I have a gut feeling that there is more to autism than just a different brain wiring!

Subtitle: “Dorothy, go with your gut instincts!” – said the Wizard of Oz

The other day one of my very close Facebook friends who I love and respect dearly asked for my thoughts on an article that she posted on her Facebook Page from PsychCentral about co-occurring disorders with ADHD. My friend had a provocative thought related to the topic which I find very intriguing, that co-occurring disorders might be a form of societal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from systemic bullying and abuse.

My first mental reaction was to mention that I pay very little attention to psychiatric labels primarily due to the ambiguity of descriptions, and the overlapping of symptoms with a variety of those labels.

The label ADHD is one of the most controversial labels introduced into the psychiatric lexicon, and most psychologists and psychiatrists cannot agree on a definitive and concrete set of characteristics, and it may be masking a biological or neurological difference such as autism.

In fact, often an autistic child that is verbal is first diagnosed with ADHD, and if he/she is lucky, a knowledgeable professional will eventually realize that the child is on the Autism Spectrum and change course regarding therapy.

One of the main co-occurring disorders mentioned in the PsychCentral articles was Anxiety Disorder. There are various sub-classifications pertaining to that label, and the principal generic one is Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That particular label was added to my Autistic Label when I was eleven years old, note after the autism diagnosis.

The main problem that I have with psychological or psychiatric labels is that most of the time the professionals that dish those out are focussing on the behavior of the individual and ignoring any environmental or biological components that might be involved in manifesting that behavior.

Consequently, I prefer to dissect the problem down to the cellular level which I did in my comments on my friend’s Facebook post but I attempted to do that at a high level assuming the reader may not be either interested nor knowledgeable in the nitty gritty. 🙂

The gamut of psychological labels pertaining to disorders and my thoughts:

There are three primary core stimuli that result in these perceived labels or disorders, 1) cellular makeup that affects both the brain and the gut, 2) brain synapses that are either not connected, misconnected or over-connected, and 3) conditioned mental responses that are programmed in the brain based on the experiences of a person over the course of their lifetime.

One could posit that PTSD is a result of the latter of the three stimuli, a learned response that is triggered based on a previous shock to the mental system.

Most neuroscientists refer to the brain as being plasticized meaning that it changes constantly as a result of a variety of causes. However, as with PTSD, a traumatic event can cause a permanent mini-software program that is difficult or impossible to reprogram.

When we talk about ADHD, what is really going on is an abnormal amount of electrical impulses being fired by neuronal cells, and often short-circuiting synapses. Think of sticking your finger into an electrical socket and that’s sort of what is going on in the brain.

Regarding mood disorders, the majority of those are a result of a predisposition caused by the core DNA genetic profile of a person. In fact, they have identified certain genes that result in some of those conditions, and the ones identified to date that are shared by those with autism are Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia.

The actual cellular makeup is at the root of most psychiatric and neurological disorders, and there are two primary occurrences that affect that.

The first being the de novo mutations of cells just prior to birth, and the physical state of the mother during the gestation period.

The autoimmune system of a woman during pregnancy can go haywire, and as a result an abnormal amount of inflammation can affect a fetus.

That inflammation in turn affects the cells of the fetus, often causing abnormal responses resulting in a myriad of potential illnesses including autism.

It’s a big complicated systemic mess, and science to date has only scratched the surface in trying to figure it out. If they ever do, then epigenesis will be a viable and scary option.

When we consider “systemic bullying and abuse” upon autistics, the results of that often leads to the label of PTSD which characterizes my description of the brain being reprogrammed to adjust to that stimuli. I was a victim of that in childhood and adolescence, and I still suffer occasional PTSD episodes as a result even in my old age. As I postulated, that type of programming is very difficult if not impossible to reprogram.

To elaborate a little more, many in the psychiatric community consider ADHD a bogus diagnosis and label. I’m on the fence regarding that one because technically I fit the profile.

The real issue from both parts of the article is attempting to tie in ADHD with other psychiatric labels.

Statistically the author is correct, the majority of the time anyone diagnosed with ADHD will probably have one or more comorbid psychological disorders, and General Anxiety Disorder is somewhat universal with anyone given the ADHD label including Autism.

My impression is that the author was trying to tie those disorders together in some fashion, when in reality they may be totally discrete with varying causes.

Often the psychology professional focuses on the mental state of a patient and rarely investigates a biological or an environmental component as a root cause for a condition or disorder.

