If Autism Isn’t a Brain Structure Difference, Then What?

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In Discover magazine, Neuroskeptic examines a new, large-scale study of brain anatomies of people with autism, calling it an “earthquake” in autism research and commenting, “I’m not sure how much of the field is left standing.”

According to Neuroskeptic, the new research “reports that there are virtually no differences in brain anatomy between people with autism and those without.” And what makes the findings so significant, writes Neuroskeptic, was the large sample size and large number of controls, involving over 1,500 people in total. “This makes the paper an order of magnitude bigger than a typical structural MRI anatomy study in this field.”

“I think this is an important paper and one that the autism field will need to take very seriously,” writes Neuroskeptic. “There are hundreds of studies claiming to have found differences in brain structure in autism, many with small sample sizes, and Haar et al’s failure to replicate almost any of these claims, is sobering.”

Most Autistic People Have Normal Brain Anatomy (Discover Magazine Blogs, October 25, 2014)

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65 COMMENTS

  1. Well, the study would be wrong, then. And Neuroskeptic would be wrong for touting it.

    And yes, in fact, I have seen MRI reports for many of those I cared for with autism over the years. There ARE anatomical differences – profound ones in severe autism, mild and small ones in mild autism. One of the people I cared for was missing the entire Corpus Calossum of the brain, which is not only a profound anatomical difference, but a structural one. And yes, in mild autism, the changes are small – tiny clusters of brain cells in the wrong layer of the brain, and in severe autism, the changes are large – up to and including major brain anatomical differences.

    Likewise, the genetic abnormalities in mild autism are few and mild, and in more severe autism, the genetic abnormalities are more, and more severe in effect. And these genes can be DIRECTLY tied to exactly the structural and anatomical differences found in the brain.

    So, yeah, you blew it. You’re spreading lies. Not the first time.

    Not the report in this study is not the first lie Mad in America has backed, but yes, this report is nothing more than a bald-faced lie.

    • Hmm. Personally, I’m interested in your point of view here, but what basis do you have for saying that MIA is “lying”? The title is a question and the text is composed of highlights from the article to which it links. Yes, the article it links to is a blog, but the blog linked to here is at Discover Magazine and it is discussing a journal article (http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/search?fulltext=anatomical+abnormalities+in+autism&submit=yes&x=7&y=11). Sure, it’s possible that Neuroskeptic’s analysis could be flawed and/or the study that Neuroskeptic is writing about about could be flawed, but how can you say that MIA is “spreading lies” by merely providing the link? You have also alleged that MIA has “backed” deception in the past. Would you care to provide the evidence?

      • @ uprising,

        I believe the MIA blogger Adam Urato, MD, has done a noteworthy job of addressing the issue of autism, here, on this website.

        See, for example, his first blog post: https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/04/on-world-autism-day-why-i-am-concerned-about-the-use-of-antidepressants-during-pregnancy/

        (That post initiated an interesting comment dialogue, as do many MIA blog posts.)

        I think most people who comment on this website agree that there is a good deal of valuable information gathering happening here.

        But, of course, that does not mean every ostensibly ‘scientific’ study that’s mentioned here is equally valuable (nor even valid).

        I would like to think that the news editor (Rob Wipond) is open to having any study he mentions questioned.

        On the other hand, we have commenter ‘tusu’ who has recently begun posting comments — (three MIA comments by this point) — the first one claiming that there’s no dialogue happening on this website.

        “There is no ‘dialogue’ with Mad In America. None. To even SUGGEST there is any dialogue anywhere NEAR Mad in America is ridiculous. It is all about one view, and that is NO treatment.”

        https://www.madinamerica.com/2014/10/between-psychiatry-and-anti-psychiatry-mad-in-america-opens-a-dialogue/#comment-53743

        A number of commenters (including I) responded to that first comment of tusu’s — that claim… of there supposedly being no dialogue here; tusu never replied.

        If tusu doesn’t reply here, on this page, then I’ll simply conclude tusu isn’t actually wanting to notice the dialogue happening on this website — that tusu is not wishing to engage in dialogue here; and, maybe (just maybe) tusu’s stated opinion, that dialogue is supposedly not happening at Mad in America, is just an effect of tusu’s own confirmation bias.

        Tusu may be, indeed, creating a self-fulling prophecy — to the extent that tusu is not willing to dialogue.

        If tusu is demonstrating confirmation bias and a tendency to create self-fulfilling prophecies, I suppose that might diminish tusu’s claims of having noted substantial neurological differences in the brain scans he studied… (Tusu states: “There ARE anatomical differences – profound ones in severe autism, mild and small ones in mild autism.”)

        By the way (for whatever my own inexpert opinion is worth, which may not be a whole lot), imho, in most ways, autism does not compare well with most other so-called “psychiatric disorders” — as I believe that, probably, there are legitimate biological markers for some cases of autism.

        Again, I recommend that blog post by Adam Urato — and the subsequent comment discussion…

        Respectfully,

        Jonah

        • It might be important to consider that developmental delay, schizophrenia, autism and unipolar depression have a common genetic basis. So it would not be all that remarkable, nor necessarily even suggest a causal relationship, between autism and antidepressants, if a woman took antidepressants and had an autistic child.

          For antidepressants to ’cause’ autism, it’s not good enough to point to a link or association study, because there are MANY possible reasons for an association.

          It would actually be necessary to demonstrate that mechanism in action. Conjecture is pointless and a waste of energy, but it is also harmful.

          • Well, there is very little proof for any significant genetic association to “schizophrenia” and even less for “depression” so the claim that depression can be genetically linked to autism is simply unsubstantiated. There are many factors better suited to consider when trying to explain anti-depressant in pregnancy to autism correlation and the zero hypothesis should be the drug’s doing it. If that proves false then one may start considering other reasons.

        • I replied quite a bit. What else do I have to reply to, in order to meet your measure?

