Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Side Effects of Tongue Piercing

Tongue piercing can lead to side effects such as bacterial infections, excessive bleeding, nerve damage, dental damage, kelloid, allergic reaction and severe pain. Tongue piercing is cool to have but it is also necessary to take enough precautions to avoid suffering the negative effects of tongue piercing.
A case in point is a study quoted in the British Dental Journal where a healthy 19-year old girl collapses after attending a party and the reason ascertained is serious tongue piercing infection done few hours before attending a party where she collapses. In 2005, The Telegraph also mentions an instance in which a teenage boy succumbs to blood poisoning after lip piercing.
Avoid such or worse kind of situations by knowing these six side effects and take precaution/s in advance.
6 Side Effects of Tongue Piercing
1) Gum Problems- The tongue barbells placed after the piercing can cause problems to the gums because of repetitive rubbing of the barbells with the tongue or the inner side of the tongue. In severe cases, the damage has to be surgically corrected.
2) Severe Infection- Tongue is one of the organs which when cut can cause profuse bleeding. Further, the mouth is full of bacteria and if the piercing process is not carefully executed, it can cause severe infection, cause the area to become swollen and in some cases, it has to be surgically cured.
3) Neuralgia- The American Medical Association reports a case in which a girl experiences stabbing pain lasting 10 to 30 seconds about 30 times a day. No amount of medication helps. Finally, the doctors remove the metal stud from the pierced tongue and within two days, she is perfectly fine. This is a classic case of neuralgia, also known as "suicide disease".
During the piercing process, the nerves surrounding the area can be ruptured without the knowledge of both the parties and later, it causes problems like the reported case. Hence, it is important to get the piercing done from an experienced and knowledgeable person to avoid neuralgia.
4) Getting Stuck- If the barbell is not properly setup, it can dislodge itself and wind down the bronchial pipes and get stuck in intestines. If the person is lucky, the barbell can be flushed through bowel movement but as medical cases have shown, it has to be operated and removed.
5) Risk of HIV or Hepatitis- Any kind of body art should be done with gloves and sterilized instruments. It is worth every penny to visit a reputed clinic to get piercing done. Use of unsterilized instruments can cause HIV or Hepatitis.
6) Oral Cancer- Tongue swelling, speech impediment, deep cyst and nerve damages are some of the symptoms of oral cancer. Oral cancer can happen because of drugs, smoking and unhygienic piercing methods. In extreme cases, a condition of endocarditis may also develop. Endocarditis is a condition in which the bacterium enters the blood stream and the heart valves get irreparably damaged.

Your Best Emotional Life Starts Here

Many of life's emotional stresses, shocks and challenges are out of our control. We don't know when they're going to happen, we don't want them and we'd choose differently if we could.
Then also, many of life's emotional rewards can seem too few and far between - again, feeling way too far out of our control.
Yet there are some key aspects of our emotional lives that are within our control. And the good news is, that taking charge of those things that are within our control can increase life's emotional rewards, decrease the stresses and shocks, and help us weather them more easily when they do occur.
Each of these various activities can all be summarized under the heading, "taking care of emotional ground zero."
This is the part of our emotional lives that has to do with our very BEING - in other words, our existence. To minimize the stresses and negatives in life and increase the positives, we need to focus first and foremost on strengthening and improving these aspects of our lives because they contribute to our survival.
And as we do this, we support the health and repair of the physical systems that keep us alive: our digestive, respiratory, eliminative, immunologic and circulatory systems.
For example, consider where you stand as you answer each of the following questions. Then, being informed and aware of what you need to change you can decide to make improvements where you need to:
1. Do I get enough sleep, and is it of high enough quality - deep, uninterrupted, restorative rest?
2. Do I feed myself nutritious food in sufficient amounts with high enough quality and variety while minimizing intake of fake and/or toxic substances?
3. Do I get enough air - do I breathe deeply enough, ventilate rooms adequately, do what I can to keep the air of high quality?
4.To what extend is my attitude toward myself positive, nurturing, supportive?
5. Do I give myself enough down time, so that I allow myself to be a human being instead of a human doing?
6. Do I build and encourage relationships that support my right to exist and honor my needs and feelings, while taking constructive steps to free myself from those that are abusive, critical, or downright toxic?
Paying attention to and improving these aspects of our lives that are within our control, we build a firm internal foundation that can withstand the inevitable storms and earthquakes might otherwise shatter us.

4 Simple Ways To Reduce Tummy Fat

Nobody could blame you for wanting to know how to reduce tummy fat. Just picture yourself with that wonderfully toned tummy you're after. You'll look and feel great when you lower your waist size!
I think you will agree that having to get some new clothes due to belly fat loss is not the worst problem in the world to have!
But if you are having a little trouble shedding those pounds, then what can you do? Let me show you just a few simple things you can do every day to get your belly down to size and looking great.
Carry A Water Bottle Everywhere You Go
Most of recognize just how important drinking water is, but how many of us actually do it? If you are looking to get a smaller tummy, then it's extra important. Sometimes when we get thirsty we default to drinking things like coffee and soda, which hardly help hydration and weight loss. Having a bottle of water ready will ensure that you can always take a sip when you need it.
Eat Healthy Snacks Throughout The Day
Would you believe that a lot of people are afraid to snack because thing doing it will add pounds to their belly? That's pretty unfortunate because snacking can be one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to reduce tummy fat. That's because it actually requires calories to burn food.
Eating appropriate portions more frequently will keep your insulin nice and even while your body more efficiently burns fats. Some great on the go snack items include apples, peanut butter, almond butter, nuts and vegetable chips.
Remember To Always Read The Labels
There are plenty of packaged foods with labels saying how healthy they are. You might be led to believe that eating them will help you lose tummy fat. While there are certainly many legitimately healthy foods that don't have harmful ingredients, you always have to watch out.
Some foods will have a substantial amount of added sugar and even unnecessary calories. Worse, you could even ingest some nasty preservatives or other chemicals! Always be careful to choose simple, fresh foods with ideally only a few ingredients.
Get Help And Encouragement
Hey, you don't have to do this alone. Whatever goal for reducing tummy fat you have, don't be afraid to ask for help from your friends, family and even a personal trainer.
It's completely normal to need some emotional support when you are slimming yourself down, and a positive, encouraging reference group will likely be exactly what you need to pull yourself through the times when otherwise it seems hard to stay motivated.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Most people getting life insurance have an intention to not only live in a life with fewer risks but also to save a lot of money. The basic way to get cheap life insurance is by comparing life insurance rates from several leading companies. It will only require several minutes since we can do it from the official website of insurance companies. Therefore, in order to get cheap life insurance, we should consider several things.

