Saturday, October 21, 2006

PUT THE BLAME ON CAPTAIN VIDEO? I THINK NOT.

Not long ago, a group of economists decided to join in the hunt for the root cause of autism. They looked at statistics and decided there could only be one culprit: watching too much television. I resisted the temptation to comment on the story because I just couldn’t take it seriously. But there seem to be many people who are giving the “study” credence. For the last week, my Google news alerts have been dominated by various media outlets running the story on how Barney and Sesame Street are behind the rise in autism.

Only Time magazine seemed willing to call this hypothesis “bizarre.” Of course, the same Time article seems to prematurely discard hypotheses involving links to vaccines or mercury, but they are at least showing a consistency that is otherwise lacking in the media.

The point is that there are important developments in the worlds of autism ⎯ both the scientific and the political worlds ⎯ nearly every day. And yet the two most widely covered stories of the past year have been a young man shooting three-pointers and now a crackpot theory about television causing autism.

On a related note, check out this post by Kristina Chew, in which she discusses how it would make almost as much sense to say that autism causes TV as the other way around. She puts the story into perspective, which to me underlines just how silly the media attention has been.

ADDENDUM: For a really great analysis of the absurdity of the television study, check out Kendra Pettengill's take here.

49 Comments:

Blogger Joseph said...

Did you see my critique of the paper? I'm in contact with one of the authors, waiting for a reply on various points. If I don't get a reply, I'm frankly going to think they don't have one.

I'm curious, though, for those who generally embrace post-natal environmental trigger theories without skepticism, why this theory is a no-no. Are we to believe that the epidemiology of the Geiers looking at autism rates in VAERS and omitting data is better than that of these Cornell economists? Why?

María, you there? You are generally willing to accept all papers with a theory such as this. What do you think of this one? (I hope you don't find this question "offensive").

10/23/06, 10:52 AM  
Blogger Ian Parker said...

Joseph wrote:

"I'm curious, though, for those who generally embrace post-natal environmental trigger theories without skepticism, why this theory is a no-no."

You're kidding, right?

I'm reminded of what one former Canadian business leader (potentially soon on his way to a U.S. jail cell, incidentally) said about investing in markets with high rates of taxation, indicating that capitalists were not like raccoons sifting through garbage cans, willing to settle for whatever return on investment that they could uncover.

Those who believe in the potential for a post-natal environmental trigger are not pawing through the garbage cans looking for whatever crap they can turn up ("Hey Rocky, I found another hypothesis!"). I would suggest that it is just a tad offensive to suggest otherwise.

Regardless of whether one does or does not currently believe in the potential for vaccines/thimerosal/mercury, etc. to cause autism, even the IOM accepted that the hypothesis had some "biological plausibility" (using the term as the IOM intended, not as it has been popularly misinterpreted). There's a big difference between reasonable hypotheses that may or may not ultimately be proven correct and ideas that are just plain "out there".

If someone one day suggests that cookie dough flavoured ice cream causes autism then should people who are open to the possibility of environmental triggers expect you to start baiting them about suing Ben & Jerry? It's the same set of beliefs (ice cream is an environmental trigger, right?).

I accept the theory of evolution. Unless I publicly reject the idea, I guess that everyone should assume that I also believe Ann Elk's theory (from Monty Python) that dinosaurs are "small at one end, big in the middle, and small at the other end."

If we want to judge concepts by their (euphamism alert) 'most colourful' (end alert) proponents, I'm sure one could go trawling and easily find a few thoughts on ND websites that are "out there". Does that mean that ND as a concept is as dubious as the (euphamism alert) 'most interesting' (end alert) ideas put forth under its banner, or that all ND proponents should be accused of supporting these ideas? (For the record, the answer is 'No'.)

10/23/06, 6:10 PM  
Blogger María Luján said...

Hi Joseph
You said
I'm curious, though, for those who generally embrace post-natal environmental trigger theories without skepticism, why this theory is a no-no.

In my particular case, the theories I have analyzed with skepticism-but have biological plausibility IMHO-are related to genetically related/epigenetically modulated susceptibilities. Depending on the individual status in nutrition/biochemistry/developmental metabolism and maturity can be related to clinical findings, reported at the best of my knowledge as clues in the open literature-many times in fields not necessarily of autism related (epi, phsycology). The impact of environment in terms of HM of ALL sources, and Al from ALL sources and xenobiotics of ALL sources and virus/toxoids/strep/bacterian infections of ALL sources (wild and not) and nutrition and pediatric management of childhood in several developmental windows are very important for me to research , to analyze and to confirm especially in a genetically susceptible child.

Are we to believe that the epidemiology of the Geiers looking at autism rates in VAERS and omitting data is better than that of these Cornell economists? Why?

After a while and further discussions – and reading- about the Geiers data, I consider that these kind of studies should have been better done, because enough mistakes and omissions have been pointed out.

I consider that these studies can not be compared. However, I have problems with all of them.

María, you there? You are generally willing to accept all papers with a theory such as this.
No, Joseph, this statement is not fair. I am generally willing to accept the consideration of theories that have serious published clues as support ( in the fields of genetics/epigenetics/proteomics/metabolomics/biochemistry/toxicology/virology/inmunology) , biological plausibility is incorporated and analyzed (please see my explanation above) and there are anecdotical evidences that remains non-systematized , unexplained and unexplored adequately, based on clinical analysis- not done in commercial labs only but also in hospitals/universities/ normal labs.

What do you think of this one? (I hope you don't find this question "offensive").

I think that it has no sense. This study did no present biological plausibility (because I have to hear about how TV can produce the brain structure characteristic of ASD in children, for example or the correlations in epigenetics/metabolism that are more and more published- last 12 months for example-BTW, if you are interested I can give you the citations on nutrition/epigenetics). As you have pointed out several times (and also others) in the simulations/statistical field you increase the number of paramenters/ manipulate the data and you will find that you can simulate everything ( inclusive the imposible) and you can find correlations of everything with everything.