          No, actually, I don’t think there is any real dialogue here. Unless the dialogue is between people who agree with the party line.

          Do I need to list links to the thousands of studies that have gone on for many decades, that are the sum accumulation of genetic research on autism?

          There was just a super study that came out a few weeks ago. Hundreds of genes. You do need to have some understanding of how genes work to understand the research, but only on a Freshman College level. Nothing advanced.

          Looking on pubmed, of recent interest:

          Study 25284784 is on mutations. Numerous studies reaching the same conclusion, this one being typical. These mutations occur in the individual, and are not inherited from the parent.

          They usually occur on the genetic material from the father, but again, the mutations occur in the offspring, not the father, and are not inherited.

          Several study designs revealed concerns with comparing mutations in non-autistic to autistic people. And when this was done, yes, actually, there were ‘typical’ types of mutations that occurred only in the autistic people. So while one study found 279 different de novo mutations, the mutations were STILL clustering on specific genes. Study 22495309 called this a ”highly interconnected protein network”. In other words, the mutations may be unique to one person, but they still involve specific areas of specific genes, and so, specific proteins, and specific developmental processes.

          The ‘gene genes’ that actually affected really basic functions(and may even cause the other mutations), were CHD8, DYRK1A, GRIN2B, TBR1, PTEN, and TBL1XR1-may.

          • “I replied quite a bit. What else do I have to reply to, in order to meet your measure?”

            @ tusu,

            Now, yes, on this page, you have replied quite a bit (I see that).

            So, you are dialoguing here, at MIA. Very good.

            By this point, I have only briefly studied your most recent comments.

            Some of what you’re saying suggests you may believe that autism is genetically caused. (And, not only autism…)

            In your comment, above, on November 1, 2014 at 10:04 pm, you say “developmental delay, schizophrenia, autism and unipolar depression have a common genetic basis,” and, to conclude your comment below, on November 1, 2014 at 9:54 pm, you say “Yes, many people have both autism and psychosis, and that makes perfect sense looking at which genes cause each.”

            I wonder, do you really mean to say that genes cause all that’s described by such labeling???

            It seems to me, that you are strongly suggesting, that gene damage causes autism (especially as you’re saying, above, that “Several study designs revealed concerns with comparing mutations in non-autistic to autistic people. And when this was done, yes, actually, there were ‘typical’ types of mutations that occurred only in the autistic people. So while one study found 279 different de novo mutations, the mutations were STILL clustering on specific genes. Study 25284784 is on mutations. Numerous studies reaching the same conclusion, this one being typical. These mutations occur in the individual, and are not inherited from the parent”).

            I certainly do believe gene damage can cause autism.

            And, of course, that must be, in most instances, gene damage caused by environmental toxins — considering the rate of increase in autism cases, in recent decades… (Some of that increased rate of incidence must be due to ‘diagnostic inflation,’ but not all of it is…)

            Your stated notion, that everything designated “developmental delay, schizophrenia […] and unipolar depression” is genetically determined and has “a common genetic basis” is quite far-fetched, in my opinion.

            E.g., whatever happens to be labeled “unipolar depression” may be caused by any number of factors. (Most commonly, learned helplessness is a major factor.)

            Childhood trauma is often (but not always) a major factor behind what is ultimately is called “schizophrenia.”

            I could go on, but instead I’ll wait for your response…

            Respectfully,

            Jonah

          • Better yet, I should say:

            Childhood trauma and/or neglect are often (but not always) major factors behind what is ultimately called “schizophrenia” …and also, often (but not always) childhood trauma and/or neglect are major factors behind what is ultimately called “unipolar depression.”

          • First of all define autism because there are many, including genetic, disorders that can be characterised as autistic or with autistic features. One of the better known is Rett syndrome which is a single gene caused disorder and has a clear cause in specific mutations. That is just not very clear from studies like the one you’ve mentioned where the gene effects are small and no causal relationship can be established (like the combination of small genetic changes which will lead to autistic phenotype as opposed to combinations that don’t). Studies like that appear often and have been widely criticised as producing a lot of artifacts due to statistical analysis of large datasets which are bound to be rid with false positives and genes found in these studies confer at best a miniscule risk.

      • Printing only one side of basically everything about psychiatry and mental illness, the worst offending subject being about schizophrenia, and yes, that is deliberate deception.

        Basically everything printed on MIA follows the party line and it appears anyone who disagrees gets air time only to be poo poo-ed. Every single study that backs a genetic model is only mentioned in passing to say it’s ‘all wrong’. Psychiatry is just bad. Never helps anyone, is bad, bad, bad. Yadda yadda yadda. No telling how many people this harms, but MIA is amazingly absent when it comes to cleaning the blood off the ceiling and comforting the family of the deceased.

        Not giving any other information a fair airing is deception. Deception is lying.

        • And most of the studies you’re referring to are backed by or provided for by the wonderful drug companies. Do you have any experience of anything that you’re talking about here? Have you ever been in the system and experienced the wonderful “treatment” that the system has in store for people?

    • I find it interesting that you accuse MIA of “spreading lies” and the people who write and comment following a certain “party line”, maybe because it dares to publish material that might go against what mainstream psychiatry usually blares out without substantiation?
      You go on without linking to any study or anything to back up what you are claiming.
      The reason why I find it interesting (or ironic?) is, because this is usually exactly what people do who follow the mainstream psychiatry “party line”, which seems to actually exist, since the “diagnoses” in the DSM are voted in by committee.

      I don’t know what “Autism” exactly is (if it is a real disease or not), if the cause is in the brain, in the genes or somewhere else, but what is wrong with questioning assumptions if they can’t be substantiated?

      I think there is no doubt that psychiatry has caused a lot of grief to a lot of people, I don’t believe to marginalize writers and commenters for speaking up and saying they are following a “party line” is neither true nor constructive.

