Wednesday, September 6, 2006


In the news....

Men aged over 40 are much more likely to have children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than those under 30 according to a new report.

Mutation of sperm is thought to be responsible for a six-fold difference in risk even after other factors are taken into account, American scientists said.

Writing in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the Mount Sinai school of medicine researchers believe that the age factor may be due to genetic mechanisms.

Spontaneous mutations in sperm-producing cells or alterations in genetic "imprinting", which affects gene expression, were singled out for this.

Greg Easterbrook of Slate adds this:

But because the autism surge began around the year 1980, researchers and parents of afflicted children continue to ask what kind of exposure could have begun at that time that might account for the surge.

The answer almost certainly isn't mercury compounds in childhood vaccines. What about pollutants, medicines, or vaccine chemicals other than mercury? Or radiation? Or how about this suspect—missing from the usual list of autism malefactors but to which childhood exposure increased significantly in Western countries in about 1980—namely, television.

The idea is wholly speculative. No scientist has shown a link between autism and television, but so far as I could determine no scientist is working on this question, either—and maybe someone should be.

Beginning in about 1980, TV watching in early childhood began to rise, coincident with the proliferation of affordable VCRs and cable channels offering nonstop cartoons and kids' shows. The child's brain is self-organizing in the first few years of life, and visual stimuli have much to do with how it organizes.

Old guys and TV? Oh well.....

There were enough Tommys in my family anyway. I guess I didn't need to contribute a Tommy Westphall.....


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