"Such studies will lead to a better understanding of brain development in both autistic and typical individuals."
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges.
- Although a diagnosis of autism can typically be made around the age of 2, the average age for diagnosis in the United States is after 4 years old.
- A new study shows that the atypical development of autism in human brain cells starts at the very earliest stages of brain organization, which can happen as early as the third week of pregnancy.
Nerve cells in the autistic brain differ before birth, new research finds<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="97bc70ff8b04dcea1a5e712e3789a970"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JPO-uOPK5RI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200824091958.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A new study</a> shows that the atypical development of autism in human brain cells starts at the very earliest stages of brain organization, which can happen as early as the <a href="https://www.enfagrow.com.sg/my-pregnancy/development/per-month/baby-brain-development-during-pregnancy#:~:text=Your%20developing%20baby's%20brain%20development%20technically%20begins%20during%20the%20third,%2C%20hindbrain%2C%20and%20spinal%20cord." target="_blank">third week of pregnancy</a>.</p><p>The study was performed by scientists at King's College London and Cambridge University. </p><p><strong>The study used induced pluripotent stem cells to recreate the development of each sample in the womb.<br></strong>The researchers isolated hair samples from nine autistic people and six typical people. By treating the cells with an array of growth factors, the scientists were able to drive the hair cells to become nerve cells (or neurons), much like those found in either the cortex or the midbrain region.</p><p>These induced pluripotent stem cells (referred to as IPSCs) retain the genetic identity of the person from which they came, and the cells restart their development as it would have happened in the womb. This provides a look into that person's brain development.</p><p>At various stages, the researchers examined the developing cells' appearance and sequenced their RNA to see which genes the cells were expressing. On day 9 of the study, developing neurons from typical people formed "neural rosettes" (an intricate, dandelion-like shape indicative of typically developing neurons). Cells from autistic people formed smaller rosettes (or did not form any rosettes at all), and key developmental genes were expressed at lower levels.</p><p>Days 21 and 35 of the study showed cells from typical and autistic people differed significantly in a number of ways, proving that the makeup of neurons in the cortex differs in the autistic and typically developing brains.</p><p>John Krystal, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of Biological Psychiatry, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200824091958.htm" target="_blank">explains</a>: "The emergence of differences associated with autism in these nerve cells shows that these differences arise very early in life."</p><p><strong>Along with the variations, there were some things that proved similar.<br></strong>Additionally, cells directed to develop as midbrain neurons (a brain region that's not implicated in autism dysfunction) showed only negligible differences between typical and autistic individuals. The similarities are just as important as the differences, as they mark how the autistic brain and typical brain develop uniquely from the earliest stages of growth.</p><p>"The use of iPSCs allows us to examine more precisely the differences in cell fates and gene pathways that occur in neural cells from autistic and typical individuals. These findings will hopefully contribute to our understanding of why there is such diversity in brain development," said Dr. Dr. Deepak Srivastava, who supervised the study.</p><p><strong>The intention of this study is not to find ways to "cure" autism, but to better understand the key genetic components that contribute to it.<br></strong>Simon Baron-Cohen, Ph.D., Director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge and the study's co-lead, added that "some people may be worried that basic research into differences in the autistic and typical brain prenatally may be intended to 'prevent,' 'eradicate,' or 'cure' autism. This is not our motivation, and we are outspoken in our values in standing up against eugenics and in valuing neurodiversity. Such studies will lead to a better understanding of brain development in both autistic and typical individuals."</p>
The CDC's latest youth risk survey houses some scary numbers but shows that evidence-based sex education is working.
Are the kids alright?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzYwMjE4OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTM1MTIyNX0.CULjr9vPfsvA4VtAh8oQ2dMyb-h978Umnh_RS9FpQ1w/img.jpg?width=980" id="97f03" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2d0cafb0683366f4650e4b862d05d139" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A graph showing the prevalence of condom and primary contraceptive use among high school students during their last sex act.