    • Could you please link to these studies?
      “missing the entire Corpus Calossum of the brain, which is not only a profound anatomical difference, but a structural one”
      Anatomical and structural is in this case the same thing.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agenesis_of_the_corpus_callosum
      There are many people who lack this particular structure and some of them have motor impairments or social difficulties but you can have people who are completely “normal”.
      That is the problem with drawing conclusions from brain structure differences in small samples – the chances of finding unrelated individual differences which are in no way causative of the problem are huge.

    • I wonder if you have read The Myth of Autism by Sami Timimi, Neil Gardener and Brian McCabe? That is a child psychiatrist (who works in a diagnosis free, drug free clinic, with people who could be diagnosed with Autism) and two people who were diagnosed with high functioning autism but who choose to ditch the diagnosis.

      The brain scan evidence is looked at and rejected as being unconvincing by these authors.

      So some experts, both by experience and scientific training, disagree with your analysis tusu. That doesn’t mean you are wrong but some studies or other relevent material would be useful to back up your argument

      • nd here is the link to the original study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25316335

        this is what is what it says:
        Abstract
        Substantial controversy exists regarding the presence and significance of anatomical abnormalities in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The release of the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (∼1000 participants, age 6-65 years) offers an unprecedented opportunity to conduct large-scale comparisons of anatomical MRI scans across groups and to resolve many of the outstanding questions. Comprehensive univariate analyses using volumetric, thickness, and surface area measures of over 180 anatomically defined brain areas, revealed significantly larger ventricular volumes, smaller corpus callosum volume (central segment only), and several cortical areas with increased thickness in the ASD group. Previously reported anatomical abnormalities in ASD including larger intracranial volumes, smaller cerebellar volumes, and larger amygdala volumes were not substantiated by the current study. In addition, multivariate classification analyses yielded modest decoding accuracies of individuals’ group identity (<60%), suggesting that the examined anatomical measures are of limited diagnostic utility for ASD. While anatomical abnormalities may be present in distinct subgroups of ASD individuals, the current findings show that many previously reported anatomical measures are likely to be of low clinical and scientific significance for understanding ASD neuropathology as a whole in individuals 6-35 years old.

        I suggest this refers to facts, experience and a few other things. I would be interested in other studies that you have that have different results.

        • I’m reading the study. But what you list there, as the ‘list of abnormalities’ that supposedly this study was looking into, are ALL things that were never considered by anyone I ever read(and I’ve been reading autism research and caring for individuals with autism for a good 40 years) to be ‘universally present’ in all cases of autism, or even, most of them. In fact much of the time the abnormalities are far more subtle than this…decidedly odd list. So for example, widespread areas of the brain, tiny clusters of nerve cells in the wrong layer of the brain…has to occur very, very early in brain growth (before birth).

          And in fact, each individual with autism may have a unique set of abnormalities, starting from the gene mutations in very basic genes affecting how cells and DNA behave, and then(perhaps even as an outcome of the more basic mutations) in genes of brain growth and development, and ending in how it affects behavior, but all on the same 100 or so genes, all with a similar cluster of effects and behavioral outcome.

          One person has autism due to fragile X (a kind of pre-mutation state non-deleterious fragile X gene pattern exists in the parent, that mutates in the child, and the outcome is autism, dementia, other disorders). In another it comes about due to mutation of a number of different genes, but affecting the same cellular/neurological processes…similar result.

          Recent research has found one common cluster of gene mutations in high iq autistic boys, and another common cluster of gene mutations in low iq autistic girls. Possibly, those genes are due to earlier mutations in genes that control cell and DNA behavior.

          The conclusion people attempt to make is that there are NO brain abnormalities in autism, which is absolutely untrue. This article only says that a bunch of abnormalities no one ever agreed were typical of autism, are typical of autism. How it’s being conflated – another matter entirely.

          • Mistake in my 2nd to last sentence – it should read –

            This article only says a bunch of abnormalities no one ever agreed were typical of autism, are NOT typical of autism.

            Autism is genetic. There is no doubt, but there wasn’t really any real question, and hasn’t been for a very long time.

            If there really were any justice in the world, all the ‘autism kitchen sinkers’ and nostrum peddlers would have gone completely out of business, a long, long time ago. Like most of them, the authors of ‘The Myth of Autism’ are peddlers. They have something to sell.

            What works for autism is not such silly nostrums and chelations and all that stuff, but rather, slow, patient teaching, based on the knowledge of what is going on in the brain, and that means, being able to understand, the path from gene, to protein, to cellular process, to cognition, to behavior.

          • I don’t want to worry you tusu but I’m pretty sure you also have a brain abnormality. So does probably anyone blogging/commenting here or in fact everyone in the whole world. Linking this abnormalities to any concrete pathology is another matter. I can assure you that if you do enough studies with brain scans of any arbitrarily chosen group of people (like red haired folks or people who collect stamps) you’re going to find abnormalities, some of them will even reach significance. That in no way established causative relationship or allows to draw any conclusion that these people are in one or the other way disordered. There are of course people who have severe mental retardation or motor problems linked to specific brain defects and genetic conditions (like many cases of microcephaly or cerebellar development defects) but in case of autism it’s likely a small minority (like Rett syndrome girls, whose symptoms are caused by a single genetic defect – however many symptoms can be revered in animal models with adult gene therapy so it’s questionable how much this translated into structural defect).

          • Btw, why are dismissing the environmental contributions out of hand? Like there always must be something genetic? Here you have an example of a very well described developmental disorder caused almost 100% by environmental factors (yeah, produced by pharmaceutical industry):
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phocomelia
            Why cannot at least some kids with the autism label suffer problems linked to developmental toxicity or even social influences? Plus you forget that there exist a broad interaction between individual biology (not only genetics) and environment which can cause the same person to develop a “disorder” in one but not the otehr circumstance irrespective of his/her genetic predisposition. Obesity is a good example of that and many “mental illnesses” are another. Does the majority of Western population have obesity genes or rather our collective lifestyle has created an epidemic? And is obesity in most cases really a “disease” (certainly it is for some rare cases when people have mutations in leptin system)? These are the questions we try to address here at MIA and looking at the problem from “it must be the genes because everything is caused by the genes” is a very simplistic view of the world.