Joseph, we know – and I think many of us- know each other since long time ago. I understand that you have your style- and sometimes you can be somewhat sarcastic.Not all days I have the same mood to understand / consider individual sarcasm, even if it is an unconscious style or a way of discussion, like –I imagine- you sometimes also can be with more or less patience to me. I recognize that your comment was annoying for me (a perception I agree that perhaps it was not your intention) because I can understand if you do not know me, but you do- and since long time ago; and you supported my long explanations and my interest in serious science and biological plausibility and detection of published clues- not any clue of any kind of any theory, but very specific ones- in serious peer-reveiwed journals (that involve a lot of my time as I imagine you also dedicate) and I perceived as a mockering comment dedicated to me, unfairly. In general, I do not continue exchanging opinions when I perceive this kind of misunderstandings or lack of interest or generalization because I think I am being misunderstood- and you know me enough to understand what I was pointing out.
I also considered that you were somewhat bothered by my (that) comment. I do not want to make feel unconfortable to anyone and I felt you were. Hope you understand me better.
And thank you for your concern here (really).

10/23/06, 6:13 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

Ian and María: You'll have to explain to me why a vaccine theory is more plausible that the TV theory. I don't see how it's relevant that the IOM hasn't issued a pronouncement about TV exposure. However, you should know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 2 should not watch any TV at all.

María said:

I am generally willing to accept the consideration of theories that have serious published clues as support

This surprises me coming from someone who argued with me that Secretin might still be able to ameliorate symptoms of autism, despite about a dozen double-blind placebo-controlled studies that showed otherwise.

Also, are you not aware of the body of work sorrounding ADHD and TV? Check PubMed.

I perceive a bias in the supposed "open-mindedness". In fact, the term "open-mindedness" is often used by those who wish their ideas to be believed, but at the same time they are seldom "open-minded" about the possibility they are wrong or about other types of beliefs. A typical example is the astrologist who requests open-midedness but is unwilling to consider the evidence that astrology is bunk.

And I'll just lay out the obvious reasons for bias against this particular environmental trigger theory:

1. Any damage done by early TV exposure is probably permanent. It doesn't appear like it would be curable with supplements or drugs.

2. There's an element of parent-blame in the hypothesis.

So, really, we're not talking about the strength of the evidence here, but about cherry-picking whatever is palatable and matching our worldview.

10/24/06, 10:52 AM  
Blogger María Luján said...

Hi Joseph

First, what I said to you related to secretin was that IF a child with ASD diagnosis has ALSO secretin defficiency, therefore secretin could be benefic, not for ASD or autism treatment, but for the secretin defficiency present WITH or concomitant to an Autism diagnosis.

The reports you mentioned never checked for a secretin defficiency in the patients included because they tested secretin as a treatment for autism and therefore the design was biased from the beginning, for me.

You say
Also, are you not aware of the body of work sorrounding ADHD and TV? Check PubMed.

Yes. I am also aware of the anecdotical reports of seizures in some children from the watching of the Pokemon series because of the combination of colors/sounds. I am also aware about how TV has been –with PC- extremely important in the implicit learning in my son-he is hyperlexic and TV was wonderful for him in the learning of words.
In terms of the ADHD and TV I consider that the problem is what is cause and what is effect in the analysis of the information, such as it has been done. Why not to consider that BECAUSE of ADHD TV watching can have a higher distractor effect than in non-ADHD children instead of being a cause of ADHD?

For example
Brief Report: Television Viewing and Risk for Attention Problems in Preschool Children.
From this very recent report
However, it remains unclear as to whether elevated levels of television viewing are the cause or result of ADHD symptoms.

You say
I perceive a bias in the supposed "open-mindedness". In fact, the term "open-mindedness" is often used by those who wish their ideas to be believed, but at the same time they are seldom "open-minded" about the possibility they are wrong or about other types of beliefs. A typical example is the astrologist who requests open-midedness but is unwilling to consider the evidence that astrology is bunk.

Joseph, for many of us and particularly for me, I am based on clinical studies (reported in open scientific literature peer-reviewed or from first hand experience with my son) to talk about the ideas I have presented to you. If you present a biological plausible theory- considering genetics plus other components such as the mentioned before- to explain clinical analysis in my son – or reported in the open literature-based on your theories I would be glad to hear. But no doctor consulted around the world in the mainstreamed could explain them. Epi do not give clues about only present numbers. And astrology/astrologist position has nothing to do with the consideration of biochemistry/epigenetics/metabolomics concomitant to an ASD diagnosis(or IgA defficiency or interferon gamma increase or the defficiency fo natural killers to mention a very few), IMHO.

10/24/06, 11:40 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

The reports you mentioned never checked for a secretin defficiency in the patients included because they tested secretin as a treatment for autism and therefore the design was biased from the beginning, for me.

What you are arguing is that Secretin might be of use for persons with Secretin deficiency. I can accept that. But the fact remains, in studies with autistic children, it has been found to be of no use. (There are numerous studies which have found it to be of no use even in autistic children with diarrhea and so forth). What you're arguing is outside of the autism debate.

Why not to consider that BECAUSE of ADHD TV watching can have a higher distractor effect than in non-ADHD children instead of being a cause of ADHD?

Ah, that's what I'm talking about. Some skepticism. Have you considered that such confounds can explain other research you take for granted?

And astrology/astrologist position has nothing to do with the consideration of biochemistry/epigenetics/metabolomics concomitant to an ASD diagnosis(or IgA defficiency or interferon gamma increase or the defficiency fo natural killers to mention a very few), IMHO.