As an example in respect to autism there are many reported cases of positive changes in an autistic child once their diet has been modified via trial and error to identify certain food groups that may be affecting their digestive system.

With this example, what has really occurred is a change in the gut flora and the gut neuronal cells of that child.

The human body is probably the most sophisticated system on the planet and the most complicated simultaneously. With that said, all stimuli needs to be taken into account when attempting to either diagnose, diffuse, or alter a person’s makeup, both physically and mentally.

To wrap up this verbose post, my friend triggered a lot of thoughts on a convoluted and intertwined set of possibly related disorders, hypothesizing that ADHD may in fact be a form of PTSD induced by bullying and psychological abuse caused by society in general. I find that theory quite plausible and interesting to think about.

In fact, it just may be that humans have an innate need to bully and abuse others as a defense mechanism for their own perceived inadequacies. Some humans overtly and deliberately do it, and others may subconsciously do it without realizing it.

And maybe they all do it because they have a tummy ache, and the tummy brain is sending nasty “do this” messages to its cousin, that three pound glob between one’s ears.

If you’re still with me on this one, the next time someone tries to explain to me that 1) autism is just a different brain wiring or 2) a PsychCentral author attempts to postulate mental disorders without exploring the biological or neurological causes, you may get a really long mouthful from an old autistic. 🙂

To be continued…

Article: Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being

Article: New neurons reveal clues about an individual’s autism

Article: Co-occurring Disorders and ADHD Part One

Article: Co-occurring Disorders with ADHD Part Two

 

OMG! My autism is missing?

Subtitle: well not really, it’s just taking a break…

I’ve been pretty sick for the past two months. First it was a nasty Sjogren’s Syndrome flare-up (Lupus Lite) then followed by a sinus infection which turned into bacterial pneumonia.

Yikes! 🙂

Consequently I’ve been cramming anti-inflammatory drugs down my throat to fight these little attackers.

In mid-January I started my ritual steroid protocol (Prednisone) to battle the flare-up, and when the sinus infection/pneumonia kicked in, my doctor put me on antibiotics along with mega doses of ibuprofen (NSAID). I’m still taking Prednisone, one of the first anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant drugs invented.

All of the drugs above assist with immune dysregulation by quieting down one’s autoantibodies along with fighting the pneumonia bacteria.

Last night I was doing my favorite hobby, thinking, and it occurred to me that some of my autistic traits (OCD) have been dormant for the past few weeks and I wondered how that happened?

That triggered my internal computer processor (brain) to tap into my database (knowledge) looking for correlations based on past research.

The first data that popped up in my thought processes were the anecdotal reports by parents of severely autistic children being miraculously cured of their autism by ingesting antibiotics and other anti-inflammatory drugs. To be fair and accurate, those miraculous cures were only temporary during the course of taking those drugs.

However, if those stories are true then it could be inferred that inflammation is a culprit in the autism mystery.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s way of fighting attack. Ideally, when a “foreign” substance, a toxin, bacteria, or a virus enters the body, a cascade of inflammatory chemicals and processes ramp up to fight off the invader. When the battle is over, an anti-inflammatory process begins and calms the body down again.

In some people, this process of ramping up and cooling down does not go smoothly. Those people can become stuck in a constant state of inflammation, a state of battle, in which the body produces chemicals such as cytokines. Over time, these inflammatory chemicals can damage the body.

Over the past decade, there have been numerous research studies substantiating a relation between mothers with autoimmune diseases having a much higher chance of having babies with some form of autism. Those autoimmune diseases can be diabetes associated with obesity, asthma, or more severe autoimmune diseases such as Lupus.

When I consider those studies, I think of my own case. My mother had severe asthma and a chronic skin condition that was probably cutaneous Lupus. In addition, she was 39 years old when I was born and other studies point to older mothers having a higher chance of giving birth to an autistic child. And to top it off, she was a daily smoker.

Assuming all of this scientific gibberish, facts, research, and hypotheses are correct, what is that going to tell us?

First we’re not going to eradicate autism nor are we going to stop making babies just because a mother has an autoimmune disease or is over 35 years old. That’s silly.

Second most autistics, myself included, do not want to change the way that we are. We’re comfortable being ourselves and we’re used to the way that our brains function and think.

