A large new study puts caffeine-drinking moms on alert.
- A study finds that the brains of children born to mothers who consumed coffee during pregnancy are different.
- Neuroregulating caffeine easily crosses the placental barrier.
- The observed differences may be associated with behavioral issues.
A large study of nine- and ten-year-old brains<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY3NzIyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDk5MjQ0N30.UCu1Ygfi_rmO-xLpW-KOgCX-MJ3bfqjzfIVg4Kmcr9w/img.jpg?width=980" id="d2e15" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c96aa86f8dbe08aa8536502ac1769497" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: myboys.me/Adobe Stock<p>For the study, researchers analyzed brain scans of 9,000 nine and ten-year-olds. Based on their mothers' recollections of their coffee consumption during pregnancy, the researchers found that children of coffee drinkers had clear changes in the manner in which white brain matter tracks were organized. These are the pathways that interconnect brain regions.</p><p>According to Foxe, "These are sort of small effects, and it's not causing horrendous psychiatric conditions, but it is causing minimal but noticeable behavioral issues that should make us consider long-term effects of caffeine intake during pregnancy."</p><p>Christensen says that what makes this finding noteworthy is that "we have a biological pathway that looks different when you consume caffeine through pregnancy."</p><p>Of children with such pathway differences, Christensen says, "Previous studies have shown that children perform differently on IQ tests, or they have different psychopathology, but that could also be related to demographics, so it's hard to parse that out until you have something like a biomarker. This gives us a place to start future research to try to learn exactly when the change is occurring in the brain."</p><p>The study doesn't claim to have determined exactly <em>when</em> during development these changes occur, or if caffeine has more of an effect during one trimester or another.</p><p>Foxe cautions, "It is important to point out this is a retrospective study. We are relying on mothers to remember how much caffeine they took in while they were pregnant."</p><p>So as if being pregnant wasn't difficult enough, it sounds like the most conservative and safe course of action for expectant mothers is to forgo those revitalizing cups of Joe and switch to decaf or some other un-caffeinated form of liquid comfort. We apologize on behalf of science.</p>
"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" data-width="936" data-height="339" />
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 for 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.