        • that isn’t true of the Timimi et al book. They have nothing to sell and no nostrums. They offer no cure. They look at why the diagnosis has become popular and how it has developed far beyond what the original people who identified it. They question all the studies and all the treatments on offer and say they have no proof they are effective.

          Timimi in his clinical work says forget the diagnosis, get to know the child and thier circumstances. This is not selling anything novel, it is basic therapy/social work applicable to anyone with any kind of mental distress.

          I would be interested in the studies you site, without them it is impossible to asseess the validity of your argument. I will look at the original study quoted here again before commenting again.

    • The authors usually provide links to relevant literature (including the articles written by the psychiatry’s proponents) so you are always free to check the references and look for counter evidence. Nobody’s stopping you, I personally do that often. People blogging here also have plenty of personal experiences both as “providers” as well as “surviviours” (often both).
      Btw, if you really want dialogue maybe you should work on being a little bit less offensive…

  2. A sample of 1500 people is not a LARGE sample. There are several millions (approx. 40 million?) people with autism worldwide. This article or blog – is not saying anything. It doesn’t explain anything or substantiate anything other than someone couldn’t replicate a study that indicated brain abnormalities.

    • so can you say what are the size of some of the studies that do claim that people with autism do have brain abnormalities?

      For this study to say nothing there have to be other studies that sample much larger numbers that this one does and which have a different conclusion.

      I do not think this study says nothing. The way science works is someone does some expermeint and comes up with a conclusion. Soneone else thinks the conclusion might be wrong so they do an experiment and see what the result is. This might compliment, or contradict, or further elucidate the first experiment.

      There are scientists who say they have identified brain differences between people diagnosed with autism and the rest of the population. This experment found none. To assess whether the validity of the orginal experments we would need to see some write ups of them, see the sample size and something about how the experiments were conducted. If you have that I’d be interested in seeing it as this issue is of interest to me.

      There maybe 40 million people diagnosed with Autism worldwide but I point out again that Sami Timimi and his co authors think it is an invalid diagnosis. That implies that whether they have a thing called autism is an opion. So there is plenty of room for debate here. Timimi would say that a lot of people are distressed in perticlar ways and they deserve help but that diagnosis can stop people looking at what is going on in a persons life and is therefore limiting and potentially damaging.

      However I’m just interested in the brain resarch that this perticular study cotradicts at the moment. So any information on the studies that say there nerodiversity, as it is sometimes called, is a real thing in relation to autsim would be most appreciated

      • Well, I think there is such a thing as autism. I’ve been staring it in the face for 40 years, and I’m pretty sure it exists. And I also think it has existed for a very, very long time, after reading older books and finding autism there as well, whatever the older name might have been(‘feebleminded’ or whatever). In fact, Heller described autism nearly 40 years before Kanner did, and it goes back much longer than Heller.

        The authors like Kanner did make mistakes. Kanner made like there never were any symptoms of psychosis occurring along with it and that psychosis was at a very low rate in families of autistic people. And while Kanner’s definition of autism was unnecessarily restrictive, today it’s bounced the other way – for various complex social reasons. But yes, it exists. Most assuredly. Scary as hell that anyone would be insisting otherwise – truly frightening.

        I read his original numbers, and the rate of psychosis among the families of autistic children were – rather high, actually. Yes, many people have both autism and psychosis, and that makes perfect sense looking at which genes cause each.

        • I looked it up and seems like there are some studies that link autistic symptoms and psychosis. However, one must remember that one of the best predictors of psychosis are neglect, social stress and childhood sexual abuse. So that correlation may only result from the underlying cause (leading both to social withdrawal and psychotic experiences).
          “Kanner’s definition of autism was unnecessarily restrictive”
          I don’t know what his definition is but today’s diagnosis is completely useless – it groups people with many different characteristics in one big bag called autism which makes any sensible research close to impossible.

    • I don’t think the entire 1500 people were actually evaluated, I think that was a pool or something or other. But I’m still reading the study. and the summary I can get for free, isn’t very informative.

      Suffice to say, just being on pubmed, doesn’t really mean a study is peer reviewed, or valuable. The list given by the other poster, if that is really what they were looking for in that study, it wouldn’t be of much value to know that a list of things no one ever thought were universal to autism, aren’t found in their study. That’s about 30 year old news.

    • NoWonder1

      Contrary to your statement, 1,500 people is a large study. The larger the numbers the more valid the study usually turns out to be. There is strength in numbers. The true mark of a great study is that it can be replicated and repeated over and over again while getting the same results. One study is not enough to prove anything. The study must be repeatable to be worthy of any significance.

    • “1500 people is not a LARGE sample”
      It is in terms of these kind of studies. Most studies of autism and brain structure have order of magnitude if not smaller group sizes.
      Not being able to replicate someone’s results is a problem in science – if you can’t replicate something it’s probably meaningless noise in data acquisition/analysis.

    • I’m surprised that a seasoned medical person like yourself doesn’t seem to understand that all medicine is based on conjecture.

      Your zesty language and breezy attitude seem to me more suggestive of an undergraduate psychology student or student psychiatrist in a hurry to complete an assignment – spouting off everything he or she has learned in class to get a potential rise.

      Here’s to youth, eh? Or its appearance. It must keep you in sync with all those boxes of genes you face down every day in the great fight against autism.

      • You know nothing of me. All your little guesses are wrong; you know nothing about my life. And no, I don’t owe you a CV. I have one mission statement and one priority alone, the independence, dignity, safety and self determination for those people diagnosed with autism, schizophrenia and related disorders.