Why not? Because something is scientific-sounding, it doesn't mean that it can't be as pseudo-scientific as astrology.

Take the thimerosal hypothesis. What is its falsifiability criteria? Kirby proposed one. I guess in 2007 we'll have an answer for the question: was it scientific or pseudo-science?

10/24/06, 1:35 PM  
Blogger María Luján said...

Hi Joseph
What you are arguing is that Secretin might be of use for persons with Secretin deficiency. I can accept that. But the fact remains, in studies with autistic children, it has been found to be of no use. (There are numerous studies which have found it to be of no use even in autistic children with diarrhea and so forth). What you're arguing is outside of the autism debate.

No, it is not. If secretin is concomitant to ASD diagnosis and can be properly tested/diagnosed/healed, affecting positively life´s quality for me it is not outside the autism debate.

You say
Ah, that's what I'm talking about. Some skepticism. Have you considered that such confounds can explain other research you take for granted?

Please let me know
a-When I have talked about CAUSES for sure beyond genetics?. The other research I ussually mentioned I have considered CLUES, and I have pointed out again and again that further research to confirm and to replicate and to explore is needed
b-What research Have I done for granted or for sure?
c-When I have dismissed confounding variables? BTW; epidemiology has a lot of confounding variables that are dismissed ussually.

You say

Why not? Because something is scientific-sounding, it doesn't mean that it can't be as pseudo-scientific as astrology.

But I am not considering something that looks scientific sounding.
I have presented published research as clues to proposed problems related to concomitant medical problems to an ASD diagnosis and this is different.

Take the thimerosal hypothesis. What is its falsifiability criteria? Kirby proposed one. I guess in 2007 we'll have an answer for the question: was it scientific or pseudo-science?

For me, the analysis must be much more complete than only thimerosal. In some way I consider that time and further research- for example very much in the sense of Dr Ashwood line of research in the immune system- will tell.

10/24/06, 3:09 PM  
Blogger Ian Parker said...

Joseph wrote:

"Ian and María: You'll have to explain to me why a vaccine theory is more plausible that the TV theory. I don't see how it's relevant that the IOM hasn't issued a pronouncement about TV exposure. However, you should know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 2 should not watch any TV at all."

Come on Joseph. I’d suggest that the very clear subtext of your question is not "Why don’t you accept the possibility of a reasonable hypothesis" but is instead "If you believe one nutty idea then why would you not believe another?" My point regarding the IOM was pretty clearly that regardless of whether one believes that the hypothesis that "vaccines/thimerosal/mercury could cause autism" ultimately stands up to scientific scrutiny, the underlying hypothesis had some ‘biological plausibility’ (again, using the term in the same correct way that the IOM originally used it), especially at the time it was first proposed. If you want to be revisionist and claim that there was never any recognition of 'biological plausibility' then so be it.

In contrast, the TV hypothesis – in light of current knowledge of autism and the brain – has no ‘biological plausibility’, in that it does not offer a reasonable hypothesis to explain the major structural differences found in the autistic brain, as identified in peer-reviewed scientific research of merit (and no, I’m definitely not limiting this just to Dr Casanova’s work on minicolumns), let alone some of the findings of Mottron et al regarding autistic cognition. Propose one and I would be willing to look again.

As for the AAP’s recommendations regarding children under the age of two and TV, it sounds to me like they are concerned with TV’s impact on exploring, social interaction, learning, nutrition, and lifestyle, which sounds reasonable to me.

Joseph wrote:

"Also, are you not aware of the body of work surrounding (sic) ADHD and TV? Check PubMed."

I did. Yes, there is a lot of research on the link between ADHD and TV, but that is because there is a more credible hypothesis. What was also apparent was that a) there was a fair amount of research challenging the link, or b) suggesting that it was inconclusive, or c) unable to determine whether TV viewing was a cause or effect. Regardless, it is still a credible hypothesis, while TV causing autism is not. If you believe it is, I would be interested in knowing how you see TV as potentially causing the occurrence of the various items in the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria.

As for the ‘obvious’ reasons for bias, clearly the list reflects your bias, matching your ‘worldview’ that many of those who do not share your views must be looking for a palatable excuse rather than facing (your view of) reality. Gee, I wonder if there’s anything pejorative in "It doesn't appear like it would be curable with supplements or drugs." Of course, drugs and supplements must be the only way anyone believing in the potential for an environmental impact would try to help their kids. Given the amount of time I spend interacting with my daughter and helping her to learn (very enjoyable time, BTW), I find that statement very offensive.

To me it looks like you just want to throw mud, and are looking to discredit people who don’t share your views but are willing to engage in a serious discussion. Perhaps any mudslinging should be saved for those who wish to engage in similar tactics?

10/24/06, 7:18 PM  
Blogger Alyric said...

Biological plausibility

Ian and Maria

Where does biological plausibility and the thimerosal theory intersect exactly, bearing in mind as Maria pointed out for the 'TV as bunk theory' that the brain structure is already in place and this is all about post natal environmental factors to which a certain proportion of the population will be susceptible.

As for the TV as post natal factor - why not? I have a serious problem with TV watching and a nice chap pointed out that it might have a lot to do with the frequency of the images. TV makes me extremely anxious. I note however, that others do not have the same genetic susceptibility that I do. I cannot assume that I am alone in this genetic/environmental oddity. Why should I be. Imagine the impact on my developing brain! But we didn't get TV until I was 12 :)

Like Joseph, I can't see any difference in arguments or evidence or biological plausibility between autism as TV too early and autism as a species of mercury poisoning.

BTW, Maria. I have never seen Joseph being sarcastic. It doesn't seem to be his way at all. Right Joseph?

10/24/06, 10:16 PM  
Blogger María Luján said...

