News reports are taking notice of our top-notch professionals, such as Dr. Eric Hollander.
On Feb. 2nd, 2010 James Ottar Grundvif, of The Epoch Times interviewed Dr. Hollander on his latest Oxytocin research. The reporter also managed to slip in some questions about the anticipated our 2010 International Autism Conference.
Overall, we appreciate the kind attention from the news media. This is important topic and it is imperative to create awareness, educate and piece together the puzzle of the mysterious neurological disorder.
* * HERE is the INTERVIEW * *
Investigating the Hormone Oxytocin as a Treatment for Autism
An interview with Dr. Eric Hollander
By James Ottar Grundvig
>>> To View the interview, on The Epoch times Website please go to this link: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/29029/
Finding a cure for autism will succeed with a global, interdisciplinary, coordinated endeavor. To unlock the roots of the disorder and treat them will require the merging of the three rivers that feed the research pool: Science at the medical and institutional level; government funding and sponsorship; and the advocacy of the autism community.
It will be a long road that will take a few advanced treatments, combined with several more tertiary ones, and early intervention to succeed. As with many types of cancer, there will be cures—many of them—that will combat, reduce or eliminate the ailments and deficits that make up the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) umbrella.
That was the core message I took from Dr. Eric Hollander when I interviewed him on a crisp January day at his new home at the Child Psychiatry Annex at the Montefiore Medical Center University Hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
For the past two decades, Dr. Hollander has exemplified the dedication, laser focus and tireless work ethic needed to unravel the mysteries of autism. His research into the neurological divide of spectrum kids has been a collaborative and shared process in the scientific community. Like most medical research, it involved years of conducting studies and reporting on their findings. He did that while setting up the ultimate platform on autism dialogue: In the past decade, he chaired an annual conference on autism on international research to foster the exchange of ideas and promote the latest research to combat the disorder.
Dr. Hollander also chairs the Advisory Board of ICare4Autism: The International Center for Autism Research; Education, Inc. (www.icare4autism.org). The non-profit organization was founded in 2004 to expand the resource network on autism research. More than merely making people aware of an issue, like some charities, icare4autism acts as a “catalyst” to ensure that research, overlapping or a part of the “autism puzzle,” is shared, funded, and disseminated. This made the interview with Dr. Hollander and his decade-old research on Oxytocin—aka the “love hormone”—all the more intriguing.
As a clinical psychiatrist between 1994 and 2009, Dr. Hollander spearheaded autism research at the Seaver Center for Treatment and Research of Autism at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. There he also he hosted his annual international conference on autism research. In autumn 2005, I attended one of the marathon sessions, where speaker after speaker stepped up to the podium to discuss topics ranging from the archaic treatment of autistic children—France—to biomolecular studies on how autistic brains differ from normal brains. The conferences spurred discussion between government agencies, such as the CDC, and advocacy groups, down to the individual parent, which made for some lively discussions.
In July 2009, Dr. Hollander moved to Montefiore/Albert Einstein, where he is the Director for Compulsive, Impulsive and Autism Spectrum Disorders Program in the Child Psychiatry Annex. The following is the 13-question interview with him.
The Epoch Times: As a psychiatrist, when did you become interested in trying to unravel the mystery surrounding the cause of Autism?
Dr. Hollander: It started in 1994, when I came to The Seaver and New York Autism Center of Excellence at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. The foundation was setup by one of the trustees, who had a grandchild with autism. I was one of two doctors at the start. The focus was on autism and genetics in children. It was interdisciplinary from molecular biology of genes to behavior.
The Epoch Times: For the past decade, you held an annual autism conference at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, where doctors, scientists and molecular biologists from around the world came to New York to present their latest research on autism. How were those conferences helpful to you and your peers? Will you continue those research conferences at Montefiore/Albert Einstein?
Dr. Hollander: They put in touch basic scientific research and practical treatments on autism with education, biomedical, and advocacy groups. The sharing of information is critical to finding what works. From imaging brainwaves, such as fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), to integrating treatment studies on what brain systems seem to respond to which external stimuli.
In July, I am going to emcee the icare4autism conference in Jerusalem. I am looking to hold my annual autism conference at Montefiore/Albert Einstein in the fall.
The Epoch Times: What will be the extent of the involvement of icare4autism in 2010? How has icare4autism enabled top researchers worldwide, such as you, access to information?
Dr. Hollander: The Conference in Jerusalem (held on July 5-6, 2010) is sponsored by the icare4autism organization. The two-day symposium will feature experts on autism research from Japan, Holland, and Israel, among others. It will be an open forum that will discuss basic research and new developments, biomedical treatments and the importance of advocacy.
The Epoch Times: Where will the funding or sponsorship come from at icare4autism?
Dr. Hollander: General fund raising. International, interdisciplinary clinical research and education.
The Epoch Times: What is Oxytocin? Besides being called the “love hormone,” how else is Oxytocin used in medicine-outside of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Dr. Hollander: They are peptides. Large proteins secreted through the periphery: blood, milk. Oxytocin can be measured in blood. It is synthesized into the brain’s limbic systems, which govern emotions. It stimulates social memories, reinforces reward. My research into Oxytocin came from translational research: the study of Oxytocin in animals and how it might be applied or translated to humans.
The first study on the affects of Oxytocin was in voles, those little furry creatures (they are mouselike rodents related to lemmings). The researchers found two types of voles. Those that were a-social and those that were very social with strong pair bonds. The a-social voles protested, lots of vocalization. When injected with Oxytocin, it enhanced their behavior and social recognition.