        • “I have one mission statement and one priority alone, the independence, dignity, safety and self determination for those people diagnosed with autism, schizophrenia and related disorders.”
          Great. Then you should acknowledge the “the independence, dignity, safety and self determination” of people blogging and commenting here, many of whom were labelled with these “disorders”.

  3. The other trouble with the study, of course, is that picture, ‘Spot the Difference’ is of a big old blurry MRI, and it would never show the brain abnormalities in the milder cases of autism. I’m not at all sure if you could even see the larger abnormalities in severe autism. In other words, it’s the neurological equivalent of ‘Bigfoot lives!’, with a blurry picture of a guy in a gorilla suit.

  4. There are tons of THEORIES about autism, but one thing is for certain. Dr. Thomas Insel, Head of the NIMH, recently admitted that the DSM and ALL of its so called disorders are totally invalid because there is not a shred of scientific, medical, physical or any other evidence to back them up. There is not one gene proven to cause ANY so called “mental illness” or APA voted in DSM label.

    So, anyone claiming various genes for this or that so called DSM disorder is a part of the ongoing bogus eugenics movement that psychiatry started in the 1930’s that resulted in the so called mentally ill being gassed to death as “useless eaters” by psychiatry that led to psychiatry instigating the Holocaust and moving their gassing units from the mental death wards to the concentration camps. Sadly, these horrible theories started in the U.S. with calls from psychiatry for sterilization, ostracism and institutionalization, and calls for euthanasia with the latter two atrocities passed into law in the U.S. The Germans put the last euthanasia agenda into action, which won them an award from the U.S. Thus, the U.S. can hang its head in shame for this evil contribution to the horrific treatment of the most vulnerable and others in the Nazi Holocaust.

    Anyway, here’s another idea about autism that many have found very compelling including me.

    https://www.madinamerica.com/2014/09/autism-deficit-super-sensitivity/

    Also, I find it great news when a study announces evidence that a so called disorder isn’t genetic because very few are per real gene experts not prostituting themselves for Big Pharma/Business because there is hope that new remedies can be found.

    See Dr. Jay Joseph’s The Gene Illusion and The Missing Gene and other ethical genetic experts exposing the real nefarious reason the 1% wants all these bogus gene studies and claims made. Answer: it allows them to prey on people and destroy them with impunity while blaming the victims’ supposed faulty genes for their deadly products, destruction of the environment and other destructive actions. The tobacco companies sought the lung cancer gene for decades with “doubt as their product” as they denied the harmful impact of smoking, but eventually they were exposed just like Big Pharma today. Of course, I realize the billions in fines are just the cost of making far more billions, but at least it exposes the truth. Psychiatry wants to work with the 1% power elite to blame the victims’ supposed faulty genes for the same reasons and to also deny the real traumatic consequences of growing inequality, poverty, abuse, trauma, stress, oppression, sexism, racism, their excess greed and theft at others’ expense and to make billions from their useless, toxic drugs pushed for the bogus DSM stigmas created by their henchmen in psychiatry.

    I just read in the New York Times that the former eugenics office in the U.S. closed recently, but certain people want all to focus on it to remember the horrors of Nazi Germany caused by eugenics theories while being gravely concerned about the many bogus gene claims made in the present mostly for the same reasons and the horrific consequences that can result from such “research.”

    • In my opinion, the article of autism being about a ‘sensitivity’ is completely off the mark. And I also feel that your view of genetics, as leading only to harm, is wrong.

      Sorry. I don’t agree with you on either point. But, as I stated earlier, yours is the party line at MIA. No other ideas withstand the onslaught for long here.

      For me, genetics has formed a powerful bridge to understanding what is really going on in these disorders, and guided me toward more effective communication, and most of all understanding. Out of understanding comes respect, and effective help.

      • @ tusu,

        I believe you are mis-characterizing this website, as you say there is a “party line at MIA,” and, in my opinion, it is a big mistake, that you conflate issues of autism with issues of so-called “schizophrenia.”

        About autism:

        In my humble opinion (that is based on my admittedly non-professional study of the subject — as a mere ‘lay’ observer): A diagnosis of “autism” can certainly be considered a valid diagnosis, if/when given by a well-qualified expert (who need not be a psychiatrist).

        (And, note: Yes, there are self-described “antipsychiatry” commenters posting here — and bloggers as well; but, I do not call myself that…)

        Frankly, I say without any hesitance whatsoever, with respect to autism, there is no “party line” here, at MIA.

        In fact, before reading this comment thread, this evening, I never saw any commenter here at MIA denying the existence of autism.

        Think about that: Before this evening, I’d noticed not even one MIA commenter denying the existence of autism.

        Such is, of course, also to say, that: To my knowledge, up to now, no MIA bloggers have blogged here in a way that denies the existence of autism.

        But, now (this evening), in reading through this particular comment thread, I see a commenter who’s denying its existence; and (by way of reading his comments), I’ve become aware that, apparently, on MIA, there is one ‘foreign correspondent’ (Sami Timimi) who may have written a book in which the existence of autism is denied.

        So, now, I ask you…

        How is it that I’ve been visiting this website for more than two years, and, until now, I never even knew there were people who denied the existence of autism?

        (My own best answer to that question, is: Obviously, there is no ‘party line’ here that’s denying its existence.)

        There is not any ‘party line’ here, at MIA, regarding the causes of autism either.

        Really, I believe there is no ‘party line’ here regarding autism.

        But, about so-called “schizophrenia”:

        There are various more or less subtly ‘agreed upon’ views of the “schizophrenia” concept presented on MIA.

        First of all, many folk here (including I) insist that “schizophrenia” is a bucket term — and, truly, not a scientifically reliable diagnosis, at all.