We should tell the insurance company about our medical history. It will help you to get proper coverage. Since the premiums are various, we should carefully find one which can help us saving a lot of money. If we desire to pay less for life insurance, we should make sure that we are non-smokers. It is because a non-smoker will have fewer risks of health issues. Make sure we will only buy and pay for cover we need. We should check whether we have cover with our employment or not. It will be useful in knowing to not pay for double cover. There are sorts of coverage available such as whole life insurance and term life insurance. Furthermore, when we are getting older, we may have to pay a higher life insurance.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Makes Online Payday Loans Much Beneficial to You

There are more than just benefits that you could get when you decide to take the advantages of online payday loans service, compared to those of the conventional ones. First, you have no limitation whatsoever of where and when you are about to propose your loan. Indeed, those conventional payday loan offices may equally be an easy place to get your money. But this online service is much easier, for you really have no such office hours and or the likes.

Second, with greater access in proposing your loan, you should really feel much more secured, at least to say so in financial term. Had anything happened after midnight for instance, or late in the evening when most of the offices have already closed their services, you should really know you are well welcomed by this online service.

Thus, it is this feeling of security, the very feeling that enables you to have much better preparation just in case anything bad befalls your life, which gives you the better advantage more than money could buy. And this feeling of great security is all because you know where you have to click your mouse every time you needed your money really fast and ready!


Obtaining car insurance will urge you to drive carefully on the road. Even though the insurance can help you covering any medical expenses or loss damage but it will be better that you know what you do when you get a car accident. By that, you can proceed the claims much easier at once. Therefore, when you get an accident, you should know several basic things you should do.

You should know how to make an accident report. The report will help you get claims properly. Usually, you have to include the insurance information, the license plate numbers, the names of people involved in the car accident, and the witnesses. The report will also help you to deal with coverage you have obtained from a car insurance company. When you call the car insurance agent, you can proceed it as fast as possible. If possible, you take photos about the situations or conditions when you get car accident with your camera or mobile device. That will become a proof. If the car accident makes a severe damage or someone dies, you should not forget to notify the city police or the state police. A written report is very important due to avoid your license to be suspended.


People who are looking for top rated e cigs are the ones who seek an alternative in their smoking habits. Actually, it is not about quitting smoking. It is more to change the smoking habits into electronic cigarettes. Besides, there are some people who believe that they can even quit smoking by using electronic cigarettes. It is because they can set the nicotine in the electronic cigarettes from high up to zero. The interesting thing about electronic cigarettes is it has various flavors from traditional tobacco up to fresh mint. More than anything else, electronic cigarettes can be an alternative with some benefits.
Electronic cigarettes are healthy as they do not contain dangerous chemicals which can cause cancer. By utilizing the rechargeable batteries, people can have electronic cigarettes at anytime and anywhere without being bothered to smoke only in the smoking room since most of the electronic cigarettes are from of first-hand smoke and second-hand smoke. Electronic cigarettes will not produce unpleasant smoke so it is also good for indoor areas. Nowadays, traditional cigarettes prices and taxes are increasing from year to year. By switching to electronic cigarettes, people can also save a lot of money properly by reducing up to fifty percent of the smoking expenses every year.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence

What is usually seen as pathology may aid survival of the species

Worrying may have evolved along with intelligence as a beneficial trait, according to a recent study by scientists at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and other institutions. Jeremy Coplan, MD, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate, and colleagues found that high intelligence and worry both correlate with brain activity measured by the depletion of the nutrient choline in the subcortical white matter of the brain. According to the researchers, this suggests that intelligence may have co-evolved with worry in humans.

"While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be," said Dr. Coplan. "In essence, worry may make people 'take no chances,' and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species."

In this study of anxiety and intelligence, patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) were compared with healthy volunteers to assess the relationship among intelligence quotient (IQ), worry, and subcortical white matter metabolism of choline. In a control group of normal volunteers, high IQ was associated with a lower degree of worry, but in those diagnosed with GAD, high IQ was associated with a greater degree of worry. The correlation between IQ and worry was significant in both the GAD group and the healthy control group. However, in the former, the correlation was positive and in the latter, the correlation was negative. Eighteen healthy volunteers (eight males and 10 females) and 26 patients with GAD (12 males and 14 females) served as subjects.

Previous studies have indicated that excessive worry tends to exist both in people with higher intelligence and lower intelligence, and less so in people of moderate intelligence. It has been hypothesized that people with lower intelligence suffer more anxiety because they achieve less success in life.

The results of their study, "The Relationship between Intelligence and Anxiety: An Association with Subcortical White Matter Metabolism," was published in a recent edition of Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, and can be read at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3269637/pdf/fnevo-03-00008.pdf.

The study was selected and evaluated by a member of the Faculty of 1000 (F1000), placing it in their library of the top 2% of published articles in biology and medicine.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient's bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.

SUNY Downstate ranks eighth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school social worker continuing education

Genetic manipulation boosts growth of brain cells linked to learning, enhances antidepressants

DALLAS -- UT Southwestern Medical Center investigators have identified a genetic manipulation that increases the development of neurons in the brain during aging and enhances the effect of antidepressant drugs.

The research finds that deleting the Nf1 gene in mice results in long-lasting improvements in neurogenesis, which in turn makes those in the test group more sensitive to the effects of antidepressants.

