mimic those of glyphosate toxicity, and presented data show a remarkably consistent correlation between the use of Glyphosate on crops with rising rates of autism.

Children with autism have biomarkers indicative of excessive glyphosate, including zinc and iron deficiency, low serum sulfate, seizures, and mitochondrial disorder.

Though Dr. Seneff’s findings are in the research stages, there are plenty of families that have autistic children who have chosen to drastically change their children’s diets, eliminating all pesticides, herbicides and as many neurotoxins as possible by eating organic food.

They often experience some incredible results by seeing improvement in their children’s speech patterns, cognitive abilities, and social skills in weeks, not years. This amounts to circumstantial evidence, but it supports Dr. Seneff’s claims.

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[Image via: GMO Awareness]

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Researching the “Loss” of an Autism Diagnosis

CONTACTUS-lostandfoundStudies state that 3 to 25 percent of children with autism lose their diagnosis. This makes parents and professionals wonder, did those who “recover”, truly have autism at diagnosis? Or do they still have autism, but have more subtle symptoms?

Dr. Deborah Fein, psychologist, has studied this phenomenon extensively upon realizing that many children diagnosed with autism improved significantly over the years, to the point of possibly being considered neurotypical. Like most clinicians, Dr. Fein believed autism was a lifelong condition. Dr. Fein and her team of researchers analyzed the diagnoses of 34 children with ASD, as well as their loss of diagnosis and improvement in symptoms.

The team analyzed communication skills, academic abilities, social skills, among other things. By all accounts, the group seemed to function no differently than those who never had autism. She elaborates, “They even did well with daily living skills, [which] can befuddle people with autism who have average and above-average intelligence.”

“[The word] ‘recovery’ carries so much baggage,” Dr. Fein states. “When you say ‘recovery’, it conjures up a period of normal development, then they have a disease, and now they’re recovered. Instead, this group reached an ‘optimal outcome’.”

The research team looked for remnants of ASD in the group that no longer qualified for a diagnosis, utilizing fMRI scans to measure brain activity as they each read short sentences aloud and answered various questions. Dr. Inge-Marie Eigsti, clinical psychologist, led the team to test 16 people with “optimal outcomes”, 23 with high-functioning autism, and 20 of their neurotypical peers.

The scans of the group with optimal outcomes resembled those of the group with autism, but also differed. This group appeared to use different areas of the brain for sentence comprehension tasks. Researchers believe they may have learned to compensate for their autism by using new pathways to process language. Dr. Fein states, “It’s a confirmation that they really were autistic when they were little. Early intervention may have helped them function typically, but they do not use the same areas of their brain as their peers who never had autism.” This study will need to be repeated to see if they receive the same results.

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