Having the talk<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="07beb46b7a9ac3b2862b3d61df3e6b04"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4IPrw0NYkMg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>What can be done to bolster positive trends and reverse negative ones? Continue advancing sex education and outreach programs. In the survey, the CDC notes the proven effectiveness of risk reduction education—that is, not fearmongering but comprehensive, evidence-based teaching. </p><p>Unfortunately for adults hoping to avoid <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-51385831" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">awkward conversations with banana stand-ins</a>, this means doing away with abstinence-only programs. <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17138906/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A review of the scientific literature</a> found that these programs contain "scientifically inaccurate information, distort[ed] data on topics such as condom efficacy, and [promotion] of gender stereotypes." It concluded that abstinence-only programs put teens at greater risk of unintended pregnancies and STDs. With the gap between <a href="https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/abstinence-only-until-marriage-programs-and-policies-are-failure" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sexual maturity and marriage ever-widening</a>, such programs, no matter how well-intended, are simply unrealistic. </p><p>As Laura Grubb, author of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on adolescent barrier protection, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/21/health/teens-unsafe-behavior-health-risks-wellness/index.html" target="_blank">told CNN</a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">It does not have to be a controversial position. There is no evidence that providing contraception to adolescents makes them more sexually active or promotes risky behavior. […] In fact, comprehensive evidence-based sexuality education results in adolescents delaying sexual behavior, using contraception at first intercourse, and having less sexual partners at a young age."</p><p>The CDC also recommends strong partnerships between communities and clinics. Teens should have access to well-trained care providers to provide the information and services they need.</p><p>Sex comes with risks, and it is impossible to reduce a teen's risk factor to zero. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Risk-taking is how teenagers develop their independence and form the identities that will carry over into their adult lives. It helps them experience qualities of the world that were hidden to them as children. But without comprehensive education, the consequences of those risks may stay hidden until it's too late. And without access to proper outreach and resources, they may not have the means to mitigate those risks.</p><p>As for drugs, drinking, shoplifting, and drag racing down the L.A. river for pinks, those are topics for other surveys and articles.</p>
Why do Black newborns have a relatively high mortality rate in the U.S. — and how does the race of the doctor factor in?
- A new study examined nearly 2 million births in Florida from 1992 to 2015.
- The results showed that, when cared more by a white doctor, Black newborns are 3 times more likely to die than white newborns.
- The researchers said several "disturbing" factors are likely at play.
Potential causes<p>Why might the race of the attending physician matter? Although the researchers didn't examine the root causes of the disparity, they did mention that factors like eclampsia and preeclampsia (dangerous conditions that afflict Black women at disproportionate rates), socioeconomic inequality, racial biases, and institutional racism may play a part.</p><p>Brad Greenwood, study co-author and an associate professor of Information Systems & Operations Management Sciences at George Mason University, told <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/08/19/black-babies-more-likely-live-when-treated-black-doctors-study/3389521001/" target="_blank">USA Today</a> that a mix of "disturbing" structural influences could be contributing to the problem.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I don't think any of us would suggest as co-authors that these results are manifesting as a result of malicious bias on the part of physicians," Greenwood said. "I also think that underscores how insidious something like this is. Children are dying as a result of just structural problems."</p>
While many people don't think its all that bad, a new study suggests you should lay off while expecting.
- A new study suggests that smoking weed during pregnancy reduces birth weight and gestational age.
- The study follows on the heels of several others suggesting that marijuana has a variety of negative side effects.
- Despite this, many people still consider marijuana to be harmless.
What happens when you smoke for two<p>The study worked with 5628 pregnant women in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom who were also part of a separate study investigating the relationship between marijuana use and pregnancy complications. These women had their demographic information, lifestyle characteristics, and medical history collected by a midwife.</p><p> All participants were asked if they ever smoked marijuana and, if so, if had they smoked it at any point during their pregnancy. Those who did smoke were further asked how many times a week they partook. Similar questions were asked for alcohol and tobacco usage. The midwives also recorded socio-economic data, noted if the test subject had used other illicit drugs during their pregnancy, and administered tests checking for depression and anxiety. After the test subjects gave birth, the midwives recorded infants' size and weight. </p><p> The babies born to women who smoked past the 15-week point in their pregnancies had lower birth weights, head size, body length, and lower gestational age. The reductions were comparable to the known effects of an expecting mother smoking nine cigarettes a day. These effects were more dramatic for children born to mothers who smoked more frequently. The risk of infant death and the rate of severe infant morbidity increased with the frequency of smoking as well. </p><p>Women who stopped smoking before the 15<sup>th</sup> week gave birth to babies with similar measurements to those born to women who did not smoke. </p><p> The evidence behind these findings remained even after factoring for tobacco and alcohol usage. While those lower on the socio-economic scale were more likely to continue smoking during pregnancy than others, their lower social standing was found to have no direct relation to birth outcomes.</p><p>The study was not without limitations. The number of women who reported continuing to smoke throughout their pregnancy was comparatively low, though not so small as to reduce the validity of the findings.</p><p>The researchers only looked at the number of times a person smoked and not at the potency of the marijuana or how it was consumed. They also looked at the effects of taking other illicit substances, but the number of women taking them was low enough to make serious investigation impossible during this study. </p><p>Perhaps most importantly, the study did not investigate what mechanism is at work. It could be simple carbon monoxide production by the act of smoking cutting down on oxygen that is getting to the fetus, as with tobacco smoking. Or it could be that the chemicals in marijuana were affecting the <a href="https://theconversation.com/using-cannabis-during-pregnancy-could-be-bad-news-for-your-baby-new-research-140443" target="_blank">fetus</a>. This is an area where further research is needed.</p>