"The significant implication of this work is that enhancing neurogenesis sensitizes mice to antidepressants – meaning they needed lower doses of the drugs to affect 'mood' – and also appears to have anti-depressive and anti-anxiety effects of its own that continue over time," said Dr. Luis Parada, director of the Kent Waldrep Center for Basic Research on Nerve Growth and Regeneration and senior author of the study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Just as in people, mice produce new neurons throughout adulthood, although the rate declines with age and stress, said Dr. Parada, chairman of developmental biology at UT Southvestern. Studies have shown that learning, exercise, electroconvulsive therapy and some antidepressants can increase neurogenesis. The steps in the process are well known but the cellular mechanisms behind those steps are not.

"In neurogenesis, stem cells in the brain's hippocampus give rise to neuronal precursor cells that eventually become young neurons, which continue on to become full-fledged neurons that integrate into the brain's synapses," said Dr. Parada, an elected member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, its Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The researchers used a sophisticated process to delete the gene that codes for the Nf1 protein only in the brains of mice, while production in other tissues continued normally. After showing that mice lacking Nf1 protein in the brain had greater neurogenesis than controls, the researchers administered behavioral tests designed to mimic situations that would spark a subdued mood or anxiety, such as observing grooming behavior in response to a small splash of sugar water.

The researchers found that the test group mice formed more neurons over time compared to controls, and that young mice lacking the Nf1 protein required much lower amounts of anti-depressants to counteract the effects of stress. Behavioral differences between the groups persisted at three months, six months and nine months. "Older mice lacking the protein responded as if they had been taking antidepressants all their lives," said Dr. Parada.

"In summary, this work suggests that activating neural precursor cells could directly improve depression- and anxiety-like behaviors, and it provides a proof-of-principle regarding the feasibility of regulating behavior via direct manipulation of adult neurogenesis," Dr. Parada said.

Dr. Parada's laboratory has published a series of studies that link the Nf1 gene – best known for mutations that cause tumors to grow around nerves – to wide-ranging effects in several major tissues. For instance, in one study researchers identified ways that the body's immune system promotes the growth of tumors, and in another study, they described how loss of the Nf1 protein in the circulatory system leads to hypertension and congenital heart disease social worker ceus

The current study's lead author is former graduate student Dr. Yun Li, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other co-authors include Yanjiao Li, a research associate of developmental biology, Dr. Renée McKay, assistant professor of developmental biology, both of UT Southwestern, and Dr. Dieter Riethmacher of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Parada is an American Cancer Society Research Professor.

This news release is available on our World Wide Web home page at www.utsouthwestern.edu/home/news/index.html

To automatically receive news releases from UT Southwestern via email, subscribe at www.utsouthwestern.edu/receivenews

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Antipsychotic drug may be helpful treatment for anorexia nervosa

Mouse model of anorexia offers opportunity to study drugs effective for disorder

Low doses of a commonly used atypical antipsychotic drug improved survival in a mouse model of anorexia nervosa, University of Chicago researchers report this month. The result offers promise for a common and occasionally fatal eating disorder that currently lacks approved drugs for treatment.

Mice treated with small doses of the drug olanzapine were more likely to maintain their weight when given an exercise wheel and restricted food access, conditions that produce activity-based anorexia (ABA) in animals. The antidepressant fluoxetine, commonly prescribed off-label for anorexic patients, did not improve survival in the experiment.

"We found over and over again that olanzapine was effective in harsher conditions, less harsh conditions, adolescents, adults — it consistently worked," said the paper's first author Stephanie Klenotich, graduate student in the Committee on Neurobiology at the University of Chicago Biological Sciences.

The study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, was the product of a rare collaboration between laboratory scientists and clinicians seeking new treatment options for anorexia nervosa. As many as one percent of American women will suffer from anorexia nervosa during their lifetime, but only one-third of those people will receive treatment.

Patients with anorexia are often prescribed off-label use of drugs designed for other psychiatric conditions, but few studies have tested the drugs' effectiveness in animal models.

"Anorexia nervosa is the most deadly psychiatric disorder, and yet no approved pharmacological treatments exist," said Stephanie Dulawa, PhD, assistant professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago Medicine and senior author of the study. "One wonders why there isn't more basic science work being done to better understand the mechanisms and to identify novel pharmacological treatments."

One challenge is finding a medication that patients with anorexia nervosa will agree to take regularly, said co-author Daniel Le Grange, PhD, professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience and director of the Eating Disorders Clinic at the Univershty of Chicago Medicine. Drugs that directly cause weight gain or carry strong sedative side effects are often rejected by patients.

"Patients are almost uniformly very skeptical and very reluctant to take any medication that could lower their resolve to refrain from eating," Le Grange said. "There are long-standing resistances, and I think researchers and clinicians have been very reluctant to embark on that course, since it's just littered with obstacles."

Both fluoxetine and olanzapine have been tried clinically to supplement interventions such as family-based treatment and cognitive-behavioral therapy. But their direct effect on anorexia nervosa behavior — in humans or animals — is lacking in sufficient data.

To test the effectiveness of these drugs in laboratory mice, Klenotich adapted the ABA protocol from previously published rat studies: Mice given 24-hour access to a running wheel but only six hours a day of food access become hyperactive, eat less and rapidly lose weight, with a 25 percent reduction from baseline considered to be the "drop-out" survival point.

In Klenotich's study, mice were pretreated with fluoxetine, olanzapine or saline before starting the ABA protocol, and treatment continued throughout the ABA period. Researchers then measured how many mice in each group reached the drop-out point for weight loss over 14 days of food restriction and exercise wheel access. Treatment with the antipsychotic olanzapine significantly increased survival over the control group, while fluoxetine treatment produced no significant effects on survival.

Importantly, a low dose of olanzapine did not decrease overall running activity in the mice, indicating that sedative effects of the drug were minimal. In future experiments, the researchers hope to use different drugs and genetic methods to determine exactly how olanzapine is effective against symptoms of anorexia nervosa, perhaps pointing toward a better drug without the negative image or side effects of an antipsychotic.

"We can dissect the effect of olanzapine and hopefully identify the mechanisms of action, and identify what receptor systems we want to target," Klenotich said. "Hopefully, we can develop a newer drug that we can aim towards the eating disorders clinic as an anorexic-specific drug that might be a little more acceptable to patients."