Oxytocin stimulates the receptors in the regions of the brains that involve memory, like the amygdala and the thalamus. Further tests on mice, using Oxytocin and vasopressin (a peptide hormone that reabsorbs molecules), centered on gene manipulation. The tests supported the earlier results that the hormones enhanced social memory and social cognition.
The Epoch Times: On your research and “randomized double-blind study” on the effects of Oxytocin on repetitive behaviors in ASD: What have you learned so far about the causal relationship between Oxytocin in these children? Is it related to abnormalities in Oxytocin?
Dr. Hollander: The studies were in healthy adults. We gave Oxytocin via a nasal delivery. It improved strong trust bonds. It improved emotions that could be read in the eyes. In the recent study of young adults (above 18 years of age) on the spectrum, Oxytocin therapy lessened the “stimming.” It reduced or eliminated repetitive behavior. Delivered intravenously, it improved social cognition. The improvements were preserved for a two-week period on a single dose.
We are going to conduct a third Oxytocin study with an eight (8) week time period to rescue certain symptom domains. It is important to expand the database in the young adults with autism. We need to acquire evidence by the studies that Oxytocin treatment works. Recruiting clinical patients for this study is vital. So is safety. Safety and evidence. In this study we will give Oxytocin with intranasal delivery.
The Epoch Times: I read that two universities, Duke and Stanford, in 2009 announced that they had researched possible links between autism and Oxytocin. Both of those studies post-dated your Oxytocin research by several years. Do they relate to your studies in anyway? Do they expand upon it?
Dr. Hollander: The Duke study was interesting. It focused on people inheriting polymorphisms, or genetic receptors. And epigenetics, how genes transform in the environment in early brain development. Methyl (“gene relating molecules”) in blood and brain tissue could be measured for the first time. It followed how genes changed over time. They identified the best response was by intranasal delivery. They found Oxytocin strengthened “trust,” the kind that Wall Street traders would like to give investors. It also improved social interaction.
Brain development starts in the first trimester, in the womb. This has profound affects of social interaction. Orphanages in Romania, where the children were isolated from contact, developed social deficits from the social deprivation.
[Study A. “Possible Link Between Autism And Oxytocin Gene Via Non-DNA
Sequence Mutation Science Daily (Oct. 22, 2009).]
[Study B. Clinical study recruiting both typically-developing and autistic youngsters Stanford Report, March 4, 2009 by Erin Digitale.]
The Epoch Times: My research shows that studies into the links between autism and Oxytocin date to a paper you led at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine all the way back to 2002. Have you seen progress in the research and multiple studies over the past decade?
Dr. Hollander: Yes. Oxytocin has enhanced social memory. It surprised us how well it worked. How it improved behavior. How it altered system bonds, the ability to process. Expectations now… It will improve the rigid, repetitive behavior found in OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and autism children.
Studies in Australia on Oxytocin, using the intranasal form, saw big improvements in behavior of autistic children. It improved their social development and can treat other subgroup neurological disorders, like schizophrenia or social anxiety disorder.
The Epoch Times: After such a long journey with Oxytocin, and the recent success of studies done on young adults on the spectrum, do you believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel? Do you believe that studies are near for this linkage with ASD children?
Dr. Hollander: We must replicate the findings in adults on the spectrum to better identify bigger responses, which brain systems are enhanced. This will be done by fMRI. We need to set the baseline, do more research.
The Epoch Times: What is your next step in Oxytocin research?
Dr. Hollander: Perform more imaging studies on compulsive/impulsive behavior and better understand how Oxytocin interacts with neurotransmitters. Doing Oxytocin studies on ASD children is more than two years away. We need more evidence and safety before the FDA approves that phase of research. That will come after more studies are done on young adults.
The Epoch Times: Over the years in your studies and research with Aspergers’ syndrome and autism disorders, what are the similarities between the “spectrum cousins?” What are the differences? Which one, if any, will benefit the most from Oxytocin treatment?
Dr. Hollander: We’re doing better in broadening ASD system domains. PDD, Aspergers’ syndrome, and Kanter’s syndrome make up most of the spectrum. The social deficits of all three are very similar. But in verbal functions there is a big difference. In autism, Aspergers’, OCD, trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), tourrets syndrome, and OCD personality disorder there are social differences and overlaps in rigidity.
The Epoch Times: In your years of research, have you seen a spike in autism diagnosis or children with it? If so, do you feel there is an environmental cause combined with genetic defects, abnormalities or deficiencies?
Dr. Hollander: There has been a huge increase in services for autism. The CDC estimates 1 in 50 boys born will be on the spectrum. Have the CDC rates increased?… That may be due to broadening the definition of autism. The environment on genetics is a big factor.
The Epoch Times: Tell me a little more about icare4autism 2010 International Autism Conference coming to Jerusalem in July. I understand that you plan on speaking at the conference, and that it will bring together researchers, theorists, physicians and educators to discuss autism topics such as treatment, education, causes and prevention.
Dr. Hollander: Yes, I will emcee it. I am excited about the Jerusalem Conference. That is where international sharing of epigenetic findings, basic genetic work, and clinical experiences come together. It will be important to keep research going. Media and the availability of services will have a big impact on research findings. Large sample sizes will be needed for more studies, as will be collecting treatment and genetic studies. For Oxytocin and other autism studies, it will be vital to build a larger international network. ICare4Autism and other advocacy groups like it are key to expanding that base. To get the knowledge out.
James Ottar Grundvig is a writer living in New York City who has an autistic child.