However it is plausible that we can mitigate some of the autistic traits that most autistics complain about, i.e. our social ineptness and our inability to make friends and assimilate amongst non-autistics, especially if a biological process, inflammation, is playing a part by affecting our brains.

The infamous and vile concept of ABA tries to reprogram our behaviors via the old fashioned reward and punishment methods. Many parents of autistic children swear it works. I practiced this on myself as an adult and it does work. However, in the process I was stressed out so much that it caused immense anxiety.

As an alternative, if my theory might have some credibility, a simple daily cocktail of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs might produce the same results, i.e. Ibuprofen (Advil).

As a scientist I like to run experiments. Therefore, I’m going to continue with this one because I need to in order to mitigate my other severe problem, an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome, and if it happens to tone down my OCD and ADHD propensities, then hallelujah! 🙂

I posed the question in a previous post, “Is autism an autoimmune disease?”

It just might be…

[To be continued…]

Link to Autism Research Institute: Immune Function & ASD

Link to YouTube Video Dr. Judy Van de Water, UC Davis MIND Institute, Biomarkers & ASD

Link to UC Davis MIND Presentation Handout:

PubMed research paper:

A Meta-Analysis of Maternal Smoking during Pregnancy and Autism Spectrum Disorder Risk in Offspring

Spin the wheel for the daily autism “cause du jour”!

Subtitle: Is autism an autoimmune disease? True or false…

I love Google. When I’m connected to the Internet doing research, the Google Search function is my best friend followed by Wikipedia.

I suspect that this ubiquitous software App is taken for granted by any web surfer because it is so easy to use.

Behind the scenes, there are probably thousands or millions of programming code statements that parse and process a user’s search query. The way it works is using what was formerly called Artificial Intelligence, aka Machine Learning.

From the abacus to Smart Phones, mankind has come a long way in developing intelligent tools to mimic the way that the brain thinks and behaves.

However, we have not yet mastered the biological programs (software) that cells use, those tiny little molecules made up of various parts sloshing around in our bodies including the neurons (neuronal cells) in our brains.

That’s what medical researchers are trying to do. They are working diligently to understand what causes autism by attempting to debug the software in human cells, primarily those located in the brain.

Furthermore they need to understand the paths taken by those floating programs and subprograms that wind up sloshing around between the three pound glob between our ears via the wiring (synapses).

One of the features that I use with Google is called the Google Alert function. With my Google account, I can set up key words for Google to search for on a daily basis and send me an email with stories containing those words. I do that with the word “autism” and a few others.

This morning I received my daily Google Alert with several articles on autism. One of those was the daily “cause du jour” which contained a story about asthma drugs causing autism.

The researchers noted that the drugs can affect certain cell receptors (program hooks) and cross into the placenta, thus affecting the fetus. This makes sense to me and is probably true, and it is also probably true for anything that a pregnant woman ingests or breathes.

The subtitle contained a controversial question, whether or not autism is an autoimmune disease.

An autoimmune disease is when the body mistakenly makes antibodies (autoantibodies) that attack the “self” or the good body tissues. In essence, the human immune system is malfunctioning.

What this means in simple terms is that the biological programs and subprograms of cells are full of “bugs” or incorrect messages to other cells, thereby causing unintended consequences, i.e. cell death or apoptosis, and medical researchers are trying to “debug” those programs in cells.

All I can say is, “Good luck!”, because those little biological programs and subprograms embedded in cells work like Google using “Artificial Intelligence” or “machine learning” to change the “code” (programs) as needed.

Fortunately we do have tools to “debug” the software, i.e. interpreting what the cells are doing. The most basic tool is called a Complete Blood Count (CBC). That tool checks our red blood cells (RBC) and more importantly our white blood cells (WBC). The white blood cells are the ones that really give us the clues as to what our bodies are doing correctly and incorrectly.

If we dive into “debugging” the software just a little more, we have the technology to check the nucleus of a cell. Those tools are called the Antinuclear test (ANA) and the Extracted Nuclear Antigen Panel (ENA). These blood tests check to see if the immune system is producing abnormal amounts of autoantibodies to fight antigens (bad cells) which in turn give us clues about a potential autoimmune disease.

What medical scientists have determined is that over a third of autistic children have abnormal ANA and ENA tests i.e. elevated autoantibodies.

Since we autistics supposedly have brains that think more logically than non-autistics, it seems to me that it is logical to conclude that autoantibodies (over active good cells) may be the “smoking gun” to solving the autism puzzle.

