Some science behind the scenes

Brain damage and children

In so called third world countries or developing countries, the biggest risks to the health of the unborn baby or baby come from diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, and other infectious diseases, as well as nutritional disorders caused by lack of access to adequate food.

However, in the more so called ‘developed’ nations, genetic abnormalities  usually resulting from the environment constitute a major cause of infant mortality and chronic childhood handicaps. Genetic damage is “one of the most pervasive of these seen in every paediatric clinic and mental health service”.  The toxins with which the mother is subjected, or to which she subjects herself and her baby, cause genetic damage and brain damage.

So what constitutes a toxin?

In this context toxins can range from external agents such as heavy metals, pesticides, vaccines, and food additives; to allergic reactions to ordinary foods.  Some examples follow.

Pharmaceutical drugs

One clear link has been made with the administration of various clinically prescribed pharmaceutical drugs. 

Drug treatment for mood disorders in pregnancy - Gentile S. Department of Mental Health, ASL Salerno, Italy

The risk of fetal anomalies associated with early in-utero exposure to antidepressants seems to be increased after paroxetine and clorimipramine exposure, whereas prenatal exposure to nearly all antidepressants is linked to the potential onset of the Prenatal Antidepressant Exposure Syndrome.

As regards classic mood stabilizers, the teratogenic risk historically reported with lithium should probably be softened, whereas valproate is the medication which shows the strongest association with fetal anomalies. An increased risk of autism-spectrum disorders and infant neurodevelopmental delay is also associated with valproate exposure through the placenta. No significant reproductive safety data are available on atypical antipsychotics, although such medications may indirectly increase the rate of fetal malformation by inducing gestational diabetes.

SUMMARY:

Avoid the use of clorimipramine, paroxetine, valproate, and atypical antipsychotics during pregnancy.

Illegal drugs

There are links with cocaine and other illegal drugs.

Cigarettes and alcohol

There may be links with the use of  cigarettes and alcohol, …………

Perinatal risk factors interacting with catechol O-methyltransferase and the serotonin transporter gene predict ASD symptoms in children with ADHD - Nijmeijer JS, et al; Source

Department of Psychiatry, University of Groningen Medical Center, The Netherlands

BACKGROUND:
Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often co-occur. Given the previously found familiality [sic] of ASD symptoms in children with ADHD, addressing these symptoms may be useful for genetic association studies…..

RESULTS:
…… the COMT Val/Val genotype interacted with maternal smoking during pregnancy, …this interaction increasing stereotyped behaviour in the ….sample.

The 5-HTTLPR S/S genotype also interacted with maternal smoking during pregnancy, increasing problems in social interaction, and also produced low birth weight, and increased rigid behaviour.  Findings for 5-HTTLPR in the sample were similar, …….

CONCLUSIONS:
These findings suggest gene-environment interaction effects on ASD symptoms in children with ADHD.

Violence

Domestic violence that involves any form of violent behaviour that impacts the unborn foetus is also linked to brain damage.

Gluten and casein

There also seems to be some evidence to a link with gluten intolerance or casein intolerance. The intolerance has become more prevalent since the introduction of  genetically engineered wheat and the introduction of ‘strong flours’.  Gliadorphin (also known as gluteomorphin) is an opioid peptide that is formed during digestion of the gliadin component of the gluten protein. It is usually broken down into amino acids by digestion enzymes. It has been hypothesized that some children with, for example, autism have abnormal leakage from the gut of this compound, which then passes into the brain and disrupts brain function. This is partly the basis for the gluten-free, casein-free diet.

Seven trials of these diets have been undertaken, but  6 of these were uncontrolled trials and 1 used a single-blind design. All reported efficacy in reducing some autism symptoms, and 2 groups of investigators also reported improvement in nonverbal cognition. Sadly, however, from a scientific point of view design flaws in all of the studies “weaken the confidence that can be placed in their findings”.

Low birth weight and premature birth

Another cause of brain damage is low birth weight.  Although the medical profession seem keen on saving premature babies, their low birth weight puts them at high risk of developing quite a number of medical problems not just brain damage.  A baby whose birth weight is low under normal birth conditions may suffer the same problems.

Perinatal risk and psychiatric outcome in adolescents born preterm with very low birth weight or term small for gestational age - Indredavik MS et al ; Department of Neuroscience, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.

 …..Mental health was assessed in 65 adolescents born with very low birth weight (VLBW) (birth weight < or = 1500 g), 59 born term small for gestational age…. and 81 control adolescents using Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children, Children's Global Assessment Scale, Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-Rating Scale IV and Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment.

CONCLUSION:
Lower birth weight, shorter gestation, and intraventricular hemorrhage were risk factors for psychiatric problems in the very low birth weight group. Lower Apgar score increased the risk for autism spectrum symptoms ……..

From Behavioral outcomes of extremely low birth weight children at age 8 years.
Hack Met et al ; Department of Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA
.

OBJECTIVE:
To describe the prevalence of behavioral problems .. suggestive of Autism and Asperger's disorders at age 8 years among extremely low birth weight (ELBW, <1 kg) children, born 1992 through 1995…

CONCLUSIONS:
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, mainly the inattentive type is prevalent among ELBW children. Our findings of an increase in symptoms pertaining to Autistic and Asperger's disorders at school age agree with recent reports of others during early childhood.

Positive screening for autism in ex-preterm infants: prevalence and risk factors. Limperopoulos C et al - Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

……The survival of very low birth weight infants has increased markedly in recent years. Unfortunately, the prevalence of significant and lifelong motor, cognitive, and behavioral dysfunction has remained a major problem confronting these children. ……

Incidence of pre-, peri-, and post-natal birth and developmental problems of children with sensory processing disorder and children with autism spectrum disorder - May-Benson TA, Koomar JA  Teasdale A; The Spiral Foundation Watertown, MA, USA.