        Many folk here (such as I) furthermore consider the “schizophrenia” label to be a source of far more grief than good, in the world; and, because we know the label is scientifically unreliable, we basically shun the label (and do our best to encourage others to do likewise).

        (Really, I consider the “schizophrenia” label to be a needless — thus, tragic — albatross around the necks of the vast majority of folk who are stuck with it…)

        Also, many folk here (such as I) believe, that most cases of supposed “schizophrenia” would not be long-term conditions, but they are made into long-term, debilitating iatrogenic conditions by modern/conventional psychiatric ‘treatment’ (in the form of constant/’heavy’ neuroleptic drugging).

        Finally, many folk here (such as I) believe that the scientific studies suggesting genetic causes of “schizophrenia” are, at best, terribly flimsy; however, some (such as I) believe, that maybe some few ‘cases’ (a relatively small percentage) of presumed “schizophrenia” are related to certain genetic anomalies.

        (I fully expect, that no one here will censure me for saying that; I’ve seen comments by various folk who agree…)

        You say, “For me, genetics has formed a powerful bridge to understanding what is really going on in these disorders, and guided me toward more effective communication, and most of all understanding. Out of understanding comes respect, and effective help.”

        I am very curious about that statement.

        To me, it seems that whatever is called “schizophrenia” may be the effects of any number of countless causes, many of which are experiential and environmental.

        I am very curious to know: To what extent do you believe that whatever is called “schizophrenia” is genetically caused?

        And, what evidence exactly leads you to your conclusions, in regards to such supposed causation?

        Again, I say, good that you are dialoguing, and thank you, in advance, for your answers.

        Respectfully,

        Jonah

        • Jonah,

          I wanted to chime in as someone who has worked with students with autism in special ed and who also has friends on the autistic spectrum. I guess that makes me a wanne be professional:)

          No matter what the latest article says, there are definite characteristics of the condition that have nothing to with being pro psychiatry vs antispychiatry.

          For example, I worked with one student with autism whom if his routine was thrown off, that spelled big time trouble. It wasn’t the normal case of someone being eccentric as rigid adherence to routine is quite common with this population group.

          I had another student that if this person was in my group that I was taking to a work site, I had to preview everything with her in routine so there would be no surprises. Otherwise, anything that was different would completely throw her off and lead to major meltdowns.

          Of course, psychiatry would think all my students needed was antipsychotic to fix this which of course is beyond this. But just because psychiatry is evil and drugs everything under the sun, it doesn’t mean that conditions listed in the DSM aren’t legitimate.

          For example, did you all know that dyslexia is listed in the DSM? But I highly doubt that anyone on this list would argue that it wasn’t legitimate.

          Jonah, addressing the party line comment from Tusu about autism, I don’t think anyone specifically has said it isn’t legitimate. But what does seem to happen in my opinion that anything that is in the DSM is considered suspect due to “evil” psychiatry and therefore can’t be legitimate. And mostly that is true but as with everything else in life, there are exceptions to the rule.

          • Timimi et al say it is a diagnosis past it’s sell by date. He, like you, works with people who are diagnosed with it, and people who would be diagnosed with it in another clinic. He does so succesfully. More succesfully than most clinics.

            What you are describing is a set of ways of behaving. Critics of DSM etc say this is not enough to be a disease. It is enough to say someone has difficulties and needs help though.

      • Maybe they don’t withstand the party line because they don’t substantiate their arguments? You have said there are studies which substantiate your point of view, but do not quote them so they cannot be interogated.

        Fair enough, but not a way to engage in scientific debate.

        Personal experience is great. Saying scientific studies helped you understand people is also great. But not quoting the study and then saying you understand these things better than others is not a form of debate that can be answered in any rational way.

      • Tusu,

        For the most part, we’ve only heard about what you feel or believe, and gotten some assurances from you that these articles/references do exist but no links to them. It’s hard to take you seriously when you come in with such an attacking attitude and yet provide no independent data to back up your views which any of us can read and digest.

        The only real “party line” here at MIA seems to be “don’t expect us to believe you just because you said something.” In areas of controversy, it is important to name your sources so that others can verify what you are saying and potentially offer alternative analysis. This is a core value of scientists everywhere (or at least anyone who can legitimately claim to be scientific): data is the touchpoint that we all have to start from. So far, you provide a lot of rhetoric and not much data. I’m going to ignore accusations and be interested if you provide studies that we can read.

        I would also add that if you have such issues with MIA, I’m puzzled why you would want to read/post here. There are plenty of websites who post articles that agree with your opinions and beliefs 100%. Perhaps you should post there instead? Is your effort because you’re so interested in giving us the right information, or simply because an alternative viewpoint makes you uncomfortable?

        —- Steve

        • I think Tusu has a lot of experience of working with people diagnosed with autism. That is something I’d be interested in hearing about.

          But points of view based on science need to be backed up with studies, or other evidence provided, if debate is to be entered into.

          So far what I have read is that Tusu has read some papers and reached a point of view.

          I have read a book and am exploring another point of view.

          Others have read some articles that oppose Tusu’s point of view.

          Tusu repeats he has read some papers and reached a different point of view.

          End of debate.

      • “genetics has formed a powerful bridge to understanding what is really going on in these disorders”
        Really? Any examples? Because the causes and mechanisms of autistic behaviours are far from understood as far as know. Also there are no effective therapeutic interventions targeting any supposedly defective genetic pathways so you’re opinion is counter-factual.

  5. I would say that the “party line” for biopsychiatry has been eugenics, eugenics, eugenics shoved down everybody’s throats for the most nefarious reasons with no evidence whatsoever. It is simply an ideology used to justify psychiatry’s brain disabling/damaging “treatments” that are really human rights abuses with the pretense that those falsely accused of having bogus DSM stigmas are an inferior race deserving of such horrific rights violations for power, greed, status and wealth for the 1% at the expense of the 99% since anyone can become a victim of the over 300 so called “disorders” in the DSM. Even grieving for a loved one can get one falsely accused of being “mentally ill” and with forced drugging and ECT no less probably based on their faulty genes for not being a perfect robot.