The study offers support for the clinical use of olanzapine, for which clinical trials are already under way to test in patients. Le Grange said the development of a pharmacological variant that more selectively treats anorexia nervosa could be a helpful way to avoid the "stigma" of taking an antipsychotic while giving clinicians an additional tool for helping patients.

"I think the clinical field is certainly very ready for something that is going to make a difference," Le Grange said. "I'm not saying there's a 'magic pill' for anorexia nervosa, but we have been lacking any pharmacological agent that clearly contributes to the recovery of our patients. Many parents and many clinicians are looking for that, because it would make our job so much easier if there was something that could turn symptoms around and speed up recovery."

Additionally, the study demonstrated the innovative experimental design and translational results that can come from a collaboration of laboratory and clinical experts.

"We don't talk to one another often enough in basic science and clinical science," Le Grange said. "More of that would be helpful for clinicians to understand the neurobiology of this disease. I'm very excited about the way this project is going, and I think it's going to be clinically very informative."


The paper, "Olanzapine, but not fluoxetine, treatment increases survival in activity-based anorexia in mice," was published online March 7 by Neuropsychopharmacology (doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.7). In addition to Klenotich, Dulawa and Le Grange, authors include Mariel Seiglie and Priya Dugad of the University of Chicago and Matthew S. McMurray and Jamie Roitman of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Funding for the research was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.

For more news from the University of Chicago Medical Center, follow us on Twitter at @UChicagoMed, or visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/UChicagoMed, our research blog at sciencelife.uchospitals.edu, or our newsroom at uchospitals.edu/news. counselor ceus

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Scripps Research Institute Team Wrests Partial Control of a Memory

News Release

The work advances understanding of how memories form and offers new insight into disorders such as schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder

LA JOLLA, CA – March 22, 2012 – Scripps Research Institute scientists and their colleagues have successfully harnessed neurons in mouse brains, allowing them to at least partially control a specific memory. Though just an initial step, the researchers hope such work will eventually lead to better understanding of how memories form in the brain, and possibly even to ways to weaken harmful thoughts for those with conditions such as schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers have known for decades that stimulating various regions of the brain can trigger behaviors and even memories. But understanding the way these brain functions develop and occur normally—effectively how we become who we are—has been a much more complex goal.

“The question we’re ultimately interested in is: How does the activity of the brain represent the world?” said Scripps Research neuroscientist Mark Mayford, who led the new study. “Understanding all this will help us understand what goes wrong in situations where you have inappropriate perceptions. It can also tell us where the brain changes with learning.”

On-Off Switches and a Hybrid Memory

As a first step toward that end, the team set out to manipulate specific memories by inserting two genes into mice. One gene produces receptors that researchers can chemically trigger to activate a neuron. They tied this gene to a natural gene that turns on only in active neurons, such as those involved in a particular memory as it forms, or as the memory is recalled. In other words, this technique allows the researchers to install on-off switches on only the neurons involved in the formation of specific memories.

For the study’s main experiment, the team triggered the “on” switch in neurons active as mice were learning about a new environment, Box A, with distinct colors, smells and textures continuing education for counselors

Next the team placed the mice in a second distinct environment—Box B—after giving them the chemical that would turn on the neurons associated with the memory for Box A. The researchers found the mice behaved as if they were forming a sort of hybrid memory that was part Box A and part Box B. The chemical switch needed to be turned on while the mice were in Box B for them to demonstrate signs of recognition. Alone neither being in Box B nor the chemical switch was effective in producing memory recall.

“We know from studies in both animals and humans that memories are not formed in isolation but are built up over years incorporating previously learned information,” Mayford said. “This study suggests that one way the brain performs this feat is to use the activity pattern of nerve cells from old memories and merge this with the activity produced during a new learning session.”

Future Manipulation of the Past

The team is now making progress toward more precise control that will allow the scientists to turn one memory on and off at will so effectively that a mouse will in fact perceive itself to be in Box A when it’s in Box B.

Once the processes are better understood, Mayford has ideas about how researchers might eventually target the perception process through drug treatment to deal with certain mental diseases such as schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder. With such problems, patients’ brains are producing false perceptions or disabling fears. But drug treatments might target the neurons involved when a patient thinks about such fear, to turn off the neurons involved and interfere with the disruptive thought patterns.

In addition to Mayford, other authors of the paper, “Generation of a Synthetic Memory Trace,” are Aleena Garner, Sang Youl Hwang, and Karsten Baumgaertel from Scripps Research, David Rowland and Cliff Kentros from the University of Oregon, Eugene, and Bryan Roth from the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill.

This work is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and the Michael Hooker Distinguished Chair in Pharmacology at UNC.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute is one of the world's largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organizations. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its discoveries in immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neuroscience, and vaccine development, as well as for its insights into autoimmune, cardiovascular, and infectious disease. Headquartered in La Jolla, California, the institute also includes a campus in Jupiter, Florida, where scientists focus on drug discovery and technology development in addition to basic biomedical science. Scripps Research currently employs about 3,000 scientists, staff, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students on its two campuses. The institute's graduate program, which awards Ph.D. degrees in biology and chemistry, is ranked among the top ten such programs in the nation. For more information, see www.scripps.edu.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Possibld Causes of Sudden Onset OCD in Kids Broadened

NIH Immune-Based Treatment Study Underway

Criteria for a broadened syndrome of acute onset obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) have been proposed by a National Institutes of Health scientist and her colleagues. The syndrome, Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS), includes children and teens that suddenly develop on-again/off-again OCD symptoms or abnormal eating behaviors, along with other psychiatric symptoms – without any known cause nursing ceus

PANS expands on Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus (PANDAS), which is limited to a subset of cases traceable to an autoimmune process triggered by a strep infection. A clinical trial testing an immune-based treatment for PANDAS is currently underway at NIH and Yale University (see below).

