A Zyto practitioner brought her laptop in our home and did a Zyto session with him. She took me into the other room afterwards and said she would not be responsible for treating him. He was too close to death.
The following morning we were left with literally, nowhere to turn. The practitioner called me back to say her friend had mentioned Michael Payne to her when she shared Coleman’s situation. Her quote was, “Michael does things with the Zyto that Zyto doesn’t even do with the Zyto. He tricks it out and actually looks into the brain. He’s the brain guy.”
We needed a brain guy. We called Michael’s office; he cleared his schedule for the evening acknowledging this was an emergency.
He said we would not have to get Coleman to him and he would not have to come in the room with Coleman because we could use the Zyto via the Internet. We couldn’t believe this was an option. The remote Zyto for us became our lifeline. The software was easy to install and soon we were watching the session on our laptop with Michael’s voice on the phone.
Clearly the body ‘s energy doesn’t lie.
Within the first 5 minutes of our remote session, Michael said, “Your son has a profound strep infection in the basal ganglia area of his brain. It looks explosive and this is serious. Look up PANDAS.”
Those words literally saved Coleman’s life when no doctors, no blood work, no web search could tell us what was plaguing our son. He identified everything that eventual lab work confirmed during that first session.
During this session, my husband was driving to Michael’s office to pick up the remedies. Within an hour we were putting the first drops in Coleman’s mouth. By the second day, he lifted his head, and our progress began.
For us, there is absolutely no doubt that without Zyto’s remote capabilities, we would not have our son. Clearly, it takes a mixture of technology and intuition, but if a practitioner can’t get to his or her patient, that patient typically has no option for recovery. But remote Zyto allowed Michael to “get to Coleman” via the Internet, through a cable, down his hand and into the deep recesses of his body.
It’s now four years later and just a few days ago, Coleman met the man who saved his life. Funny, that Michael knew Coleman’s body and brain inside out for more than a year, but they actually just recently met face to face. It was a beautiful moment…brought to you by a tenacious practitioner and his remote Zyto.
– See more at: http://lwtinternational.com/colemans-story/#sthash.d9MULIjx.dpuf]]>
Sven Sandin, who worked on the study at King’s College London and Sweden’s Karolinska institute, said it was prompted “by a very basic question which parents often ask: ‘If I have a child with autism, what is the risk my next child will too?'”
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggest heritability is only half the story, with the other 50 percent explained by environmental factors such as birth complications, socio-economic status, or parental health and lifestyle.
The study also found that children with a brother or sister with autism are 10 times more likely to develop the condition, three times if they have a half-brother or sister with autism, and twice as likely if they have a cousin with autism.
“At an individual level, the risk of autism increases according to how close you are genetically to other relatives with autism,” said Sandin. “We can now provide accurate information about autism risk which can comfort and guide parents and clinicians in their decisions.”
People with autism have varying levels of impairment across three common areas: social interaction and understanding, repetitive behavior and interests, and language and communication.
The exact causes of the neurodevelopmental disorder are unknown, but evidence has shown it is likely to include a range of genetic and environmental risk factors.
As many as one in 50 school-age children in the United States are diagnosed with autism, although some of these will be milder cases that have been diagnosed partly because of better recognition of autism symptoms by carers and doctors. In Europe, experts say the rate is around one in 100 children.
For this latest study, researchers used Swedish national health registers and analyzed anonymous data from all 2 million children born in Sweden in between 1982 and 2006, 14,516 of whom had a diagnosis of autism.
The researchers analyzed pairs of family members, identical and non-identical twins, siblings, maternal and paternal half-siblings and cousins.
The study involved two separate measures of autism risk – heritability, which is the proportion of risk in the population that can be attributed to genetic factors, and relative recurrent risk which measures individual risk for people who have a relative with autism.
Most previous studies have suggested heritability of autism may be as high as 80 to 90 percent. But this new study, the largest and most comprehensive to date, found genetics factors only explained around half of the cause of the disorder.
“Heritability is a population measure, so whilst it does not tell us much about risk at an individual level, it does tell us where to look for causes,” said Avi Reichenberg, of the Mount Sinai Seaver Center for Autism Research, who worked on the study while he was at King’s College London.
He said he was surprised by the results, as he did not expect the importance of environmental factors to be so strong.
“Recent research efforts have tended to focus on genes, but it’s now clear that we need much more research to focus on identifying what these environmental factors are,” he added.
