Archive for July, 2009

Estrogen and Autism

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Today I saw a report describing a new study to release that focuses on 27 genes possibly contributing to autism. Sex steroid hormones are part of the focus of the study. Bhismadev Chakrabarti and Simon Baron-Cohen are two of the authors of the study.

The team carried out 2 experiments. First they looked at these genes in 349 adults in the general population, all of whom had filled in the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) as a measure of autistic traits, and the Empathy Quotient (EQ) as a measure of empathy. Secondly, they looked at 174 adults with a formal diagnosis of AS, and compared them to controls.” The Medical News reports.

I don’t often see estrogen emerge as a contender for contributors to autism. I’m not absolutely that is the case here, but there is that potential. But, as noted here and here, I’m playing with that notion.

The question is, if testosterone controls the rate of maturation, does estrogen manage the timing. If so, might autism be some explained?

Autism and Mother’s Autoimmune Disease

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Releasing today are articles focusing on a new study that supports the hypothesis that children of a mother with diabetes 1, rheumatoid arthritis or celiac disease are three times more likely to have autism.

These conjectures first emerged in Norman Geschwind and Albert Galaburda’s Cerebral Lateralization in 1987, and papers published earlier that decade. A number of studies have been published since, some supporting, some not supporting their hypothesis that there is a connection between cerebral lateralization, testosterone levels, and specific diseases and conditions.

What strikes me is the connection between this work and the recent conclusions formed by C. W. Kuzawa at Northwestern. The connection is, ontogeny is influenced by the environment. The mother predisposed to particular hormonal states by autoimmune diseases are vulnerable to specific environmental inflences.

The missing piece is what the nineteenth century evolutionary theorists called orthogenesis, or the particular ontogenetic evolutionary trajectories that might follow these kinds of hereditary plus environmental effects. Consider that autism is an evolutionary condition. Consider what might propel such changes, dynamics other than natural selection.

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