Alyric

The problem of cause/effect is very important here. If you read my proposals in other places, you will see that I have pointed out several times about stressors of the immune system/Gastrointestinal system/CNS system/endocrine system/others in autism because of the genetic susceptibility THROUGH biologically plausible mechanisms, that needs further confirmation.
You say Why not TV?
First, I understand that a different neurology/physiology can suffer different the impact of colors/sound/images of TV. In this sense , TV can be a sensorial stressor in autism.
BUT I do not think that it is related to the environmental stressors that are candidates to be considered in autism as part of the concomitant medical problems detected in many children with ASD (as effect of the interaction of gene expression with environment). Once and again thimerosal is on the table . What about Hg in air/food/water? What About HM/Al in air/food/water and their impact in a different biochemistry since birth such as it can be present in ASD? a different immune system with different brain neurotrophic factors levels such as BDNF?
You can measure clinical biomarkers related to epigenetics/proteomics/metabolomics/biochemistry that are related to the negative impact of HM/Al-viruses/bacterian infections etc in susceptible children.Specially if you detect several problems together-concomitant to the ASD diagnosis- the picture is more complete about the potential effect at and individual level.
How do you know in this case if the medical problem has/has not relation to the autistic symptomatology? you only know if you detect properly/treat properly/heal AND you find parallel changes in autistic symptomatology.

Where is the biomarker of the effect of the TV, beyond the sensorial issues, at metabolic level?
You say
Like Joseph, I can't see any difference in arguments or evidence or biological plausibility between autism as TV too early and autism as a species of mercury poisoning.
Well, we must agree in disagreement. You can´t see but I can- in terms of environmental impact in susceptible children such as I pointed above- not in terms of the thimerosal/Hg poisoning as a CAUSE of autism.

This is a world of perceptions.What it seems to you not necessarily it seems to me. Don´t you agree?

10/24/06, 11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I find fascinating is how strongly the "effect" of chelation by a non-chelator, TD DMPS has been pushed as proof that heavy metal must have been the cause of autism. This just shows how strongly the parental perceptions are involved here. We might find, eventually, that one of the Cornell bunch has an autistic kid who he thinks got more autistic with more TV watching, or maybe put his baby in a daycare center and later found out that the babies were set in front of TVs for hours and now the Cornell guy feels so guilty he's trying to protect others from the same thing... maybe it's about foisting the guilt off of the family because mom didn't need to work, but wanted to and that's why baby was in day care.

Those are the exact kinds of thoughts and emotions that went into play at the birth of the Hg hypothesis. It was a bunch of parents sitting around trying to figure out what might have caused their child's autism. This bunch all thought vaccines must be it because they had all been primied to tend toward antivaxism by the whole Wakefield thing, through Bradstreet, especially. Now we know that Bradstreet at the time he was leading these parents toward thinking of a vaccine cause was also promoting exorcism as a legitimate treatment for autism, and we also know he claimed to find measles a la Wakefield and didn't find any measles if he was using the Wakefield technique, which, he must have been using... Anyway, you can see it all laid out in the book EoHarm. Hg didn't come on the radar because some scientist noticed something, it came on the radar becaus Albert Enayati was trying to figure out what it was in vaccines that made kids autistic. He wasn't interested in anything but vaccines, and even if he was, there's the whole potential emotional sturm and drang of "The gov't forced us to vaccinate our child and now he's autistic, we must stop this madness, we will be the heros..." That theme is on almost every page of that book. Further, Enayati wrote the "autism novel form of Hg poisoning" and it's a piece of junk. But it's good enough to get published in a vanity publication and good enough to catch the attention of dumb people who believed that autism was just like mercury poisoning.

The Hg hypothesis is dying. Thank goodness. The omnibus case is likely to be a big fat flop for the ambulance chasers. Thank goodness. Can we move on to real autism research now, can we get the freaks screaming, "epidemic" to shut up so we can see how many adults on the spectrum there really are? No? Why not?

10/25/06, 1:16 AM  
Blogger Ian Parker said...

Biological plausibility does not mean that something is ‘correct’, ‘proven’, or ‘true’. It means (if I understand it correctly) that there is a reasonable biological explanation as to how something could hypothetically be explanatory given existing knowledge. It very definitely does not mean that it is correct, or that the hypothesis will ultimately be proven to be correct. The IOM stated in the case of thimerosal and vaccines that they moved away from calling the hypothesis biologically plausible as too many people misinterpreted this as validating the hypothesis as correct.

For the record, my personal view is stated in my ‘apologia’ here:

"As to etiology, I believe that there is more than one cause for autism, and that autism is probably more than one ‘disorder’. My previous posts demonstrate that I clearly believe that there is an underlying genetic vulnerability, but I also believe that there is evidence that ‘something more’ is often required. In the Bear’s case I believe that the ‘something more’ is likely immune/auto-immune related (these issues are in the family), but I am also open to the possibility that it is environmental (defined broadly)."

I also believe that there is a strong genetic basis for at least a pre-autism that I’ve written about here and here, to which could potentially explain susceptibility to environmental impacts.

I know someone on this thread who can produce a lot of peer-reviewed scientific papers that are suggestive of a causative role for mercury (no, not Joseph), but that do not currently constitute definitive proof. This body of suggestive evidence though is one of the reasons that my mind is still open to the potential for mercury as playing a causative role. In all cases of potential causality I await peer-reviewed scientific proof, but in the meantime I will treat the symptoms that I can detect (also explained in the ‘apologia’ link above).

Alyric wrote:

"As for the TV as post natal factor - why not? I have a serious problem with TV watching and a nice chap pointed out that it might have a lot to do with the frequency of the images. TV makes me extremely anxious. I note however, that others do not have the same genetic susceptibility that I do. I cannot assume that I am alone in this genetic/environmental oddity. Why should I be."