In this small study, PET scans of the brains revealed inflammation in the following areas of the brain:
When comparing results to symptoms, researchers found that cognitive impairment was linked to inflammation in the amygdala, thalamus, and midbrain. Pain was linked to cingulate cortex inflammation, and depression to hippocampus inflammation.
Researchers concluded that widespread inflammation of the brain is a feature of ME/CFS and is associated with the severity of certain symptoms. They say this work is essential for understanding the pathology of the condition as well as for developing better diagnostic criteria and treatments.
For years, some researchers have hypothesized that neuroinflammation was at work in ME/CFS. In fact, that’s where the name myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) comes from – encephalomyelitis means “inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.”
Some countries have adopted ME as the preferred term for this illness. However, much of the U.S. medical community has rejected this name because there was no direct evidence of neuroinflammation.
The implications of this study could be enormous. If further research supports the findings – this was, after all, a small study – it could lead not only to better diagnostics and treatments as the researchers suggest, it would also provide the validation people with ME/CFS have been waiting for.
If the name “chronic fatigue syndrome” could be ditched and replaced with “myalgic encephalomyelitis,” it could only make the illness be taken more seriously by the public. No longer would you tell people your diagnosis and have them say, “I get tired, too.” (Can you even imagine someone casually saying, “I wonder sometimes if my brain is inflammed”?) Heck, the unwieldiness of the name alone will keep it from being the butt of jokes, never mind that few people will know what those big medical words mean.
More importantly, though, would be a change in the medical community. If researchers can point to an underlying pathology that correlates directly with symptoms, doctors will have to accept that yes, this is a real disease and it warrants attention. Your doctors will take you seriously, more research will be done, and drug manufacturers will have better treatment targets.
Again, this is a small study in an area that needs a lot more investigation before it’ll change anything. It is, however, an important step in what could be a really right direction.
Jane* was barely 40-years-old when her asthma caused her to turn blue and stop breathing. She was saved with chest compressions and weeks of intensive care. A year later, it happened again, causing the emergency medical system to convulse into action once more. For the next two years she was in-and-out of the hospital monthly for wheezing and shortness-of-breath—until I took over her care.
Following standard medical guidelines, I put her on a ludicrous amount of pharmaceuticals—and I managed to keep her out of the hospital for a year. I could have counted this as a victory if it weren’t for the fact that one thing bugged me: Why did she have asthma in the first place? She didn’t smoke and had no allergies, yet she was always on the verge of respiratory collapse.
Then I put her on a diet to heal her “leaky gut”—and she stopped wheezing completely. To me it looked like she was cured. It seemed the guidelines that the other doctors and I had followed were not only wrong—they were costly and dangerous. After all, she still landed in the ICU twice. If—as the leaky gut theory goes—bacteria and toxins were slipping into her system through a permeable intestine and wreaking havoc throughout her body, then she didn’t need impressive arsenals of expensive medicines. She didn’t even need a doctor. She needed a proper diet.
As a conventional physician, it was hard to accept.
Needless to say, the medical establishment does not accept it. The official medical societies for gastroenterologists, rheumatologists and internists don’t mention it on their websites. All three declined to comment on leaky gut for this piece. Their silence leaves conventional physicians to fend for themselves when patients inquire about it. With 10,000 published articles related to intestinal permeability, and scores of websites hyping the perils of “leaky gut,” doctors on the frontlines don’t have a fighting chance at getting to the truth. Meanwhile, sites like Quackwatch and England’s National Health Service give stern warnings about not buying into this “unproven” diagnosis.
But leaky gut is not unproven. There’s even a test for it. The original test was developed in the 1980s by UCLA researchers who were trying to understand what caused the inflammatory bowel disease known as Crohn’s. The researchers found that leaky gut preceded inflammation, implying that the leakiness plays a key role in disease development. In a fascinating retelling of events, the principle investigator Professor Daniel Hollander recalls, “We did not think that it was the only etiologic factor…but by allowing … infectious or toxic substances to penetrate the intestinal barrier…[increased intestinal permeability could] contribute to the cascade of events that culminate in active Crohn’s disease.”
“Observations should not be dismissed because they do not conform to our current medical dogma. We are simply missing too many opportunities to help people get well.”
That was 30 years ago. And in the interim, leaky gut has been found in association with several diseases including: asthma, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel, kidney disease, psoriasis, eczema, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and heart failure. Now we even understand how it happens. In what is likely to be Nobel Prize-worthy work, Harvard celiac researcher, Alessio Fasano, MD found that our bodies make a protein (with the nifty name, “Zonulin”) that essentially unzips the tight junctions that seal the intestinal lining.