So, what does this mean for me?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="uOrxqasD" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="5fb1fc085ecf9ca63355b4e0bc632e25"> <div id="botr_uOrxqasD_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/uOrxqasD-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/uOrxqasD-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/uOrxqasD-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The first take away here is that you shouldn't smoke weed while pregnant. The second is that it might not be too late to stop.</p><p>Previous studies have suggested that a lower gestational age at birth is associated with lower <a href="https://fn.bmj.com/content/102/5/F409" target="_blank">literacy later in life</a> and that children in families with lower social standing start behind their wealthier peers in literacy <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/factsheet-education.pdf" target="_blank">tests</a>. The finding here that lower-income women are more likely to smoke during pregnancy suggests that their children may be subject to particular difficulties.</p><p>The study is yet <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200204094730.htm" target="_blank">another</a> one suggesting that marijuana isn't as harmless as many people suppose. The drug is known to cause memory trouble, anxiety, and increase the risk of psychotic symptoms. Previous studies similar to this one already hinted at the effects of smoking on the newly born. This one didn't break new ground so much as remove hidden variables in previous experiments on the same subject. <br> <br> Despite this, up to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28252456/" target="_blank">third of women think marijuana can't harm a gestating fetus</a>, and the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5550346/" target="_blank">popular conception of the drug</a> has yet to incorporate notions of its <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_(drug)#Adverse_effects" target="_blank">various adverse side effects.</a><u></u></p><p>Perhaps the take away for those who are not or cannot become pregnant is that marijuana isn't completely harmless and should be interacted with as such. <u></u></p>
According to researchers at Washington State University, the answer is yes.
- Washington State University researchers found that exercising while pregnant might reduce the risk of obesity in children.
- The study, conducted on mice, also discovered that offspring of fit mothers have better metabolic health.
- Infant mice whose mothers exercised had higher levels of brown adipose tissue, aka brown fat.
5 Best Pregnancy Lower Back Pain Relief Exercises - Ask Doctor Jo<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fdd36ec1093139eb911d2f0d5f11c4c5"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/S3xXurLpfDk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Du and Son's study might be the first to display the possible benefits of exercising while pregnant. Previous research has linked maternal obesity to infants. This study shows the benefits of exercise, one of which is better glucose tolerance, meaning children have a reduced likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. Son <a href="https://news.wsu.edu/2020/04/17/exercise-pregnancy-reduces-obesity-among-offspring/" target="_blank">says</a>,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"These findings suggest that physical activity during pregnancy for fit women is critical for a newborn's metabolic health. We think this research could ultimately help address obesity in the United States and other countries."</p><p>Still, myths perpetuate regarding the efficacy of exercising while pregnant. <a href="https://www.glamour.com/story/enough-with-the-myths-about-exercise-during-pregnancy" target="_blank">According to</a> NYU OB-GYN, Jennifer Aquino, as long as women stay hydrated while working out, they are unlikely to experience ill effects. Overheating is a major concern, however. Avoid exercise in hot environments. Eating a snack before working out is also a good idea. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/exercise-during-pregnancy" target="_blank">current guidelines</a> for exercising while pregnant are similar to everyone else: 150 minutes of moderate level fitness, split between cardiovascular and strength training. Pregnant women generally want to choose low impact options, such as swimming and indoor cycling. Of course, every woman's approach should be tailored to meet their needs and pre-pregnancy fitness levels. </p>
Alysia Montano runs in the Women"s 800 Meter opening round during Day 1 of the 2017 USA Track & Field Championships at Hornet Stadium on June 22, 2017 in Sacramento, California.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images<p>As a general guideline, my advice as a fitness instructor (who has taught hundreds of pregnant women over the last 16 years) has been to keep up their regimen as best they can, provided they are healthy enough to do so and with modifications. I don't advise learning anything new during this time as that could increase their risk for injury. If an expecting mother does want to engage in new exercise routines, medical professionals advicse slow adoption. </p><p>Again, anecdotally, I've seen a range of responses. Some women choose to scale back their routines or even stop working out if adverse reactions begin (usually causing them to take bed rest). I've also seen one instructor friend teach kickboxing and perform handstands while nine months pregnant. I even had a woman in her fortieth week take my class to try to "get the baby out already." (He was born the next day, though I take no credit for that.) </p><p>It should not surprise anyone that healthier mothers have healthier babies. We are well aware of the genetic consequences of our parents that we pass to our offspring. We also know well the behavioral imprints our forebears leave on us. A guy named Freud wrote a few books about that. Of course, parental behavior affects our development in every capacity, fitness levels included. Thanks to this team in Washington, we have proof.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. His next book is</em> "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy." </p>