I would not dispute that TV can affect people. I can make a roomful of people dizzy and very uncomfortable by showing unsteady (‘jiggling’) minicam footage (which explains why we do not have a lot of old homemade videos). But that does not ‘cause’ anything beyond discomfort. The TV reference above sounds a lot more like a symptom, as per María Luján’s comment above, than a cause.

10/25/06, 3:46 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

María,

No, it is not. If secretin is concomitant to ASD diagnosis and can be properly tested/diagnosed/healed, affecting positively life´s quality for me it is not outside the autism debate.

OK. So what you're arguing is equivalent to saying that if an autistic child has cancer, he should definitely undergo chemotherapy. No argument there.

And yes, there are plenty of things you take for granted. For example, that chelation therapy can result in cognitive gains. Tough to find a single double-blind study that supports that view.

Also, you did not come up with falsifiability criteria for the thimerosal hypothesis.

Ian,

In contrast, the TV hypothesis – in light of current knowledge of autism and the brain – has no ‘biological plausibility’, in that it does not offer a reasonable hypothesis to explain the major structural differences found in the autistic brain, as identified in peer-reviewed scientific research of merit (and no, I’m definitely not limiting this just to Dr Casanova’s work on minicolumns), let alone some of the findings of Mottron et al regarding autistic cognition. Propose one and I would be willing to look again.

Plausibility does not have to be biological only, particularly with something that is diagnosed behaviorally. The IOM issued a statement about biological plausibility after the thimerosal hypothesis had already gained some popularity. We can't expect the same thing about a hypothesis that appeared this month. Note that the TV hypothesis is not necessarily that TV causes autism, but that it could exacerbate it. The plausibility of TV triggering ADHD is not questioned with as much passion. If we grant that TV has a significant effect on a child's attention, are we to think autistic children are immune to this effect?

As for the AAP’s recommendations regarding children under the age of two and TV, it sounds to me like they are concerned with TV’s impact on exploring, social interaction, learning, nutrition, and lifestyle, which sounds reasonable to me.

The part about social interaction and learning seems relevant to developmental delays, doesn't it?

To me it looks like you just want to throw mud, and are looking to discredit people who don’t share your views but are willing to engage in a serious discussion. Perhaps any mudslinging should be saved for those who wish to engage in similar tactics?

I'm a little surprised and disappointed you are reading this much into it. I was just trying to understand how the selectiveness of "open-mindedness" works.

10/25/06, 8:46 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

I have never seen Joseph being sarcastic. It doesn't seem to be his way at all. Right Joseph?

I can try to be. I haven't in this discussion.

10/25/06, 8:48 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

The problem of cause/effect is very important here. If you read my proposals in other places, you will see that I have pointed out several times about stressors of the immune system/Gastrointestinal system/CNS system/endocrine system/others in autism because of the genetic susceptibility THROUGH biologically plausible mechanisms, that needs further confirmation.

Again, why *biologically* plausible?

But if you want biological plausibility, you said yourself that TV could trigger seizures, and some association between seizures and autism is not in dispute.

So what the TV hypothesis needs is a lot of biological or cognitive jargon attached to it to be believable maybe? How about, TV causes emotion disregulation in children with a genetic propensity to such.

10/25/06, 8:59 AM  
Blogger María Luján said...

Hi Joseph
You say
OK. So what you're arguing is equivalent to saying that if an autistic child has cancer, he should definitely undergo chemotherapy.

What I am arguing is that , beyond the ASD diagnosis and under parental responsability with a team of doctors, concomitant medical conditions in ASD can be properly detected and treated. BUT they need proper clinical testing. And this is my point: clinical testing and design of treatment correlated to clinically detected abnormalities/defficiencies/imbalances in biochemistry.

You say
And yes, there are plenty of things you take for granted.

No, I am not. You are wrong here in your idea. You think that I take for granted plenty of things and this is different. Your concepts, not mine.

You say
For example, that chelation therapy can result in cognitive gains.
Talking about MY son in terms of MY anecdotal evidence with HIS individual studies under MY responsability and under his doctors advice you do not know enough to have an opinion about MY son and the cognitive gains he have had correlated with clinical analysis very clear in this sense-although correlation is not causation. However, the accumulation of clues shows a pattern and I am very aware and trained to detect patterns.
However, I am not saying that I can say a word in general for other autistic children/teens/adults and I have been pretty clear about the needed care when talking of individual anecdotic evidence.
I consider that the anecdotical evidence in this topic has remained unattended and unstudied.

Tough to find a single double-blind study that supports that
view.

Chelation is a therapy for HM poisoning. Again Joseph, IF a child/teen/adult is HM poisoned, properly detected/tested/diagnosed-beyond ASD- then I can include for you a long list about the health improvement/ cognitive gains under chelation therapy properly done under proper medical advice and properly controlled.

Also, you did not come up with falsifiability criteria for the thimerosal hypothesis.

Because I do think that the discussion, such as you presented it, is incomplete since the begining because thimerosal is considered a CAUSE. For me, but due to totally different reasons than you, thimerosal hypothesis per se has shown to be incomplete, to begin with.

10/25/06, 9:41 AM  
Blogger María Luján said...

Hi Joseph
About your last comment
So what the TV hypothesis needs is a lot of biological or cognitive jargon attached to it to be believable maybe? How about, TV causes emotion disregulation in children with a genetic propensity to such.

I consider that to reduce this to a question of jargon is unscientific.Science is not a question of jargon. In my personal analysis it is a question of how you correlate certain potential trigger with a biochemically known metabolic path (or under study). MEtabolism/biochemistry is enough known in many aspects (and reported also as CLUES- again my prefered word) to stablish a difference between theories like TV and other kind of theories related to environmental impact.
Again, I consider that the increase of knowledge about epigenetics/nutrition/metabolism will bring much more information on the biochemistry in different subgroups of people with ASD.
My citation of the effect of TV is related to the effect in certain CNS conditions- previous to the exposure to the TV.