Although we don’t know all the things that stimulate the release of Zonulin, we do know that certain bacteria and gluten can do it. Along with genetic factors, that may be enough to create a perfect storm to trigger disease. “I firmly believe that without loss of intestinal barrier,” Dr. Fasano wrote me, “it is difficult…to understand how autoimmune diseases would develop.”
The thing is that autoimmune diseases—like diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis—are on the rise. It’s not an exaggeration to say they comprise most of the people who seek medical care. Maybe that’s why all the alternative practitioners are talking about leaky gut. But you don’t have to dig too far in PubMed to find some serious establishment researchers talking about it, too. In fact, a German researcher wrote a recent review that makes a good case that gut health should be our main objective in medicine.
So why isn’t it?
Admittedly, part of the problem is the name. “Leaky gut” has a deeply unserious ring to it. Dr. Fasano also believes there’s another reason the medical establishment remains skeptical about leaky gut. “Some alternative medicine practitioners have made claims that are simply ridiculous,” he offered. When I asked what he meant by ridiculous, he was clear: “That all diseases of human kind are due to leaky gut.”
“Leaky gut” may not be the unified field theory of medicine, but so far the evidence is good that its effects go way beyond the intestine. And that’s not a novel idea. As far back as the 1860s “auto-intoxication” by nasty gut microbes was thought to cause systemic disease and mental illness—and for decades well-respected scientists agreed. This idea fell out of favor in the last century—and was looked on with scorn as “unscientific.” These days when patients suggest leaky gut, doctors usually dismiss them with a hand wave and some partially informed statement about a lack of evidence.
But that’s a deeply unscientific stance. Evidence does not only come in the form of pharmaceutically-funded drug trials; it also comes from basic science and through careful observation. And those observations should not be dismissed because they do not conform to our current medical dogma. We are simply missing too many opportunities to help people get well.
Consider the asthma epidemic. Public health officials point to pollution in the air, never pointing out the pollution in the gut. Yet, Dr. Fasano’s group has found preliminarily that 40% of asthmatics have leaky gut22. Asthma is a problem in the inner cities—could it be related to the fact that they are also “food deserts?” Could the emulsifiers and other chemicals in the processed foods be causing leaky gut? And could that be causing asthma? Unfortunately, these are the kinds of questions we stopped asking in medicine—and most of us are impugned as quacks for even inquiring.
On the other hand, the fact that 7 out of 10 Americans are now taking prescription drugs should not be taken lightly. If much of our disease burden is caused by leaky gut, prescription medicines can’t do anything to get to the root of the problem. This goes a long way to explain why having access to primary care does not improve outcomes. This situation is a disaster for both our economy and our health: pills and procedures are costly, but simple, inexpensive dietary changes can frequently fix a leaky gut.
The truth will come out eventually, of course. But let’s not wait another 30 years. Let’s simply declare today, “National Heal-Your-Gut Day.” Raise awareness, tell a friend, tell everyone who’s ever been told “it’s all in your head” or sent home in pain with an, “I’m sorry, I can’t find anything wrong.” Tell everyone with rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus, or MS, or depression, or bad digestion, or chronic fatigue: Leaky gut really might be causing your problems.
Then we can start healing ourselves—and the American health care system—this time, from the inside out.
Dr. Philip Landrigan at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and Dr. Philippe Grandjean from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, authors of the review published Friday in The Lancet Neurology journal, say the news is so troubling they are calling for a worldwide overhaul of the regulatory process in order to protect children’s brains.
“We know from clinical information on poisoned adult patients that these chemicals can enter the brain through the blood brain barrier and cause neurological symptoms,” said Grandjean.
“When this happens in children or during pregnancy, those chemicals are extremely toxic, because we now know that the developing brain is a uniquely vulnerable organ. Also, the effects are permanent.”
The two have been studying industrial chemicals for about 30 years. In 2006, they published data identifying five chemicals as neurotoxicants — substances that impact brain development and can cause a number of neurodevelopmental disabilities including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, dyslexia and other cognitive damage, they said.
Those five are lead, methylmercury, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and toluene.
Banned in the United States in 1979, PCBs were used in hundreds of products including paint, plastic, rubber products and dyes. Toluene is in household products like paint thinners, detergents, nail polish, spot removers and antifreeze.
