No Link Found Between Autism and Maternal Fish Ingested During Pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Fish” by Dhruvaraj S is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr Caroline M Taylor
Wellcome Trust Research Fellow
Centre for Child and Adolescent Health
Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol
Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Mercury is a toxic metal that is widespread in the environment. In pregnancy, mercury in the mother’ bloodstream is transferred through the placenta to the fetus, where is can affect development of the nervous system. Mercury from vaccines has been the focus of attention particularly in regard to a link with autism in children. However, the amount of mercury used in the vaccines is small in comparison with mercury from the diet and atmospheric pollution, and in the EU at least, childhood vaccines no longer contain this preservative. The fear that mercury is linked to autism has persisted, despite increasing evidence that this is not the case.

The aim of our study was to look at mercury from the diet rather than vaccines – specifically from fish – in pregnant women. We measured the women’s mercury levels in their blood and asked them about how much fish they ate. We then followed up their children for 9 years and recorded how many of them had autism diagnosed within that time. We also measured how many of them had autist traits by measuring their social and communication difficulties.  The data were part of the Children of the 90s study (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children – ALSPAC), which is based in Bristol, UK.

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First Potential Treatment For Brain Damage From Cosmic Radiation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Space Shuttle Model” by terren in Virginia is licensed under CC BY 2.0Susanna Rosi, PhD
Director of Neurocognitive Research
Brain and Spinal Injury Center
Professor in the departments of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science and of Neurological Surgery
UCSF

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: NASA and private space companies like SpaceX plan to send humans to the red planet within the next 15 years — but among the major challenges facing future crewed space missions is how to protect astronauts from the dangerous cosmic radiation of deep space.

In this study we identified the first potential treatment for the brain damage caused by exposure to cosmic rays — a treatment can be given after exposure and that prevents memory impairment in mice exposed to simulated space radiation.

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Reduced Heart Rate Variability May Be Biomarker of Depression Risk

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD Department of Epidemiology and Division of Cardiology Professor, Department of Medicine Emory University School of Medicine Atlanta, Georgia

Dr. Vaccarino

Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD
Department of Epidemiology and Division of Cardiology
Professor, Department of Medicine
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, Georgia 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Previous studies have shown that people with depression tend to have lower heart rate variability (HRV), an index of autonomic nervous system dysregulation derived by monitoring the electrocardiogram over time, usually for 24 hours. Other literature, however, has pointed out that autonomic dysregulation (as indexed by reduced HRV) may also cause depression. Thus, the direction of the association between reduced HRV and depression still remains unclear. In addition, these two characteristics could share common pathophysiology, making shared familial background and genetic factors potential determinants of this association.
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ADHD More Common in Grandchildren of Women Who Used DES During Pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou ScD Assistant Professor Environmental Health Sciences Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University 

MarianthiAnna Kioumourtzoglou ScD
Assistant Professor
Environmental Health Sciences
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders, like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been increasing. One of the hypothesized risk factors for increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders is a class of chemicals known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals are known to interfere with the endocrine system, i.e. the system that uses hormones to control and coordinate metabolism, reproduction and development. Several high production volume chemicals, ubiquitously present in commercial products, are known or suspected endocrine disruptors. Because of their widespread use in consumer products, the population-wide exposure to known and suspected EDCs is very high.

Recently, there has been increased attention in the potential effects of EDCs on neurodevelopment that span multiple generations. Animal studies have provided evidence that exposure to EDCs, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), alter the behavior and social interactions in mice in three to five generations after exposure. However, evidence of such multi-generational impacts of EDC exposure on neurodevelopment in humans is unavailable, likely because of the lack of detailed information on exposures and outcomes across generations.

For this study we leveraged information from a nationwide cohort, the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII), to investigate the potential link between exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) and third generation ADHD, i.e. ADHD among the grandchildren of the women who used DES while pregnant. DES is a very potent endocrine disruptor that was prescribed between 1938 and 1971 to pregnant women thought to prevent pregnancy complications. In the United States, between 5 and 10 million women are estimated to have used DES, although the exact number is not known. DES was banned in 1971, when was linked to vaginal adenocarcinomas (a rare cancer of the reproductive system) in the daughters of the women who had used it during pregnancy. Since then, DES has been also linked to multiple other reproductive outcomes in DES daughters, as well as with some reproductive outcomes in the grandchildren of the women who used it, such as hypospadias and delated menstrual regularization. However, to our knowledge, no study to date has evaluated the association between DES, or any other EDC, and multigenerational neurodevelopment. Continue reading

Higher Connectivity of Brain Networks Linked to Increased Risk of Psychopathology

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Maxwell Elliott Clinical psychology PhD student Working with Ahmad Hariri and the Moffitt & Caspi lab Duke University

Maxwell Elliott

Maxwell Elliott
Clinical psychology PhD student
Working with Ahmad Hariri and the Moffitt & Caspi lab
Duke University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The traditional clinical science model identifies individuals who meet specific criteria for mental illness diagnoses (e.g. Depression, Anxiety) and compares them to “healthy” controls to find brain correlates of mental illness.  However, this approach often overlooks the high rates of comorbidity and shared symptamatology across mental illnesses. Emerging research has identified a general factor of psychopathology that accounts for shared risk among internalizing, externalizing, and thought disorders across diverse samples.

