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A test for autism is on the horizon, powered by A.I.
Research has shown that early intervention can make ASD more manageable.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a very broad set of neurodevelopmental conditions. Around 1 in 160 children have it worldwide. It’s a much larger ratio in the U.S. at 1 in 68. While symptoms vary significantly, those who experience ASD often have trouble communicating, managing their emotions or developing social skills.
Some with autism develop speech problems. Others have difficulty reading social situations or adapting to new environments. Others still exhibit anxiety, hyperactivity or other compulsive behaviors. ASD sometimes comes with cognitive impairment, but not always.
Children usually start showing signs of autism at 18 months of age or so. Research has shown that early intervention can help make the condition more manageable. Unfortunately, no one knows what causes it, although it’s thought to have both genetic and environmental components. What’s more, no reliable diagnostic is currently in place (here is how the disease is currently diagnosed). But thanks to work by an international team of scientists, an autism test is now on the horizon.
Researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK, partnering with colleagues at the University of Bologna, in Italy, have identified a number of different biomarkers present in those with autism, that’s absent in those who don’t. Their discovery should lead to a medical test for the condition—either a blood or urine test—a first of its kind. The results of the study were published in the journal Molecular Autism.
UK and Italian researchers are developing the world’s first test for autism. Credit: Getty Images.
For the study, scientists compared blood samples from 38 Italian children diagnosed autism (29 boys and 9 girls) to 31 children without the diagnosis (23 boys and 8 girls). The children were all between the ages of 7 and 12. With help from colleagues at the University of Birmingham, U.K., researchers used artificial intelligence algorithms to compare and contrast the proteins in the two groups’ samples. This allowed for the development of an algorithm that could tell which children have ASD with 90% accuracy, and which children didn’t, with 87% accuracy.
The algorithm kept an eye on higher levels of a molecule known as dityrosine (DT), which is present when proteins are damaged during oxidation or advanced glycation end products (AGE). The latter occurs when proteins or fats come into contact with glucose and are altered by it. Those with autism showed higher levels of protein damage.
The lead author of the study was Naila Rabbani, a biologist at the University of Warwick. “Our discovery could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention,” she said in a press release. “We hope the tests will also reveal new causative factors. With further testing we may reveal specific plasma and urinary profiles or ‘fingerprints’ of compounds with damaging modifications. This may help us improve the diagnosis of ASD and point the way to new causes of ASD.”
What does the test mean for those with autism who excel? Credit: Getty Images.
Previous research has shown that 30-35% of autism cases are genetic in origin. The other 65-70% come from a combination of rare genetic variants, a series of mutations, and environmental factors. The results of this study could help uncover previously unknown causes of autism. It also supports suspected ones. “Our finding is consistent with low-level inflammation in ASD,” Rabbani said, “and also with disturbance in the supply of amino acids to neurons.”
What’s more, the researchers have increased the accuracy of an ASD diagnosis. Rabbani told Gizmodo, “Our test is expected to improve the accuracy of ASD diagnosis from 60–70 percent currently achieved by experts in neurological disorders to approximately 90 percent accuracy.” The test has already been patented. Now, Rabbani and colleagues are looking for corporate sponsorship to help develop it, and get it ready for the regulatory approval process. But the very next step is to validate these findings with a larger cohort. As Rabbani told the BBC, she aims to test younger children, perhaps as young as one or two.
Experts caution that once commonplace, the test won’t tell parents where on the spectrum their child would be, or the severity of the condition. Instead, it would outline what risk factors a child has. It’s important to note too, that many with ASD have made significant contributions to society and are loved by friends and family.
There are those autistic savants as well, who have unparalleled math, music, or artistic capabilities. As a result, many with ASD don’t see themselves as having a disease, merely a condition. So what does such a test mean for those with autism who are happy or even blossoming?
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?
- Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
- The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
- Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
How masturbation affects your brain...<p>Orgasms are a very common human phenomenon. The physical and mental health benefits have been researched frequently as a result, and yet, there is still so much to be learned about how our bodies and brains react to the chemicals and hormones released during and after experiencing this type of sexual release.</p><p>"The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable" explains Julia Heiman, director of the <a href="https://kinseyinstitute.org/" target="_blank">Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction</a>.</p><p>Masturbation causes a rush of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine</a>, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called <a href="https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html" target="_blank">oxytocin</a>, which is commonly referred to as the "love hormone."<br></p><p>This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases <a href="https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol" target="_blank">cortisol</a>, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress. </p><p>According to BDSM and fetish researcher <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/dr-gloria-brame-colbert-ga/278388" target="_blank">Dr. Gloria Brame</a>, an orgasm is the biggest non-drug induced blast of dopamine that we can experience. </p><p>By boosting the oxytocin and dopamine levels and subsequently decreasing our cortisol levels, the brain is placed in a more relaxed, euphoric, and calm state. </p>
Masturbation boosts your immune system and raises your white blood cell count.<p>How do those effects on the brain from reaching orgasm translate to boosting our immune system and making our body healthier?</p><p>The increase of oxytocin and dopamine that causes a decrease in cortisol levels can help boost our immune system because cortisol (well-known for being a stress-inducing hormone) actually helps maintain your immune system if released in small doses. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.health24.com/Sex/Great-sex/incredible-health-benefits-to-masturbating-20181030-2" target="_blank">Dr. Jennifer Landa</a>, a hormone-therapy specialist, masturbation can produce the right kind of environment for a strengthened immune system to thrive. </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239" target="_blank">A study</a> conducted by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Clinic of Essen (in Germany) showed similar results. A group of 11 volunteers were asked to participate in a study that would look at the effects of orgasm through masturbation on the white blood cell count and immune system.</p><p>During this experiment, the white blood cell count of each participant was analyzed through measures that were taken 5 minutes before and 45 minutes after reaching a self-induced orgasm. </p><p>The results confirmed that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of white blood cells, particularly the natural killer cells that help fight off infections. </p><p>The findings confirm that our immune system is positively affected by sexual arousal and self-induced orgasm and promote even more research into the positive impacts of sexual arousal and orgasm. </p>
Masturbation can ease and prevent pain, which allows you to achieve the restful sleep that helps your immune system stay strong and healthy.<p>The benefits of masturbation have long been debated, but the more research that is done on the topic the more we understand that there are many positive reactions that happen in our bodies and brains when we orgasm.</p><p>Orgasms can help prevent or mitigate pain, which boosts the immune system, preventing cold and flu symptoms. </p><p>According to neurologist and headache specialist Stefan Evers, about one in three patients experience relief from migraine attacks by experiencing sexual activity or orgasm. Evers and his team <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27642-sex-relieves-migraine-pain.html" target="_blank">conducted an experiment</a> with 800 migraine patients and 200 patients who suffered from cluster-headaches to see how their experiences with sexual activity impacted their pain levels. </p><p>The study showed that 60% of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief after participating in sexual activity that resulted in orgasm. Of the cluster-headache sufferers, about 50% said their headaches actually worsened after sexual arousal and orgasm. </p><p>Evers suggested in his findings that the people who did not experience pain relief from migraines of headaches during their sexual activity did not release as large amounts of endorphins as those who did experience pain relief. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.sharecare.com/health/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-affect-immune-system" target="_blank">rheumatologist Dr. Harris McIlwain</a>, people who suffer from chronic pain have immune systems that are simply not functioning at full capacity - therefore, alleviating pain (through orgasm, as an example) can help boost the immune system. </p><p>Orgasms can also promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep. Serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are all hormones that are released during sexual arousal and orgasm, and all three are known for counteracting stress hormones and promoting relaxation, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1233384" target="_blank">several studies</a> showing that serotonin and norepinephrine help our body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleeping cycles. During these sleep cycles, the immune system releases proteins called <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity" target="_blank"><span id="selection-marker-1" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span>cytokines<span id="selection-marker-2" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span></a>, which target infection and inflammation. This is a critical part of our immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released throughout our bodies while we sleep, which proves the importance of a good sleep schedule to a healthy immune system.</p>
Masturbation promotes a high-functioning immune system; a healthy immune system prevents cold and flu.<p>The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against infections and diseases by stopped threats like bacteria and viruses from entering your system. While there are many things we need to do to keep our immune systems functioning at optimal levels, masturbation (or other means of achieving orgasm) has proven to have positive effects on the immune system as a whole.</p><p>Just as bad habits (such as an inconsistent sleep schedule or harmful chemicals in your body) can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.