7 chemicals in your food
Now, after further review, six more chemicals have been added to the list: manganese; fluoride; tetrachloroethylene, a solvent; a class of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or flame retardants; and two pesticides, chlorpyrifos, which is widely used in agriculture, and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT.
“The continuing research has identified six new chemicals that are toxic to the developing human brain,” said Landrigan. “We’re turning up chemicals at the rate of about one a year that we’re discovering are capable of damaging the developing brain of a human fetus or human infant.”
To examine fluoride, which is in tap water in many areas, Landrigan and Grandjean looked at an analysis of 27 studies of children, mostly in China, who were exposed to fluoride in drinking water at high concentrations. The data, they said, suggests a decline on average of about seven IQ points.
There’s another big concern: “We are very worried that there are a number of other chemicals out there in consumer products that we all contact every day that have the potential to damage the developing brain, but have never been safety tested,” Landrigan said.
“Over the last six or seven years we are actually adding brain toxic chemicals at a greater speed than we are adding toxicity evidence in children’s brains,” Grandjean said.
“At least 1,000 chemicals using lab animals have shown that they somehow interfere with brain function in rodents — rats and mice — and those are prime candidates for regulatory control to protect human developing brains. But this testing has not been done systematically.”
At greatest risk? Pregnant women and small children, according to Grandjean. According to the review, the biggest window of vulnerability occurs in utero, during infancy and early childhood.
The impact is not limited to loss of IQ points.
“Beyond IQ, we’re talking about behavior problems — shortening of attention span, increased risk of ADHD,” Landrigan said.
“We’re talking about emotion problems, less impulse control, (being) more likely to make bad decisions, get into trouble, be dyslexic and drop out of school. … These are problems that are established early, but travel through childhood, adolescence, even into adult life.”
BPA, phthalate exposure may cause fertility problems
It’s not just children: All these compounds are toxic to adults, too. In fact, in 2006 the pair documented 201 chemicals toxic to the adult nervous system, usually stemming from occupational exposures, poisonings and suicide attempts.
The American Chemistry Council, meanwhile, called the review a “rehash” of the authors’ first review.
“This iteration is as highly flawed as the first, as once again the authors ignore the fundamental scientific principles of exposure and potency,” said council spokesman Scott Jensen.
“What is most concerning is that the authors focus largely on chemicals and heavy metals that are well understood to be inappropriate for children’s exposure, are highly regulated and/or are restricted or being phased out. They then extrapolate that similar conclusions should be applied to chemicals that are more widely used in consumer products without evidence to support their claims. Such assertions do nothing to advance true scientific understanding and only create confusion and alarm.”
Landrigan and Grandjean now say all untested chemicals in use and all new chemicals should be tested for developmental neurotoxicity.
This is not a new concept. In 2007, the European Union adopted regulations known as REACH — Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals — to protect human health from risks posed by chemicals. REACH covers all chemicals, placing the burden of proof on companies to prove that any chemicals they make are safe.
“We are behind right now and we’re falling further behind,” Landrigan said. “… I find it very irritating some of the multinational manufacturers are now marketing products in Europe and the U.S. with the same brand name and same label, but in Europe (they) are free of toxic chemicals and in the U.S. they contain toxic chemicals.”
The best example of this, he said, is cosmetics and phthalates. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in hundreds of products from cosmetics, perfume, hair spray, soap and shampoos to plastic and vinyl toys, shower curtains, miniblinds, food containers and plastic wrap.
You can also find them in plastic plumbing pipes, medical tubing and fluid bags, vinyl flooring and other building materials. They are used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl.
In Europe, cosmetics don’t contain phthalates, but here in the United States some do.
Phthalates previously were used in pacifiers, soft rattles and teethers. But in 1999, after a push from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, American companies stopped using them in those products.
“We certainly have the capability, it’s a matter of political will,” Landrigan said. “We have tried in this country over the last decade to pass chemical safety legislation but the chemical industry and their supporters have successfully beat back the effort.”
However, the Food and Drug Administration said two of the most common phthalates, — dibutylphthalate, or DBP, used as a plasticizer in products such as nail polishes to reduce cracking by making them less brittle, and dimethylphthalate, or DMP used in hairsprays — are now rarely used in this country.
Diethylphthalate, or DEP, used in fragrances, is the only phthalate still used in cosmetics, the FDA said.