This general factor of psychopathology has been called the p-factor. In our study we investigate the brain correlates of the p-factor using a data-driven analysis of resting state functional connectivity. We find that higher p-factor scores and associated risk for common mental illness maps onto hyper-connectivity between visual association cortex and both frontoparietal and default mode networks.

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Are Well-Off People Protected from Dementia?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Dorina Cadar
Research Associate in Dementia
Psychobiology Group
Department of Behavioural Science and Health
University College London
London

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Dementia is one of the most feared medical conditions, which represents a significant global challenge to health and social care.

Education may serve different roles in the development of dementia: it is a proxy for early life experiences and (parental) socioeconomic status, it is related to future employment prospects, income and wealth, determines occupational exposures and characteristics of adult life (e.g., job complexity, work stress, environmental exposures) and it provides lifelong skills for optimal mental abilities and mastery. However, given that education is typically completed many decades before dementia onset, other individual and area-based components of socioeconomic status, such as wealth, income and area deprivation may provide a more accurate indication of current socioeconomic resources.  Also, at older ages, accumulated wealth represents a more robust measure of socioeconomic resources than income or occupation alone.

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Functional Brain ‘Fingerprint’ Identified in Schizophrenia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Tobias Kaufmann UiO Institute of Clinical Medicine

Dr. Kaufmann

Tobias Kaufmann PhD
Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research (NORMENT), KG Jebsen Centre for Psychosis Research, Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital & Institute of Clinical Medicine
University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Over the past years, a lot of work has pointed toward impaired brain networks in schizophrenia. With this work we assessed brain network stability across different loads of a cognitive task using functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain.

Based on our earlier work on adolescents with pre-clinical signs of mental illness who showed decreased stability of networks across different tasks and conditions, we hypothesized that brain networks in adults with schizophrenia show similar properties of decreased stability. Our results confirmed this hypothesis. Stability was reduced in several large-scale brain networks across the sampled age range from early adulthood to the sixties. Further, network stability was associated with polygenic risk for schizophrenia as well as cognitive task performance.

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Does Exercise Slow Dementia?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Prof. Sarah E Lamb,  MSc, MA, MCSP, Grad Dip Statistics, DPhil Centre for Rehabilitation Research and Centre for Statistics in Medicine Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics Rheumatology & Musculoskeletal Sciences Botnar Research Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford

Prof. Lamb

Prof. Sarah E Lamb,  MSc, MA, MCSP, Grad Dip Statistics, DPhil
Centre for Rehabilitation Research and Centre for Statistics in Medicine
Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics Rheumatology & Musculoskeletal Sciences
Botnar Research Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Scientists and clinicians have considered the possibility that higher intensity aerobic and muscle strength training might have a beneficial effect in preventing dementia or slowing the progression of cognitive impairment in those who have dementia.

The hypothesis has come mostly from animal research.

The main findings of our research which used a large sample and high quality methods was that higher intensity exercise, whilst possible, did not slow cognitive impairment. Neither did it have an impact on the functional and behavioural outcomes for people with dementia. It was a substantial commitment for people to participate in the programmes, although many enjoyed the experience and their physical fitness improved.

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Disturbed Circadian Rhythm Associated With Poor Mental Health

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Laura Lyall  MA; MSc; PhD Research Associate Institute of Health and Wellbeing University of Glasgow

Dr. Lyall

Laura Lyall  MA; MSc; PhD
Research Associate
Institute of Health and Wellbeing
University of Glasgow 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?  

Response: Previous studies have suggested a link between disturbed circadian rhythms and depression and bipolar disorder. These studies have however usually used small samples, subjective measures of circadian disruption, or have not accounted for potential confounding factors like sociodemographic and lifestyle characteristics. The UK Biobank cohort has accelerometry (activity monitor) data as well as mental health, lifestyle, BMI and sociodemographic data for over 91,000 individuals, and means we can address this question using objective measures of circadian rhythmicity on a large scale.

We derived a measure of relative amplitude from the UK Biobank’s accelerometry data, which was recorded for 7 days between 2013-2014 from around 100,000 participants. Relative amplitude reflects the distinction, in terms of activity levels, between an individual’s most active 10 hours and least active 5 hours, in an average day. If an individual is inactive during the day, or has disturbed sleep at night, the will show low relative amplitude, consistent with disturbed circadian rest-activity patterns.

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Brain Structure, Height and Cognitive Ability Linked

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Eero Vuoksimaa PhD Institute for Molecular Medicine University of Helsinski Finland

Dr. Vuoksimaa

Dr. Eero Vuoksimaa PhD
Institute for Molecular Medicine
University of Helsinski
Finland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: There are many previous reports indicating a positive association between height and cognitive ability but the underlying mechanisms behind this correlation are not well known. We used a mediation model to test if this association is explained by brain size as measured with cortical grey matter size.

We found that total cortical surface mediated the relationship between height and cognitive ability.

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