Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Autism and Pollution

This article in the London Times summarizes the major points of a book coming out at the end of May called Autism, Brain and Environment by Richard Lathe. Some interesting tidbits:

"Lathe points to research showing that autism is more prevalent in cities than in rural areas to support his view that pollution may be implicated.
He emphasises that nothing in his book contradicts the genetic research. “I aim to show how genetics and environmental factors might come together,” he says.
Lathe argues that many cases of autism could be caused by a genetically determined frailty in the body's biochemistry that makes it less able to deal with particular pollutants. So when the individual is exposed to toxins (even at levels that have no ill-effect on most of the population) their bodies cannot cope. If exposure is at a vulnerable stage of development (foetal, neonatal or at significant points in brain development) the toxins may cause damage to key areas of the brain.
“People with autism have a diverse set of physiological impairments such as hormone imbalances, gut problems and immune system deficiencies in addition to their psychological and cognitive difficulties,” says Lathe. Practitioners have often chosen to ignore these, he adds, preferring to see the physical and psychological as separate. But “recent evidence contradicts this”, he says.
It is well established that exposure to certain toxins can cause brain damage and that brain damage (particularly in the limbic system) can lead to autistic symptoms. What is more, the limbic brain is known not only to affect emotions and behaviour, but also to play a major role in regulating the body’s physiology. So the initial brain damage may go on to cause further physical problems, which, in a vicious cycle, could in turn cause yet more damage to the brain. "

1 comment:

Joseph said...

I've commented on the urban/rural correlation here.