If that is true, then the software affecting and embedded in overactive autoantibodies (cells) needs to be “debugged” and reprogrammed. We do have some effective immunosuppressant drugs that tell those culprits to take a break, i.e. steroids.

However, the problem is that we do not have a computer powerful enough nor a database full of sufficient algorithms and data to figure out how the most complex machine (human body) fully works, especially those clever cells in the brain.

Mankind has been trying to do this for a long time, it’s called epigenesis, second guessing a cell’s next move and how to alter it is the prize for all of these medical researchers.

I suspect that my daily Google Alert emails will continue to entertain me with all sorts of theories as to the cause of autism, some logical and some just plain silly.

Therefore, what exactly is the point to solving the autism puzzle? I’m confused…

Nevermind, I just figured it out!

If we solve the autism puzzle, then we can figure out a way to engineer a pill to mitigate it.

That’s called pharmacology and it’s good for the economy, especially the Pharmaceutical Economy!

[To be continued…]

What are the best autistic traits to have and what is the worst comorbid autoimmune disease to have?

Subtitle 1: ‘Focus’ = the ability to block out a lot of extraneous input and attempt to solve a problem

Subtitle 2: ‘Savant Syndrome’ = a comorbid autistic trait/phenomena

I have been missing in action (MIA) on Facebook and blogging regularly due to feeling like crap and a personal problem, trying to figure out just what autoimmune disease that I have in order to manage it correctly.

After sixteen plus years of dealing with severe health symptoms that originally bestowed the label of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) on me, I finally have the correct label, ADIOS, and I’m the one that had to solve this complicated puzzle.

What a [insert here] relief! 🙂

ADIOS is the acronym for Autoimmune Dysfunction Idiopathic Overlap Syndrome.

In a way I should feel special. 🙂 Some people only have boring autoimmune diseases that affect one organ of the body, either the skin, the adrenal glands, the kidneys, or the brain. I have one that can affect any and all of them! WOW!

My only competition that I’m aware of are those that have the label (diagnosis) of Lupus, Sjogren’s Syndrome, or a combination of both.

That’s O.K. because most of those folks are women, only 10% of men win those labels, and the men need to have their own special label to brag about. 🙂

It was quite an arduous journey over the last few months sifting through the megabytes of research reports and case studies to reach this enlightenment. As a result, I had to stop and think about how I accomplished that.

It’s called ‘focus’ with a little bit of savantism thrown in, specifically the savant skills called ‘lightning calculation’ and ‘prodigious memory’.

I have a few other savant skills but these are my favorites because they’re useful.

Some autistic savants with the ‘lightening calculation’ skill can do all sorts of math tricks like solving Pi really fast.

That’s cute and entertaining but I prefer the ability to process data like a supercomputer using Mathematical Logic, and that requires ‘focus’, ‘association’, and stored data (‘prodigious memory’), and together they work like a finely tuned motor. 🙂

One of my favorite autistics and fellow autistic savants is Dr. Temple Grandin. She speaks and writes frequently about the autistic traits of ‘focus’ and ‘association’ in order to empower parents and caregivers to recognize these traits in autistic children. The reason is to provide them with ideas on how to effectively teach those children to utilize those traits/skills to be valuable contributors to society.

What does this all have to do with ADIOS? Plenty…

When you recognize the positives of a negative (autism) and say, “Screw you! I’ll build a castle out of that sand…”, you might just end up with the most elaborate sandcastle on the beach, and in the process find all sorts of tools that can be made out of crap lying around in order to construct it.

In this case referring to Dr. Grandin’s message to parents and caregivers, she often goes on to say that when the child is taught to use those gifts, he/she might be the next Nobel Prize winner in Physics as an adult.

That’s a powerful message to think about.

If you’re like me, an autistic adult, it’s never too late to build that sandcastle and gain all sorts of new insight about the latent or dormant skills that one has.

Since I discovered the new autoimmune disease, Autoimmune Dysfunction Idiopathic Overlap Syndrome (ADIOS), I intend to write a very long scientific research paper using me as the case study participant and get it published.

You heard it here first! 🙂

In the meantime, attached to this silly post is an interesting article about a young man who is an autistic savant and a gifted musician. I hope you enjoy it.

To be continued…

Article: Extraordinary Minds – the link between savantism and autism