Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Autsim and the Environment

Coming on the heels of the Cold Spring Harbor research that supposedly indicted “bad” genes as the cause of autism, are two new studies published in the July 4th edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry that indicate environment plays the key role.  While a surprise to some scientists, it comes as no surprise to us.

In an article published in Newsday entitled “Environment May Be Especially Key to Autism: Study,” by Jenifer Goodwin, it is reported that:

[T]he . . .  environment -- and this could be in utero or in early life -- has to play a major role [in the incidence of autism].
According to [the researchers’] calculations, . . . genes account for 37 percent of the risk of "classic," or severe autism and 38 percent of the risk of milder autism spectrum disorders. By the same calculations, environmental factors would explain 55 percent of the risk of autism and 58 percent of the risk for an autism spectrum disorder, the Stanford team concluded.

And, what environmental factors could be at issue?  Well, the second study found a connection between the occurrence of autism and antidepressants taken by mothers during pregnancy:

            In another study also published in the online issue of the journal, researchers found a 
            two-fold risk of autism spectrum disorder among children whose mothers took 
            antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) during
            pregnancy, and that the risk was more than three times higher if the mothers took
            the drugs during early pregnancy, compared to children without the disorder.

            SSRIs include widely used antidepressants such as Celexa, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.