    As Dr. Jay Joseph and other gene experts point out, we have had tons of so called studies with genetic claims for voted in junk science DSM stigmas, but they have not been replicated. So, as it stands now there are no proven genes for autism or other so called DSM labels as Dr. Thomas Insel, Head of the National Institute for Mental Health, and the author of the article of this post and many others have exposed.

    http://anthropomics.blogspot.com/2013/03/genetics-as-political-ideology.html

    http://www.independentsciencenews.org/health/biology-as-ideology-the-doctrine-of-dna/

  6. John,

    I couldn’t respond directly to your post so I am doing it here. I definitely agree autism shouldn’t be called a disease. No argument there.

    I just googled Timimi on this site, http://penumbrage.com/2012/02/05/the-myth-of-autism-part-3/ and wanted to discuss this exert:

    “”The authors are not saying that the children are not emotionally and socially troubled. What they are saying is – and I concur with them – that focus needs to be on the relationship contexts of these children’s lives, and to take each child for the individual he or she is and to examine closely the family and community narratives and discover creative possibilities for change and for more dynamic and hopeful stories to emerge for both the children and their carers.””

    It sounds good on paper but I am a little leery. One of the main characteristics of people who are on the autistic spectrum is difficulty reading non verbal language and understanding unwritten social rules. Most people learn this without a thought at a very young age but people with autism usually do not.

    If you don’t teach them how to navigate the social rules, all the other stuff is going to be an exercise in frustration. Unless you understand specific social rules, you’re not going to understand why someone might be irritated with you. Now of course, that other person could also be at fault but without having a firm understanding of what these rules, you’re not going to be in position to understand if that is the case or not.
    Not to compare people with autism to animals but it will be like trying to turn a cat into a dog.

    I do agree that the stories of autism are way too negative and the more emphasis needs to be placed on their strengths and what they can do vs. what they can’t do. For example, many of them (not all) have outstanding computer skills and would probably be very helpful in preventing computer systems from being hacked.

    • Well there we would have to talk to Timimi about how he approaches children who might have got an autism diagnosis in other clinics about how he works with such children and how succesuful he is in helping them compared to other approaches.

      The book, which is very well written and well worth chasing up. It has a variety of arguments presented very clearly.

      One of the arguments in the book is that a lot of munfacturing jobs have gone to places where labour is cheaper and the jobs in the rich countries are now often involve a lot of talking to customers such as sales in fast food shops and call centre work. So the jobs that working class men used to do are in decline. The social and emotional skills needed to do the old jobs are different from the new jobs. So the ways of behaving that were fine in the old jobs but not good in the new jobs are being medicalised, often as high functioning autism.

      The subtitle of the book is: Medicalising Mens and Boys Social and Emotional Competance.

      What you are describing seems to be social and emotional competance. Timimi et al question whether this needs to be medicalised. This then raises the issue of context: in what context are certain behaviours and attitudes problematic and why?

      • John,

        I feel like we are going around in circles but let me take one more shot at this. I am not sure what you are talking about referring to how the old ways of behaving in a job were fine. Perhaps what you are talking about is when it wasn’t as tough to get a job, less emphasis was placed on social competence. But those days are gone, even in the IT field which was the most tolerable of eccentricities.

        So if someone didn’t learn these skills intuitively when most people learn social skills without thinking, it is more than just an issue of social competence. They have to be taught these skills explicitly in a step by step manner and even when that is done, it still hard for many people on the autistic spectrum.

        Again, I agree this should not be medicalized but that doesn’t take away from the fact that people with this conditions have great challenges. And in spite my not wanting the condition medicalized, if calling it a disability gets people necessary assistance without being placed on psych meds, that is a compromise I could live with. Unfortunately, state voc rehab departments are usually useless and most other voc rehab agencies don’t seem to be helpful either.

        • What you are saying is that there are high expectations on people in jobs these days.

          I am saying medicalising people who do not reach these standards is dodgy.

          You seem to be saying the person who does not reach the standard needs help. I say perhaps the standard needs to be relaxed or that the employer needs to create a culture where everyone learns about each other. Either way a failure to learn something is not necersarily a medical condition.

          Timimi et al in thier book say most of the treatment programmes are not very effective and often push dangerous drugs.

          If you want to help people you need to get to know them and thier situation – as always.

  7. I’m wondering if past studies on brain structure abnormalities in autism were detecting brain damage caused by the prescription psych drugs that about 70% of affected individuals take. I remember reading about the discovery of an enlarged area of the brain in autism that curiously overlapped with a known side effect of antipsychotics. Grace Jackson, Peter Breggin and others have written extensively about drug-induced brain abnormalities. I’m sure there are other environmental factors that can cause structural damage, but the question is whether the individual started out that way.

    Interesting evidence that brain structure is normal in autism is watching a child recover from severe clinical autism by removing heavy metals, addressing environmental mitochondrial injuries and autoimmunity by reducing toxic exposures, including avoidance of all psychiatric meds. In any case, i have a hard time believing that a prescription oral chelator and organic gluten-free diet suddenly rendered abnormal brain structures normal. I’m guessing that brain structure was never the issue to begin with but something overlaid instead.

    The turnaround was pretty radical in our son and we were never tempted to credit behavioral therapy for the improvement. The school fought tooth and nail to deny services and about the only therapy staff provided was a cinder block closet.– why we pulled our kids out of school and homeschooled. We ran into someone from the district recently who turned pale as a ghost watching our son pick out sunglasses at a kiosk and pay for them, thanking the vendor. Yeah, he remembers everything and yes, he might write a book about it one day.

    Brain structure — feh.