“It’s not clear what effect, if any, phthalates have on human health,” according to the FDA’s website. “An expert panel convened from 1998 to 2000 by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), part of the National Institute for Environmental Safety and Health, concluded that reproductive risks from exposure to phthalates were minimal to negligible in most cases.”
But Grandjean is unfazed.
“We know enough about this to say we need to put a special emphasis on protecting developing brains. We are not just talking about single chemicals anymore. We are talking about chemicals in general.”
“This does not necessarily mean restrict the use of all chemicals, but it means that they need to be tested whether they are toxic to brain cells or not,” he said.
“We have the test methods and protocols to determine if chemicals are toxic to brain cells. If we look at this globally, we are looking at more than a generation of children — a very high proportion of today’s children have been exposed to lead, mercury and other substances, including substances that have not yet been tested but are suspect of being toxic to brain development.”
The Environmental Working Group is an environmental health research organization that specializes in toxic chemical analysis and has long called for reforms. In 2004, the group tested 10 samples of umbilical cord blood for hundreds of industrial pollutants and found an average of 200 in each sample.
“Here in the U.S., the federal law put in place to ostensibly protect adults and children from exposures to dangerous chemicals, including those that can present serious risks to the brain and nervous systems, has been an abject failure,” said Environmental Working Group spokesman Alex Formuzis.
“The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act has instead been largely responsible for the pollution in people beginning in the womb, where hundreds of industrial contaminants literally bathe the developing fetus.”
Landrigan is recruiting pregnant women for a new study that will test for chemical exposures. He said it’s inevitable that over the next few years more chemicals will be added to the list.
His concern? “The ability to detect these chemicals lags behind the chemical industries’ ability to develop new chemicals and put them into consumer products. That’s why we need new legislation in this country to close that gap.”
“We are lagging behind,” Grandjean said. “And we are putting the next generation of brains in danger.”
In a study to be presented later this year at The American Academy of Neurology’s 66th Annual Meeting, researchers analyzed data from 65 patients who had experienced hemorrhagic strokes – comparing them to 65 healthy patients. Hemorrhagic strokes, which are relatively rare, occur when a weakened blood vessel ruptures, causing blood to leak into the brain.
Both groups underwent blood testing to measure their vitamin C levels. Overall, 41 percent of participants had normal levels, 45 percent had low levels and 14 percent had levels so low they were considered to be vitamin C deficient, according to Medical News Today.
On average, people who had experienced a stroke had lower levels of vitamin C, while people who had not experienced a stroke demonstrated normal levels of the vitamin.
“Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight in our study,” said study author Dr. Stéphane Vannier, of Pontchaillou University Hospital in Rennes, France.
The researchers suggest vitamin C may help reduce blood pressure, which could explain why it appears to be linked to a reduced risk for stroke.]]>
For children with autism, the whole moviegoing experience can be too much to tolerate. But it wasn’t for those who attended a special showing Saturday morning of “The Lego Movie” at Cinemagic Grand at Clarks Pond. The children could talk as loudly as they wanted and even dance in the aisles if they saw fit.
“They can move around and sing along,” said David Headley, manager of the South Portland theater.
The theater is one of a growing number of movie houses that offer special showings for children with autism and other sensory difficulties, or those who just can’t sit still and be quiet when the action gets exciting. Theaters in Auburn and Farmington also have held special showings.
Other businesses are also making changes to accommodate people with sensory issues. For the past two Christmases, the Maine Mall has turned down its lights and sound for sensory friendly sessions with Santa Claus.
About a half-dozen families attended Saturday’s showing of the current No. 1 box office hit. The lights were turned up and the sound turned down a little bit more than at usual showings. It was the second special sensory-friendly showing offered at the Cinemagic Grand at Clarks Pond, which will hold similar showings at 10 a.m. every third Saturday of the month.
“Children with autism make noises. They can’t always sit in their seats. They may have to pace or eat constantly,” said Lynda Mazzola, founder of the Maine Autism Society and a speech and language pathologist.
Mazzola said special showings allow autistic children and their families a chance to enjoy the moviegoing experience in a setting where everyone is tolerant of talking and movement.
Because autistic children process sensory information differently, they can easily become overloaded, Mazzola said. It helps if they can self-regulate the experience, watch a few minutes, leave and then come back for more. She said it may take awhile before an autistic child can tolerate an entire movie.
“I work with some adults who are now able to go in and watch a whole movie in a regular theater and they really enjoy it,” Mazzola said.
Families at Saturday’s special showing said they appreciated the chance to watch a movie without having to worry about disturbing someone else.
