Monday 26 December 2011

2011 review

I apologise in advance to readers that this is one of my more indulgent posts.

2011 has been an interesting year for lots of people including me. Not only did I embrace the wonders of Blogger and the joys of discussing and conversing with lots of interesting people about autism research and more, but I also went full-on with social media such as Facebook and Twitter. This from a man who not so long ago had only one bookmark in his chosen internet browser (PubMed naturally) and thought social media was just for teenagers discussing Justin Bieber and the X-Factor.

Although I only started blogging in February 2011, I thought it would be a good idea to write a post summarising some of the things that I found interesting in the research world this year. Some of these studies have already been shared across other blogs. I know that this is not a novel idea for an end of year post, but at least it offers readers a condensed version of 'what I done discussing'. I will be as brief as I can so as not to take any time away from your forthcoming renditions of Auld Lang Syne.

Not on blogger and haven't got the time to go trawling back through PubMed to see the relevant research highlights. I probably am cheating a little and also showing a little too much self-promotion if I provide a link to a paper I was involved with which was published in December 2010 detailing some of the possible reasons why a gluten- and casein-free diet may or may not work when used as an intervention for autism spectrum conditions. Open-access.. yes. Speculative... yes.

Saturday 19 February 2011: joined blogger. I can remember the day well. Didn't see my second post? The first was an introduction and some 'keep it civil' guidance; the second was on autism, gut bacteria and urine. Two other posts caught my eye in this month: Food and ADHD and those DSM-V suggestions about autism.

Worms. Parasitic worms and the immune system to be precise. That and the new paper from Tim Buie and colleagues on disaccharidases and autism and the stark message that lactose intolerance might be more prevalent in cases of autism than many people may have thought. Leo Kanner also figured quite a lot in March as per this post on his original descriptions and also remembering the 30th anniversary of his passing away.

Looking at the evidence for autism 'treatments' and more closely at interventions and autism. Gut bacteria was also still on the menu.

A busy month. The numbers of adults with autism estimated in the UK alongside the Utah data on prevalence and that South Korean study. Not forgetting the SNPs and vits study.

Autism prevalence across the DSMs is a favourite of mine. An introduction to copy number variations (CNVs) and autism in this post and not forgetting autism and the technological phenotype and evolutionary autism.

Quite a lot of interest in the whole twins and heritability. I know that since the publication of this paper lots of people have talked about the figures and the way the statistics were applied to the dataset but it still remains an interesting finding. Chlorination by-products and autism also cropped up in a part of the US (Brick Township) which had been a talking point about autism a few years back.

The maternal immune profile and autism in offspring raised some interesting questions as did the link between casein and schizophrenia and the Barker hypothesis and thin-fat bodies.

A taster of some of the first results from the Autism Phenome Project featured but perhaps the highlight of the year for me were the preliminary findings on carbs, dysbiosis and autism from Brent Williams and colleagues. Here in the UK we also had the publication of the first strand guidance from NICE on pathways to diagnosis in autism. We'll wait to see how implementation is rolled out in these austere times.

Quite a lot of interest in the facial characteristics of autism but for me the suggested prevalence of coeliac (celiac) disease in cases of ADHD was a highlight alongside the possibility that the diagnosis of schizophrenia might, just might, be possible by biochemical analysis. Happy birthday to the seven billionth person on the planet by the way.

Nature did autism and created quite some discussions. CNVs appeared again in relation to ADHD (or maybe not) and also intellectual disability. The prefrontal cortex in relation to autism also got more than one mention in the research literature.

Formal publication of the biological phenotypes data on head size and regression in autism. The large extent to which autism is genetically, a very complicated condition and why MRI findings on high-functioning autism aren't neccessarily all that different from not-autism. The results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a vitamin and mineral supplement for autism spectrum conditions should really be creating a lot more interest than it has so far bearing in mind the dearth of methodologically top-class studies into autism.

So there you have it. An interesting year for sure. I know that I am not yet a year into blogging but rather than waiting for the first anniversary, I offer my thanks and best wishes to all readers for their insightful comments and thoughts, and wishes of health and happiness to all for 2012 (hoping that the prophecies don't come true).

To finish, the festive season just wouldn't be the same without the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl (starring Matt Dillon as the arresting officer). This sassenach wishes all a very happy Hogmanay.


  1. The answers are hiding in plain sight. I hope this is the year of understanding.

    I am only a mother but I feel autism is 1)systemic 2)variable 3)biological in etiology when it comes to severe autism...and yes, autism-lite can be a "way of being" because most adaptions are spared. Did I say it was systemic?

    Well, whatever it is, it affects every cell. Just a hunch, because you can see the physical manifestations as the intensity increases, on a muscular level, you can sense them in the ability to interact with the world on a comfort (sensorially) level. I wonder if there is such a thing as an autistic cell.Sorry...tangent.

    Thank you for your posts. I look forward to reading them. Someone has the key to understanding, and maybe this is the year it is all put together.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I would echo your sentiments that answers are nearly always in plain sight. "I am only a mother" is worth a thousand scientific papers because (a) parents know their children best and across many different situations and (b) most of the major advances in autism so far - Lorna Wing, Bernard Rimland, et al - have come from mums and dads (as has quite a bit of the funding for research). Seasons Greetings.

  3. SFARI Autism and Auitsm Speaks have published their top ten lists of scientific achievments in autism research with commentary by Dr. Gerald Fischbach, the scientific director of SFARI Autism. I have commented on his article and Dr. Fischback also commented on my suggestions of what was left off the SFARI Autism's top scientific achievements in autism research in 2011. You can follow the discussion at:

  4. Thanks RAJ. Some interesting discussions indeed.


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