  8. Crux,

    I know people on the autistic spectrum who never took psych meds and have the issues that are reported in autism literature such as problems with non verbal language (social dyslexia), etc. I can see a situation where psych meds definitely worsen autism issues but for some people, I don’t feel they are the direct cause.

    If we don’t like it when psychiatry makes point blank generalizations, in my opinion, we have to be careful not to do the same thing.

    • I don’t think he was saying that the behaviors were caused by drugs, but that the brain anomalies noticed in some kids were the result of those kids taking drugs. I had the same thought – they noted that the enlarged areas were the same ones seen in schizophrenia, and both are often treated with atypical antipsychotics.

      My brother’s son has an “aspergers” diagnosis, and it’s clear there is something definitely not quite right with him that is not a result of their parenting approach (though they may have made it better or worse by their approach). I’m not opposed to the concept that there might be some physiological reason that at least some cases of what is called autism occur. I just don’t buy that anyone knows what, if anything, is wrong in a particular case, nor do they appear to know what to do to make it better. It’s quite likely that what is called “autism” could have multiple causes that all manifest similar symptoms. My objection is to the hubris of the psychiatric profession in asserting they know far more than they actually do. And I’m confident you agree with me on that point!

      —- Steve

      • My son has been diagnosed with Aspergers since he was young…he is now close to 20. I was prescribed meds for severe morning sickness during my pregnancy…Phenergan…which I too for 5 months out of desperation and a lack of alternatives. Now I have heard that kids born to mothers who took Thalidomide back in the 50s …known to cause severe physical birth defects…have a much higher rate of autism in their offspring as well. Recently the research is also implicating SSRI use in mothers as a cause…so I lean toward pre natal exposure to drugs and other toxins as a likely cause.

        BTW we have kept him off meds even though they were often recommended for some of his behaviors as a child…he is doing well in his second year in college…

    • Steve is right, I’m not saying drugs cause the symptoms, not in our son. But there are several studies implicating SSRIs in pregnancy or SSRI’s in drinking water with increased risk of autism. I never took any drugs in pregnancy and our son never took them either, so that’s moot. I don’t know about the levels in water– these are reportedly enough to cause “autistic behavior” in fish, whatever that means.

      But personally I suspect that pre or neonatal exposure to SSRIs is probably a facilitator or co-factor more than it’s a direct cause of autism. Reform psychiatrist Grace Jackson did a very interesting review of a case of Depakote induced autism in a seven year old boy who had previously received chemotherapy. Jackson argued that the effects of chemo agents like Vincristine could have been compounded by Depakote, both of which share half a dozen or so overlaps regarding damage to the brain, immune system and metabolism. What’s interesting is that mercury shares the same overlaps as well. All cause mitochondrial injury, Alzheimer’s type II astrocytosis, disruption of tubulin assembly, glutamine and glutamate feedback abnormalities and other specific types of damage.

      In our son’s case, the damage was clearly caused by nine vaccines given on his first birthday, including a full mercury flu shot series. His mercury levels were through the roof even a year and a half later– he apparently didn’t excrete any of it. The curious thing was how rapidly our son improved once treated for heavy metal poisoning and immune and metabolic damage. In other words, he recovered when the condition was treated as a vaccine injury.

      We sort of throw up our hands at the old timers who still believe autism is caused by parental coldness. Even the Romanian orphan study of institutional autism which is often cited as proof that neglect plays a role in the condition left out the fact that half the subjects also had HIV. This was because Nicolae Ceausescu appointed his wife– a woman with a seventh grade education– as health minister and she ordered that state wards should receive several yearly doses of mercury-containing Hepatitis B vaccines using shared needles. One of the authors of the Romanian orphan/institutional autism study was Sir Michael Rutter, at the time a Deputy Chairman of the Wellcome Trust, which is now Glaxosmithkline– maker of Engerix B– the mercury-containing hepatitis B vaccine our son received at birth and at two months, etc.

      We tend to think that our son’s condition was caused by a toxicant-pathogen combo. Mercury is an immune toxicant. The concern about drugs is, again, that they cause overlapping cellular damage and risk compounding the condition. There’s also an irony that the same companies which make vaccines are making money hand over fist from drugging the collateral. “Autism drug profits” account for about 12% of American drug sales for only 2% of the population. Potential double dipping going on there. Countries like Sweden and Norway, which have rates of autism about 20 fold lower than the US, recommend 1/3 the vaccine doses, do not mandate the shots and stopped using mercury in vaccines in the early 1990’s. Uptake of the MMR is very low in both countries as are infant mortality rates.

      Our son is also multi-racial and news that a senior CDC scientist recently came forward to report that he and other agency researchers buried data from a study showing a 340% increase in autism in African American boys who receive the MMR at one year (as our son did) may shed more light on the mechanism of damage. The original data apparently shows that African American boys are at highest risk but apparently the study also showed higher rates among other ethnic groups following MMR. http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/09/08/cdc-scientists-shocking-confession-mmr-vaccine-likely-cause-autism-black-babies/

      There are further studies showing that pesticides, proximity to highways and proximity to coal-fired power plants also cause increased rates of autism though, like with the SSRI-autism studies, the research doesn’t really contradict the vaccine induction theory. Instead the studies appear to be “complimentary” because the main toxicant released from coal-fired power plants and dispersed from highways by the motion of traffic is mercury. And several pesticides are known mitochondrial toxins which also damage the same cellular pathways as mercury. Rachel Carson wrote an entire book about it.

      None of the above environmental studies control for vaccination. There could be a one-two punch effect or, in some particularly sensitive infants, pesticides and pollution might be enough to tip the balance. More independent research is needed.

  9. Maybe because autism is like all DSM disorders – a huge bag where everyone displaying n+ “symptoms” is being thrown into regardless of any context or cause?
    Calling someone autistic is at best a rough categorisation of someone who has difficulties in social interactions, at worst a sophisticated insult.