Emotion dysregulation is not the same than immune dysregulation. I can present you a lot of biomarkers of immune dysregulation and its effect on the CNS. If you talk about the effect of stress on the HPA axis- and imbalance in serotonin/dopamine/noradrenalin/adrenalin this is totally a different world.

10/25/06, 9:52 AM  
Anonymous anonimouse said...

Kudos to Joseph for figuring out what I've known all along - that the allegedly "open minded" when it comes to mercury and autism really aren't so open-minded after all. They might be more polite than the Fore Sam's and Common Sense's of the world, but at its core it's still the same argument - autism is caused in part (or whole) by mercury, you can fix what happened to these kids and we want drug companies and/or the government to pay for fixing our kids.

You can put lipstick and a dress on a pig, but it's still a pig.

10/25/06, 2:42 PM  
Blogger María Luján said...

anonimouse

You are entitled to have your opinion- even as offensive as you have.

However, you are wrong with the argument because I have never presented autism as CAUSED in part or WHOLE by mercury. Even more I do not want ANYONE to pay for NOTHING (your ideas, your preconcepts, your problems). BTW, I do not want to "fix" anything, FYI.

This kind of argument only talks-a lot-about you and not about me.

If you want to discuss science, anytime, anywhere. If you want to talk in these terms, I pass.

10/25/06, 2:52 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

However, I am not saying that I can say a word in general for other autistic children/teens/adults and I have been pretty clear about the needed care when talking of individual anecdotic evidence.

To be clear María, I do not believe there is conclusive evidence that chelation therapy results in cognitive gains under any circumstances, not even when there is significant heavy metal poisoning. (Not that I don't think that's possible - I just haven't come across such studies).

In my personal analysis it is a question of how you correlate certain potential trigger with a biochemically known metabolic path (or under study). MEtabolism/biochemistry is enough known in many aspects (and reported also as CLUES- again my prefered word) to stablish a difference between theories like TV and other kind of theories related to environmental impact.
Again, I consider that the increase of knowledge about epigenetics/nutrition/metabolism will bring much more information on the biochemistry in different subgroups of people with ASD.
My citation of the effect of TV is related to the effect in certain CNS conditions- previous to the exposure to the TV.


But you see, how difficult do you think it would be to come with a mechanism similar to the above to make sense of the TV hypothesis? I wager not very. (And honestly, none of the above gives me any clues about autism causation).

Is there really good evidence of metabolic differences in autistics? Is it not confounded by creatinine, or by treatment, or by pica, for example? Is it not caused by stress/depression as opposed to autism? Is it not normal for autistics to have different metabolism? And I realize your answer is that more research is needed. Well, why shouldn't more research be needed to study the TV hypothesis in light of recent published epidemiology?

10/25/06, 3:18 PM  
Blogger Ian Parker said...

Anonimouse, since María Luján and I are the two who are arguing against Joseph, I can only assume that your comment is directed against us. I would take more time to respond, but it is pretty obvious that a) you haven't read what either of us have written either here or elsewhere (especially about 'fixing' our children) and b) that there is probably no interest in doing so. For example, if you’d read my links (oh, why bother, you’re not interested anyway).

I will say though that neither María Luján nor I are from the United States, and that the rush to litigation is pretty much a U.S. phenomenon. So is the assumption that the rest of the world thinks the same as those from the U.S. do.

And thanks for taking the time to compare us to pigs.

10/25/06, 6:22 PM  
Blogger Alyric said...

Ola Maria

"Where is the biomarker of the effect of the TV, beyond the sensorial issues, at metabolic level?"

In my case that would be raised cortisol and other stress affected hormones. We don't know all that much about endocrinology, unfortunately, which is why Papa Doc and Baby BA are getting away with blue murder.

Much appreciated Maria if I could have those citations you spoke of concerning nutrition and epigenetics. Sounds interesting and I've had an interest in nutrition for years, but haven't kept up recently.

Ian

I'm very fond of your BASIC BAP blueprint. But (sorry, had to be one:), I'm getting a little distressed by the gigantic generalisation that autism is a product of genetics+environment+epigentics. So? Isn't everything about us a product of genetics+environment+epigentics? This doesn't tell us anything. It's too inclusive or if you prefer your caveats Popperish - it ain't falsifiable.

This is a really cool topic.

10/26/06, 12:33 AM  
Blogger Common Sense Needed said...

They might be more polite than the Fore Sam's and Common Sense's of the world, but at its core it's still the same argument - autism is caused in part (or whole) by mercury, you can fix what happened to these kids and we want drug companies and/or the government to pay for fixing our kids...

You can put lipstick and a dress on a pig, but it's still a pig
.


Forgive me, Mouse, but let me just say... I have been reading this exchange quite quietly and with interest. The points are good and the people involved relatively civil. Must you pop in with your whiskers a flyin' again? Really. One of the reasons why you see me as so incredibly rude is simply because I don't have the restraint that others do to ignore you. What you see as rude is simply a response back from me when you can't control your "You're stupid" comments. That seems to be your stategy. Throw out a "you're stupid" and in your mind you have won an argument. Cool. Good luck with that.

10/26/06, 9:11 AM  
Anonymous caseofthevapours said...

Interesting. It seems that the TV hypothesis could also explain the specific strengths and skills that auties possess, whereas the Hg hypothesis only explains the "deficits". Therefore, it appears that the TV hypothesis has more biological plausibility than the Hg hypothesis.

10/26/06, 3:44 PM  
Blogger Ian Parker said...