“Parents will describe children with PANS as overcome by a ‘ferocious’ onset of obsessive thoughts, compulsive rituals and overwhelming fears,” said Susan Swedo, M.D., of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), who first characterized PANDAS two decades ago. “Clinicians should consider PANS when children or adolescents present with such acute-onset of OCD or eating restrictions in the absence of a clear link to strep.”

Swedo, James Leckman, M.D., of Yale University, and Noel Rose, M.D., Ph.D. of Johns Hopkins University, propose working criteria for PANS in February 2012 in the open source journal Pediatrics & Therapeutics.

“As the field moves toward agreement on this broadened syndrome, affected youth will be more likely to receive appropriate care, regardless of whether they are seen by a neurologist, pediatrician or child psychiatrist,” said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D.

Differing causes sharing a “common presentation”

The PANS criteria grew out of a PANDAS workshop convened at NIH in July 2010, by the NIMH Pediatric and Developmental Neuroscience Branch, which Swedo heads. It brought together a broad range of researchers, clinicians and advocates. The participants considered all cases of acute-onset OCD, regardless of potential cause.

Clinicians reported that evaluations of more than 400 youth diagnosed with PANDAS confirmed that affected boys outnumbered girls 2:1, with psychiatric symptoms, always including OCD, usually beginning before 8 years.

Although debate continues about the fine points, the field is now of one mind on the core concept of “acute and dramatic” onset of a constellation of psychiatric symptoms. There is also broad agreement on the need for a “centralized registry” that will enable the research community to analyze evidence from studies that will eventually pinpoint causes and treatments. Such a registry is currently under development by members of the International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation (IOCDF).

Since a diagnosis of PANS implies no specific cause, clinicians will have to evaluate and treat each affected youth on a case-by-case basis.

“PANS will likely turn out to include a number of related disorders with different causes that share a common presentation,” explained Swedo.

The authors propose that a patient must meet 3 diagnostic criteria for a diagnosis of PANS:
1.Abrupt, dramatic onset of OCD or anorexia.
2.Concurrent presence of at least two additional neuropsychiatric symptoms with similarly severe and acute onset. These include: anxiety; mood swings and depression; aggression, irritability and oppositional behaviors; developmental regression; sudden deterioration in school performance or learning abilities; sensory and motor abnormalities; somatic signs and symptoms.
3.Symptoms are unexplainable by a known neurologic or medical disorder.

Among the wide range of accompanying symptoms, children may appear terror stricken or suffer extreme separation anxiety, shift from laughter to tears for no apparent reason, or regress to temper tantrums, “baby talk” or bedwetting. In some cases, their handwriting and other fine motor skills worsen dramatically. Leckman’s team at the Yale Child Study Center is in the process of developing assessment tools for diagnosing the syndrome.

PANDAS treatment study targets errant antibodies

Meanwhile, Swedo, Leckman, and Madeleine Cunningham of the University of Oklahoma, and colleagues, are collaborating on a new, multi-site placebo-controlled study, testing the effectiveness of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) for reducing OCD symptoms in children with PANDAS.

Previous human and animal research suggested mechanisms by which strep-triggered antibodies mistakenly attack specific brain circuitry, resulting in obsessional thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

“Strep bacteria has evolved a kind of camouflage to evade detection by the immune system,” Swedo explained. “It does this by displaying molecules on its cell wall that look nearly identical to molecules found in different tissues of the body, including the brain. Eventually, the immune system gets wise to this ‘molecular mimicry,’ recognizes strep as foreign, and produces antibodies against it; but because of the similarities, the antibodies sometimes react not only with the strep, but also with the mimicked molecules in the human host. Such cross-reactive ‘anti-brain’ antibodies can cause OCD, tics, and the other neuropsychiatric symptoms of PANDAS.”

IVIG, a medication derived from normal antibodies, neutralizes such harmful antibodies, restoring normal immune function. It is used to treat other autoimmune illnesses and showed promise in a pilot study with PANDAS patients.

“We predict that IVIG will have striking benefits for OCD and other psychiatric symptoms, and will prove most effective for children who show high levels of anti-brain antibodies when they enter the study,” said Swedo.

Prospective study participants are first screened by phone by investigators at the NIH or the Yale Child Study Center. Those who meet eligibility requirements are then randomized to receive either active IVIG or a placebo procedure during a brief inpatient stay at the NIH Clinical Center. The researchers remain blind to which children received the active medication; after 6 weeks of placebo control, they give any children whose symptoms fail to improve the option to receive open-label active treatment.

In addition to assaying for antibodies that attack brain cells, the researchers use magnetic resonance imaging to see if the treatment reduces inflammation in an area of the brain known as the basal ganglia, which is thought to be the target of the errant antibodies. They also analyze levels of immune system chemical messengers (cytokines) in cerebrospinal fluid and blood – with an eye to identifying biomarkers of disease activity and potential predictors of treatment response.

The study was launched with support from the NIH Clinical Center’s Bench to Bedside program, which encourages such intramural-extramural collaborations in translational science.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Linked Brain Centers Mature in Sync

Imaging Reveals Underlying Unity Between Brain Structure and Development

Long-term neuroimaging studies show for the first time that areas of the brain that are wired together structurally and functionally also tend to mature in tandem over the course of development. The finding adds a new dimension to a picture that is emerging of how structure, function, and development of the brain are intertwined ceus for mfts


Studies of brain development have shown that growth across the brain is not steady and uniform; some areas mature more quickly than others. These studies to date have not, however, examined whether areas of the brain that are linked functionally also develop in a coordinated way. It’s a challenging question because the developmental changes in brain anatomy that can be detected by neuroimaging unfold very slowly. Also, tempos of anatomical change differ from person to person, so comparing brain dimensions in different individuals at the same age can be misleading. The only way to approach this question is to track patterns of growth in the same individuals over many years.