… An exploratory …study, .. was conducted to investigate the incidence of pre-, peri- and post-natal, birth and developmental problems in a sample of 1000 children with SPD and of 467 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Premature birth  - was higher in the ASD although not significantly different from the SPD group. Also of note was a high percentage of problems with ear infections, and allergies].

Does cerebellar injury in premature infants contribute to the high prevalence of long-term cognitive, learning, and behavioral disability in survivors? - Limperopoulos C et al; Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery and School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Although cerebellar hemorrhagic injury is increasingly diagnosed in infants who survive premature birth, its long-term neurodevelopmental impact is poorly defined. We sought to delineate the potential role of cerebellar hemorrhagic injury in the long-term disabilities of survivors of prematurity.

Neurologic abnormalities were present in 66% of the isolated cerebellar hemorrhagic injury cases compared with 5% of the infants in the control group. Infants with isolated cerebellar hemorrhagic injury versus controls had significantly lower mean scores on all tested measures, including severe motor disabilities (48% vs 0%), expressive language (42% vs 0%), delayed receptive language (37% vs 0%), and cognitive deficits (40% vs 0%). Isolated cerebellar hemorrhagic injury was significantly associated with severe functional limitations in day-to-day activities.

Cerebellar hemorrhagic injury in preterm infants is associated with a high prevalence of long-term pervasive neurodevelopment disabilities and may play an important and underrecognized role in the cognitive, learning, and behavioral dysfunction known to affect survivors.

Problems during birth and pregnancy

There are also indications that problems during birth and pregnancy can damage the baby…

Incidence of pre-, peri-, and post-natal birth and developmental problems of children with sensory processing disorder and children with autism spectrum disorder - May-Benson TA, Koomar JA  Teasdale A; The Spiral Foundation Watertown, MA, USA.

… An exploratory …study, .. was conducted to investigate the incidence of pre-, peri- and post-natal, birth and developmental problems in a sample of 1000 children with SPD and of 467 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who also had SPD. This study revealed that although no one factor was strongly associated with SPD or ASD, [the following were prevalent:

  • pre-natal/pregnancy problem – including  maternal stresses during pregnancy
  • delivery complication - rates of breech position, cord wrap/ prolapse, assisted delivery methods (particularly forceps and suction deliveries),

High birth weight

Incidence of pre-, peri-, and post-natal birth and developmental problems of children with sensory processing disorder and children with autism spectrum disorder - May-Benson TA, Koomar JA  Teasdale A; The Spiral Foundation Watertown, MA, USA.

… An exploratory …study, .. was conducted to investigate the incidence of pre-, peri- and post-natal, birth and developmental problems in a sample of 1000 children with SPD and of 467 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who also had SPD, ……….

High birth-weight was greater in both groups.

Childhood illnesses

Incidence of pre-, peri-, and post-natal birth and developmental problems of children with sensory processing disorder and children with autism spectrum disorder - May-Benson TA, Koomar JA  Teasdale A; The Spiral Foundation Watertown, MA, USA.

… An exploratory …study, .. was conducted to investigate the incidence of pre-, peri- and post-natal, birth and developmental problems in a sample of 1000 children with SPD and of 467 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who also had SPD. the following were prevalent:

one or more early childhood illnesses or injuries - When comparing results to national studies of the typical population, most remarkable was the incidence of jaundice, three to four times higher in both the SPD and ASD groups than in typical children.

Older mothers

It was noted in one study that the medical profession, by helping mothers who would otherwise not conceive naturally because of their age, are actually increasing the percentage of autistic and brain damaged children.

From Estimated autism risk and older reproductive age - King MD, Fountain C, Dakhlallah D, Bearman PS. - Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University, New York, NY USA.

We sought to estimate the risk for autism associated with maternal and paternal age across successive birth cohorts…….We linked birth records and autism diagnostic records from the California Department of Developmental Services for children born in California between 1992 and 2000 to calculate the risk associated with maternal and paternal age for each birth …..… Analyses … demonstrated that advanced maternal age, rather than paternal age, may pose greater risk.

From Estimated autism risk and older reproductive age - King MD, Fountain C, Dakhlallah D, Bearman PS. - Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University, New York, NY USA.

We sought to estimate the risk for autism associated with maternal and paternal age across successive birth cohorts…….We linked birth records and autism diagnostic records from the California Department of Developmental Services for children born in California between 1992 and 2000 to calculate the risk associated with maternal and paternal age for each birth …..… Analyses … demonstrated that advanced maternal age, rather than paternal age, may pose greater risk.

Overall

If we summarise therefore, the main causes are:

  • the genetic damage done by the toxins with which we subject the unborn baby, knowingly or unknowingly these can include pharmaceuticals and genetically engineered and ‘artificial substances’
  • Violence to the mother during pregnancy which harms the foetus
  • Premature birth and low weight babies and the medical profession’s keenness to save them.  High weight babies can also suffer
  • Older mothers – and the medical profession’s willingness to help older mothers conceive when they would be otherwise unable to do so
  • Some childhood illnesses such as jaundice
  • Inadequate medical care during delivery.  It would seem the use of forceps and suction devices are very problematical

In effect there is not just one cause but multiple causes, the majority of which are  ‘inflicted’ on the baby by the society we have created.

The fact that the causes are environmental and  societally self inflicted tend to be born out by studies into the population of brain damaged children over the years. 

As more premature babies have been saved, as more older women have had children, as more toxins have entered our environment , the number brain damaged  children has increased dramatically.  The chart below shows the number of reports of autism cases per 1,000 children in the US from 1996 to 2007. Those producing the chart consider the current figures may be an underestimation.