Hi Alyric,

I quite like the BAP blueprint idea too. I don't have a lot of time at the moment, but would suggest that there is a lot that is potentially falsifiable in the concept. I'll try to follow up soon (either here or in another forum - I'm conscious that this discussion would be quite tangential to the rest of the thread), as I think it is a pretty cool topic too and would be interested in discussing it further.

10/26/06, 6:52 PM  
Blogger María Luján said...

Hi Alyric
These are (some of)the manuscripts I mentioned about nutrition and epigenetics.

Environmental and nutritional effects on the epigenetic regulation of genes

Nutritional modulation of ageing: genomic and epigenetic approaches

Nutritionnal epigenomics: consequences of unbalanced diets on epigenetics processes of programming during lifespan and between generations

Impact of diets and nutrients/drugs on early epigenetic programming

10/27/06, 7:42 PM  
Blogger Fore Sam said...

Caseofthevapours; People with Asperger's and HFA may have strengths and skills. Kids with severe autism do not have any skills. You are trying to obscure the obvious to the detriment of suffering kids. You should be ashamed of yourself.

10/28/06, 1:07 PM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Okay, I was out of town and away from the internet for the better part of this last week. When I left, I decided not to post a reply to Joseph's first comment, because, frankly, I thought he was kidding. Maria and Ian pretty much said what needed to be said, but I have to add that Joseph's comments exemplify the differences between us. One should not have to explain why a hypothesis (and I'm speaking of a broader "environmental trigger" hypothesis that includes the notion that mercury plays a role but is not limited to that) that states a biochemical stimulus can lead to biochemical consequences is more biologically plausible than a hypothesis holding that an external sensory stimulus leads to those same biochemical consequences.

This "bizarre" theory -- to use Time's adjective -- is the perfect example of why I distrust purely statistical analysis. I've seen statistical analyses used in forensic settings to prove whatever the statistician wanted. I think many people see exactly what they want.

10/28/06, 8:33 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

One should not have to explain why a hypothesis (and I'm speaking of a broader "environmental trigger" hypothesis that includes the notion that mercury plays a role but is not limited to that) that states a biochemical stimulus can lead to biochemical consequences is more biologically plausible than a hypothesis holding that an external sensory stimulus leads to those same biochemical consequences.

That's not a good argument, frankly, Wade. First of all, are you saying that external sensory stimulus does not have biochemical consequences? You've never heard of stress and cortisol, or how depression works? Second, last I checked, autism is not defined as biochemical or metabolic imbalance of any kind, nor is there good evidence that autism is this.

We're still left with the question as to how autism=mercury poisoning is more plausible than the TV hypothesis (or other hypotheses pulled out of the air which you approve of, such as autism caused by dads who are chemists).

10/31/06, 11:51 AM  
Blogger Ian Parker said...

Joseph, you stated here that "In addition to the theory not making much sense...", clearly referring to the TV theory. Therefore I think we can agree that the discussion is not about the validity or plausibility of the TV hypothesis, but instead is about the plausibility of 'post-natal environmental trigger' theories, which is what you originally referred to.

I’m the one who originally shifted the goal posts from ‘post-natal environmental trigger’ to ‘potential for vaccines/thimerosal/mercury, etc. to cause autism’, not to defend the hypothesis, but to raise the point of ‘biological plausibility’, something that the TV study does not have. Regardless of whether one believes in the potential for vaccines/thimerosal/mercury, etc. to cause autism – clearly you do not, I’ve stated my opinion above, and everyone else is free to state and/or believe as they choose - the point is that at least at one time the IOM accepted that the hypothesis had ‘biological plausibility’. On a personal level, if I have to choose between your opinions and those of the IOM, well… (I would expect you to choose the IOM over me as well, BTW)

So, unless you want to suggest how the hypothesis that you consider is ‘not making much sense’ can – as I asked above - “explain the major structural differences found in the autistic brain, as identified in peer-reviewed scientific research of merit… let alone some of the findings of Mottron et al regarding autistic cognition” then I would suggest that the 'biological plausibility' differences between the two hypotheses should be obvious. To state the point clearly, one does not have to agree that the vaccines/thimerosal/mercury, etc hypothesis is correct to accept the fact that it had a biological plausibility (as recognized by the IOM) that the TV hypothesis does not.

Further, if a hypothesis that you consider dead and ready for burial can beat the TV hypothesis on biological plausibility (again, not because the IOM has not yet ruled on the TV hypothesis, but because said hypothesis can’t explain the points above, and does ‘not mak[e] much sense’), then understanding why one could accept the potential of other post-environmental trigger’ hypotheses that are still open scientific questions (e.g. the potential for immunological triggers a la Vargas et al 2005) while rejecting the TV hypothesis should be a no-brainer.

10/31/06, 4:32 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

Obviously the TV hypothesis does not explain all the structural differences in the autistic brain by far. But I don't think any vaccine hypothesis does either. As to specific cognitive findings, the TV hypothesis might have an upper hand.

Citing 'biological plausibility' seems like a sleight of hand to me. Plausibility is what matters in the end - biological or otherwise.

And I emphasize that the TV hypothesis is not that *all* autism is caused *only* by TV. It would be sufficient for TV to affect attention span significantly, for example.

11/1/06, 9:48 AM  
Blogger Ian Parker said...

Joseph wrote:

"Citing 'biological plausibility' seems like a sleight of hand to me. Plausibility is what matters in the end - biological or otherwise."

Okay, so normally the accusation is that some on the environmental side ignore peer-reviewed science. So when I bring it up it is 'sleight of hand'? I refer back to criteria listed again in my last comment that are supported by peer-reviewed science that need to be explained.

Joseph wrote:

"And I emphasize that the TV hypothesis is not that *all* autism is caused *only* by TV."