This Study

To address this question, Armin Raznahan and colleagues at NIMH took advantage of a dataset that is unique in the world, consisting of records of brain growth measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of individuals from childhood to young adulthood. They studied changes in thickness of the outer layer of the brain, the cortex. In order to look for correlated anatomical change in connected parts of the brain, these investigators used records of cortical thickness from 108 individuals from ages 9 to 22. They focused on a well-defined and documented brain circuit: the default mode network or DMN. The DMN, a network identified by functional brain imaging, consists of nodes, or centers, in the brain that are active when someone’s mind is at rest, but quiet when the mind is focused on a task. In addition to tracking growth in the DMN, the NIMH investigators also looked at patterns of growth on the right and left side of the brain. There are extensive neuronal connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Activation tends to be symmetrical and simultaneous within analogous parts on either side of the brain.

Results showed that there was a marked correlation in the rates of cortical thickness change between different points within the DMN when compared with the average correlation among thousands of other points across the brain. A similar pattern was seen among points in a second “task positive” network that is active while someone is carrying out goal-directed tasks; rates of change in cortical thickness within this second network also showed a pattern of coordinated maturing. Parts of the cortex involved in the integration and processing of incoming information and responses—the association cortex—were most likely to show correlated anatomical change with broad areas of the cortex. Similar correlations in change were not seen among parts of the cortex involved primarily in sensory input.

Correlations in anatomical change were also apparent between analogous centers on the right and left side of the brain, paralleling the symmetry in activation of these areas. Finally, the investigators looked at an area of the cortex (the frontopolar cortex) for which previous work had shown differences in the rate of maturation between males and females. This study found the same difference between males and females in maturation rate in this area. In addition, there were differences between the sexes in the degree to which thickness change in this area showed coordination with that of other areas of the cortex.

The coloring in this MRI scan reflects the extent to which changes in various areas of the maturing cortex correlate with similar changes over time in the default mode network, a network in the brain that is active when a person is at rest. Red indicates the highest degree of correlation—blue is the lowest. (Colors indicate correlation with one “node” within the default mode network, indicated by a circle in the image.)

Source: Armin Raznahan, Child Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health


Neuroscientists are increasingly viewing the brain in terms of the development and function of neural circuits. According to Dr. Raznahan, this approach represents a sea change compared to the earlier emphasis on studying individual brain areas. In addition to the work reported here, recent studies of gene expression (activity) patterns in the brain suggest that genes that have roles in laying down connections between functionally related areas are also especially active during development.

In a high percentage of cases of mental disorders, the first symptoms emerge during youth; this is one piece of evidence that mental illnesses are disorders of development. Research on the relationships between brain connectedness and structural maturation can help provide a basis for future studies of how disruptions in the laying down of neural circuits in the brain during development can shape the structure and function of the adult brain and set the stage for mental illness. The authors point out in their paper that disorders that disrupt functional connections might also alter structural brain development. Comparing how development unfolds in individuals with and without disorders of mental health can offer clues to causes and targets for therapies. Finally, the findings on sex differences reported here can lend insight into the types of behavior seen during adolescence, especially risk-taking.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Computer-Based Treatment Eases Anxiety Symptoms in Children

Small Clinical Trial Supports Larger Scale Testing

A computer-based training method that teaches a person with anxiety to shift attention away from threatening images reduced symptoms of anxiety in a small clinical trial in children with the condition. The results of this first randomized clinical trial of the therapy in children with anxiety suggest that the approach warrants more extensive testing as a promising therapy.


As many as a quarter of 13- to 18-year-olds have met the criteria for an anxiety disorder at some point. Currently available treatments—including cognitive behavioral therapy and medication—relieve symptoms of anxiety in about 70 percent of children treated. Most children with clinical anxiety do not receive treatment, partly because of difficulties in access to care, including distance and financial resources. Scientists are searching for additional approaches, including therapies that do not involve medication with its associated side effects counselor ceus

A treatment called attention bias modification (ABM) has emerged from the observation that people with anxiety unconsciously pay more attention than others to anything that seems threatening. One way of detecting such a bias is a dot probe test. In the test, people view a computer screen on which angry and neutral faces are flashed briefly, adjacent to each other. After the faces disappear, a test image of dots appears where either one or the other face was, and the person has to respond by pushing a button. People with anxiety consistently respond more quickly to dots that appear where the angry face was located.

ABM presents patients with an exercise similar to the dot probe test, but the dots always appear where the neutral face was, and thus consistently draw the attention of the participant to this non-threatening image. A recent meta-analyses of ABM in adults by some of the same investigators who carried out this work suggested its potential as a treatment.

This Study

Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel carried out a clinical trial on ABM as an outcome of a three-year collaboration with scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health and the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland. Yair Bar-Haim of TAU led the study, which appears in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The study enrolled 40 children, 8 to 14 years old, who had sought help for anxiety. For children receiving ABM, after faces appeared on a screen, two dots appeared on the screen; children had to determine whether the dots were side by side, or one above the other. In every case, dots appeared only where the neutral face had been. There were also two control groups: in the first, dots appeared equally frequently where angry and neutral faces appeared; in the second, the only faces that appeared throughout were neutral, so the dots always appeared in the location of a neutral face. The object of the second control group was to help confirm that any therapeutic effect was from the ABM training, and not from desensitizing the children to threatening faces. Children in the study were randomly assigned to receive treatment, or to be in one of two control groups. All children had four training sessions over 4 weeks, with 480 dot-probe trials per session.

Although the trial was small, there was a “reasonably robust” decrease in the severity of anxiety, according to the authors. Following ABM, both the number and severity of symptoms were reduced.


An important feature of ABM, says NIMH author Daniel Pine, is that it addresses the fundamental neurological function underlying anxiety: attention. Changes in attention happen very quickly—in milliseconds. “We know from neuroscience that if you want to change behaviors that happen very quickly, you have to practice. You can’t just tell someone how to drive, or throw a ball. You have to practice,” says Pine.

Longitudinal studies that follow children into adulthood suggest that most chronic mood and anxiety disorders in adults begin as high levels of anxiety in children. In fact, childhood anxiety is as important in predicting adult depression as it is for adult anxiety. The ability to influence attention biases early in development might provide a powerful means of prevention for both of these disorders later in life. The approach requires no medication and in practical terms, the computer-based nature of ABM lends itself to large-scale dissemination, in a medium children are comfortable with. Larger-scale trials will bd able to provide more information on the efficacy of the treatment in children and how it works to reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pattern Recognition Technology May Help Predict Future Mental Illness in Teens

Pattern Recognition Technology May Help Predict Future Mental Illness in Teens

Source: NIMH

A technique combining computer-based pattern recognition and brain imaging data accurately distinguished teens at risk for mental disorders from those with low risk and may someday be useful in predicting risk in individuals, according to an NIMH-funded study published February 15, 2012, in the journal PLoS One.