“This is nice to have because it is hard to keep them sitting still and quiet,” said Sarah Taubner of Portland, who was accompanied by her husband, Justin Yindra, and her stepsons, Toby Yindra, 8, and Sebastian Yindra, 6.
Jenn Brooking of Cape Elizabeth brought her 7-year-old twins, Alex and Andy. This was Andy’s first movie in a movie theater.
“This is something we have been waiting for a long time. Sometimes it’s difficult to stay quiet when it’s exciting,” Brooking said.
Alexander Kang, 5, said he once watched a movie projected on the ceiling of a planetarium but had never visited a movie theater before.
His father, Peter Kang of Cape Elizabeth, said his son has sensory difficulties that make it hard for him to be around loud noises.
Erin and Aaron Geyer drove an hour from Parsonsfield to see the movie with their son, Ethan, 6. Geyer said she called the movie theater at one point to suggest a special showing for children like Ethan who are autistic or have other sensory issues and was delighted to find out about the Cinemagic series.
“We try to expose Ethan to as much as we can,” Erin Geyer said.
The Geyers said the special showing made the moviegoing experience more comfortable for them.
“We will be with people who understand and accept,” Aaron Geyer said.
Researchers found an index of antibody levels caused by exposure to Chlamydia pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 was associated with worse cognitive performance, including memory, speed of mental processing, abstract thinking, planning and reasoning ability.
“We were very interested in what were the risk factors for cognitive performance and decline,” said Clinton Wright, the study’s lead researcher and scientific director of the Evelyn F McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Miami.
Earlier studies have already linked certain infections to an increased risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers investigated if evidence of past exposure to these infections contributed to performance on tests of memory, thinking speed and other brain functions.
The study conducted brain function tests and took blood samples from 588 people who participated in the Northern Manhattan Study. Half of the participants then took cognitive tests again in five years.
Researchers believe exposure to these infections may be associated with an increase in stroke risk, as well as an increase in atherosclerosis and inflammation, said Wright.
The study doesn’t explain why the infections are related to worsening cognitive function.
“It could be caused by an immune system response to the infections or the infection itself could result in clinical damage that we’re not aware of,” Wright said.
“There is no evidence yet that treating these infections is beneficial,” Wright said, because the initial exposure to the viruses may have happened decades earlier and the damage may be the result of a gradual process.
“It would be great if treatment prevented these bad outcomes, but we’re very far away from having that type of evidence,” he said.]]>
New research from Case Western Reserve University and University of Toronto neuroscientists finds that the brains of autistic children generate more information at rest — a 42% increase on average. The study offers a scientific explanation for the most typical characteristic of autism — withdrawal into one’s own inner world. The excess production of information may explain a child’s detachment from their environment.Published at the end of December in Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, this study is a follow-up to the authors’ prior finding that brain connections are different in autistic children. This paper determined that the differences account for the increased complexity within their brains.
“Our results suggest that autistic children are not interested in social interactions because their brains generate more information at rest, which we interpret as more introspection in line with early descriptions of the disorder,” said Roberto Fernández Galán, PhD, senior author and associate professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.
The authors quantified information as engineers normally do but instead of applying it to signals in electronic devices, they applied it to brain activity recorded with magnetoencephalography (MEG). They showed that autistic children’s brains at rest generate more information than non-autistic children. This may explain their lack of interest in external stimuli, including interactions with other people.
The researchers also quantified interactions between brain regions, i.e., the brain’s functional connectivity, and determined the inputs to the brain in the resting state allowing them to interpret the children’s introspection level.
“This is a novel interpretation because it is a different attempt to understand the children’s cognition by analyzing their brain activity,” said José L. Pérez Velázquez, PhD, first author and professor of neuroscience at University of Toronto Institute of Medical Science and Department of Pediatrics, Brain and Behavior Center. “Measuring cognitive processes is not trivial; yet, our findings indicate that this can be done to some extent with well-established mathematical tools from physics and engineering.”
This study provides quantitative support for the relatively new “Intense World Theory” of autism proposed by neuroscientists Henry and Kamila Markram of the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland, which describes the disorder as the result of hyper-functioning neural circuitry, leading to a state of over-arousal. More generally, the work of Galán and Pérez Velázquez is an initial step in the investigation of how information generation in the brain relates to cognitive/psychological traits and will begin to frame neurophysiological data into psychological aspects. The team now aims to apply a similar approach to patients with schizophrenia.
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