Research on risk for mental disorders generally describes risk factors that apply to groups. To date, no biological measures can accurately predict an individual’s risk of future mental disorders.

Mary Phillips, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues evaluated the use of computer-based techniques that automatically find patterns in data—these techniques are collectively called machine learning—with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data. The researchers obtained fMRI data from 32 teens, half of whom had at least one biological parent diagnosed with bipolar disorder and were therefore at genetic risk for future psychiatric disorders. The other half of teens had no history of mental disorders either personally or in their immediate families.

The teens’ brain activity was assessed as they identified the gender of actors depicting various emotional facial expressions (happy, fearful, or neutral) in a series of photographs. Previous research has linked various mental disorders, especially depression and bipolar disorder, with abnormal patterns of brain activity during this task. Based on this fMRI data, the researchers used machine learning to calculate each participant’s odds for future mental illness social worker ceus

The participants were also assessed clinically and with fMRI at the start of the study, and clinically assessed again about two years later, on average. Long-term follow up is ongoing, with successive face-to-face assessments occurring every other year.


Machine learning combined with fMRI accurately identified most of the healthy teens at genetic risk of future mental disorders vs. healthy teens with low genetic risk. Four of the 16 at-risk teens were misidentified as having low risk.

At the two-year follow up, none of the at-risk teens had developed bipolar disorder, but six were diagnosed with major depression or an anxiety disorder. Among all the at-risk teens identified through machine learning, these six had received the highest odds for belonging to the at-risk group.

Three of the four at-risk teens misidentified as belonging to the low risk group at the start of the study remained healthy at the second assessment. Clinical information for the fourth teen was not available at the time of follow-up.


Though still a very preliminary study, according to the researchers, machine learning combined with fMRI shows promise for predicting individual risk of developing future mental disorders, especially in at-risk populations.

The ongoing follow-up may also yield further insights into the relationship between depression, anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorder. Many studies have shown that bipolar disorder is often preceded by depression or anxiety disorders, and that these disorders may affect the course of subsequent bipolar disorder.

What’s Next

Larger studies using machine learning and fMRI will help to better define the extent to which pattern recognition techniques can accurately identify people at risk for future mental disorders. Research in this area may also inform early treatment or prevention efforts.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How stress influences disease: Carnegie Mellon study reveals inflammation as the culprit

PITTSBURGH—Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body. For example, psychological stress is associated with greater risk for depression, heart disease and infectious diseases. But, until now, it has not been clear exactly how stress influences disease and health.

A research team led by Carnegie Mellon University's Sheldon Cohen has found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research shows for the first time that the effects of psychological stress on the body's ability to regulate inflammation can promote the development and progression of disease continuing education for social workers

"Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control," said Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty Professor of Psychology within CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Cohen argued that prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to the hormone. Specifically, immune cells become insensitive to cortisol's regulatory effect. In turn, runaway inflammation is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases.

Cohen, whose groundbreaking early work showed that people suffering from psychological stress are more susceptible to developing common colds, used the common cold as the model for testing his theory. With the common cold, symptoms are not caused by the virus — they are instead a "side effect" of the inflammatory response that is triggered as part of the body's effort to fight infection. The greater the body's inflammatory response to the virus, the greater is the likelihood of experiencing the symptoms of a cold.

In Cohen's first study, after completing an intensive stress interview, 276 healthy adults were exposed to a virus that causes the common cold and monitored in quarantine for five days for signs of infection and illness. Here, Cohen found that experiencing a prolonged stressful event was associated with the inability of immune cells to respond to hormonal signals that normally regulate inflammation. In turn, those with the inability to regulate the inflammatory response were more likely to develop colds when exposed to the virus.

In the second study, 79 healthy participants were assessed for their ability to regulate the inflammatory response and then exposed to a cold virus and monitored for the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, the chemical messengers that trigger inflammation. He found that those who were less able to regulate the inflammatory response as assessed before being exposed to the virus produced more of these inflammation-inducing chemical messengers when they were infected.

"The immune system's ability to regulate inflammation predicts who will develop a cold, but more importantly it provides an explanation of how stress can promote disease," Cohen said. "When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease. Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well."

He added, "Knowing this is important for identifying which diseases may be influenced by stress and for preventing disease in chronically stressed people."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mothers and OCD children trapped in rituals have impaired relationships

News Release: Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A new study from Case Western Reserve University finds mothers tend to be more critical of children with obsessive-compulsive disorder than they are of other children in the family. And, that parental criticism is linked to poorer outcomes for the child after treatment.

Parent criticism has been associated with child anxiety in the past, however, researchers wanted to find out if this is a characteristic of the parent or something specific to the relationship between the anxious child and the parent.

“This suggests that mothers of anxious children are not overly critical parents in general. Instead they seem to be more critical of a child with OCD than they are of other children in the home,” said Amy Przeworski, assistant professor of psychology. She is the lead author of the study, “Maternal and Child Expressed Emotion as Predictors of Treatment Response in Pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,” in the recent journal, Child Psychiatry & Human Development.

OCD is found in one in 200 children, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The psychological disorder overcomes individuals with repetitive thoughts that lead to anxiety, which is then acted out in exacting routines or behaviors that can range from foot tapping to eating rituals to school or bedtime preparations.

This research evolved from other studies that found parental criticism is associated with less success in therapy and a relapse of behavior.

“Parents’ criticism may be a reaction to the child’s anxiety. This research is not blaming the parent for the child’s OCD. But it does suggest that the relationship between parents and children with OCD is important and should be a focus of treatment. This means that parents can help children with OCD to get better.” Przeworski says.

“OCD sneaks up on the kids and parents,” Przeworski says.

The psychology professor, who specializes in anxiety disorders, says some parents become concerned when their children show some early warning signs for OCD:

• Rigidity in a child, with things routinely done or said in exactly the same way or order.
• Asking for reassurance many times in the day.
• Repetition of a task from tapping the foot, checking on the stove, washing hands that the child cannot stop when asked.
• Routines that have prescribed patterns or are excessive lengthy: An example is a two-hour shower or raw and chapped hands that look like the child is wearing red gloves.
• Bedtime or dinner rituals, where there is a prescribed order for eating food, placement of food on the plate, etc.
• Temper tantrums where the child goes beyond being stubborn but has anxiety associated with them.
• Children want symmetry in appearance or things around them.

Parents initially may think it is a phase, a habit or stubbornness. Over time, the behaviors become so exacting that the child and family members have to act in prescribed ways. Parents may end up criticizing the child in an effort to get them to drop obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

The researchers videotaped interviews with 62 mother-child pairs just before the child’s OCD treatment began. Children either had medication, therapy, a combination of the two, or a placebo. The children were between the ages of 7 and 17.

Because most mothers bring their children for treatment appointments, the researchers focused on the mother’s view of their children. Mothers were asked to give a five-minute description of their relationship with the child with OCD and the mother’s relationship with the sibling closest in age to the child with OCD. The researchers asked the children to describe their relationships with their mothers and fathers.

The researchers examined the presence of criticism and emotional over-involvement (over-protection or excessive self-sacrificing) in these descriptions. The tone of the OCD child and parent tended toward criticism, they said. The other sibling received more loving expressions. Parent criticism was associated with poorer child functioning after treatment.

Przeworski said treatment of OCD has good results, but many times parents misjudge these rigid routines as stubbornness or “just going through a phase” until the behavior takes over family life. Then parents realize the behavior requires therapy professional counselor continuing education

Collaborating with Przeworski were: Lori Zoellner from University of Washington; Martin E. Franklin and Edna B. Foa, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; and Abbe Garcia and Jennifer Freeman, Brown University. The study was supported with funds from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Spontaneous Gene Glitches Linked to Autism Risk with Older Dads

Non-Inherited Mutations Spotlight Role of Environment – NIH-Supported Study, Consortium ceus for nurses

Researchers have turned up a new clue to the workings of a possible environmental factor in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs): fathers were four times more likely than mothers to transmit tiny, spontaneous mutations to their children with the disorders. Moreover, the number of such transmitted genetic glitches increased with paternal age. The discovery may help to explain earlier evidence linking autism risk to older fathers.

The results are among several from a trio of new studies, supported in part by the National Institutes of Health, finding that such sequence changes in parts of genes that code for proteins play a significant role in ASDs. One of the studies determined that having such glitches boosts a child’s risk of developing autism five to 20 fold.

Taken together, the three studies represent the largest effort of its kind, drawing upon samples from 549 families to maximize statistical power. They reveal sporadic mutations widely distributed across the genome, sometimes conferring risk and sometimes not. While the changes identified don’t account for most cases of illness, they are providing clues to the biology of what are likely multiple syndromes along the autism spectrum.

“These results confirm that it’s not necessarily the size of a genetic anomaly that confers risk, but its location – specifically in biochemical pathways involved in brain development and neural connections. Ultimately, it’s this kind of knowledge that will yield potential targets for new treatments,” explained Thomas, R. Insel, M.D., director of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which funded one of the studies and fostered development of the Autism Sequencing Consortium, of which all three groups are members.

Multi-site research teams led by Mark Daly, Ph.D., of the Harvard/MIT Broad Institute, Cambridge, Mass., Matthew State, M.D., Ph.D., of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., and Evan Eichler, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, Seattle, report on their findings online April 4, 2012 in the journal Nature.

The study by Daly and colleagues was supported by NIMH – including funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The State and Eichler studies were primarily supported by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative. The studies also acknowledge the NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, and National Institute on Child Health and Human Development and other NIH components.

All three teams sequenced the protein coding parts of genes in parents and an affected child – mostly in families with only one member touched by autism. One study also included comparisons with healthy siblings. Although these protein-coding areas represent only about 1.5 percent of the genome, they harbor 85 percent of disease-causing mutations. This strategy optimized the odds for detecting the few spontaneous errors in genetic transmission that confer autism risk from the “background noise” generated by the many more benign mutations.

Like larger deletions and duplications of genetic material previously implicated in autism and schizophrenia, the tiny point mutations identified in the current studies are typically not inherited in the conventional sense – they are not part of parents’ DNA, but become part of the child’s DNA. Most people have many such glitches and suffer no ill effects from them. But evidence is building that such mutations can increase risk for autism if they occur in pathways that disrupt brain development.

State’s team found that 14 percent of people with autism studied had suspect mutations – five times the normal rate. Eichler and colleagues traced 39 percent of such mutations likely to confer risk to a biological pathway known to be important for communications in the brain.

Although Daly and colleagues found evidence for only a modest role of the chance mutations in autism, those pinpointed were biologically related to each other and to genes previously implicated in autism.

The Eichler team turned up clues to how environmental factors might influence genetics. The high turnover in a male’s sperm cells across the lifespan increases the chance for errors to occur in the genetic translation process. These can be passed-on to the offspring’s DNA, even though they are not present in the father’s DNA. This risk may worsen with aging. The researchers discovered a four-fold marked paternal bias in the origins of 51 spontaneous mutations in coding areas of genes that was positively correlated with increasing age of the father. So such spontaneous mutations could account for findings of an earlier study that found fathers of boys with autism were six times – and of girls 17 times – more likely to be in their 40’s than their 20’s.

“We now have a path forward to capture a great part of the genetic variability in autism – even to the point of being able to predict how many mutations in coding regions of a gene would be needed to account for illness,” said Thomas Lehner, Ph.D., chief of the NIMH Genomics Research Branch, which funded the Daly study and helped to create the Autism Sequencing Consortium. “These studies begin to tell a more comprehensive story about the molecular underpinnings of autism that integrates previously disparate pieces of evidence.”