On the environmental side – using the broader definition - I would suggest that while some are still wedded to the 'all autism=mercury' position, it is a mischaracterization to state that all environmental hypotheses are linked to mercury or that *all* autism is being suggested as resulting from *only* a single environmental cause. It might be easier to argue against the 'all autism=mercury position', but at least on this blog I’d suggest you’re arguing against a straw man.

11/1/06, 10:34 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

I realize that many (most?) mecury hypothesis proponents also do not believe all autism is only caused by mercury. My statement did not suggest otherwise. I was in fact making that clarification because many of the refutations of the TV hypothesis (which are IMO weak) seem to rely on the assumption that TV would account for autism on its own. So the argument about comparison of plausibility stands. (Note that I'm not even considering removal of thimerosal from vaccines as part of that comparison). And to be honest, I think there are a number of areas in which the TV hypothesis looks more plausible.

11/1/06, 11:47 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

I should clarify that some formulations of the thimerosal hypothesis do imply that *almost all* current autism is caused by thimerosal from vaccines. See, for example, Blaxill's graph presented to the IOM in 2001. I'm not sure if Blaxill is moving away from that stance, although it's obvious that he should.

11/1/06, 12:03 PM  
Blogger Ian Parker said...

Joseph wrote:

”And to be honest, I think there are a number of areas in which the TV hypothesis looks more plausible.”

Calling alternative X more plausible than an alternative Y that you do not see as plausible implies very little. So let’s cut to the chase. Do you believe that the TV hypothesis does not make much sense, or have you changed your mind? If you don’t believe that the hypothesis makes much sense then you are asking us to justify how we could be have enough sense to reject the same hypothesis that you have publicly rejected elsewhere (but not here). At a minimum, such behaviour is disingenuous.

Joseph wrote:

”I should clarify that some formulations of the thimerosal hypothesis do imply that *almost all* current autism is caused by thimerosal from vaccines. See, for example, Blaxill's graph presented to the IOM in 2001.”

And is Blaxill here, or are you arguing against a straw man? Or is ‘environmental triggers’ a universal argument, in that if you accept the biological plausibility of one trigger then you by definition must accept the biological plausibility of any and all conceivable triggers? Again, do I have to explain why I don’t think that Ben & Jerry’s causes autism?

11/1/06, 1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joseph said: "Obviously the TV hypothesis does not explain all the structural differences in the autistic brain by far. But I don't think any vaccine hypothesis does either."

Joseph, you can't see how a neurotoxicant that causes cell death in the brain would affect brain development? Or how damaged bowels and improper nutrient absorption into the body would have an effect?

Brain structures are the RESULT of a damaged & starved brain... and we know that vaccines (used all together) have the components capable of inflicting these insults to development. And these insults are being documented all the time.

If you're holding up the T.V. hypothesis as "just as plausible, if not more so," you're not just "neurodiverse," you stink of conflicted interest.

Who do you work for? Who signs your checks?

IMO, the T.V. hypothesis is likely intended as a distraction from the mercury hypothesis. But flooding the academic world with bad research isn't going to make this go away. WE WON'T LET IT. Besides, there is so MUCH science either supporting plausibility/causality (or showing that further investigation is warranted) where mercury is concerned... and absolutely NOTHING out there to support the T.V. hypothesis.

I know you don't believe the television hypothesis. But to suggest it is just as good shows your extreme bias.

Erik

11/2/06, 12:59 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

Erik: No, there is no real evidence linking autism and mercury, and I'm surprised people speak as if there were. The only existing thimerosal epidemiology is authored by Geier & Geier. No other researchers have conducted thimerosal epidemiology, unless you count Blaxill's graph (and I don't think that's because they haven't wanted to). The Geiers epidemiology consists of the following: (1) Looking at VAERS for data corrupted by hype, (2) Apparent plagiarism of a CDC paper, and (3) Papers that show complete lack of knowledge about concepts in epidemiology. It's *extremely* poor evidence.

Someone doesn't have to be payed by the CDC (everyone who disagrees with you must be, right?) to point out the obvious. The TV paper from Cornell might be confounded, but it is not as flawed (or worse) as those of the Geiers. If you can provide a side by side comparison, I'd like to see it.

Further, the TV paper out of Cornell provides not only a time-based correlation analysis, but also a regional analysis. Care to refer me to a *regional* epidemiological analysis of the thimerosal hypothesis? I don't believe you can. And BTW, how does the thimerosal hypothesis explain both a large increase in autism prevalence in the 1990s, and big differences in autism prevalence across counties that exist at the moment? It simply can't. Tough to argue with the facts.

11/2/06, 1:47 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

And also, no, I don't think the CDC went and hired economists from Cornell to come up with a study about TV causing autism. You'd have to give them credit for amazing imagination if they did. But no, it's just paranoid to think so, and even others on your side in this discussion might agree with that.

11/2/06, 1:48 PM  
Blogger mommyguilt said...

Oh Lord...well, if Sesame Street is the main cause of autism, then I, being as old as Sesame Street, must be on the spectrum. I remember for hours watching Sesame Street followed by Mr. Rogers followed by The Electric Company (remember Morgan Freeman as the vampire on that?)followed by Julia Child. Then as an adult, watching scads of hours of Barney over and over and over and over with my oldest child (who is not on the spectrum). By the time SmallBoy came around, Barney was non-existent in our house. Hmmm...go figure, perhaps it was the Mr. Rogers and the Julia Child programming that "straightened me out."

How preposterous!

11/2/06, 2:26 PM  
Blogger Fore Sam said...

Joseph can't believe in the TV hypotheses because it would nullify his contention that autism has existed since the dawn of creation at 1 in 166.

11/2/06, 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually Joseph, The economists have refused to say where the study money came from. Other then to say, "It wasn't Autism related"

11/2/06, 4:51 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

I think it's reasonable to suppose one of the authors is a parent. And they are academics at a university. Waldman apparently is involved in all kinds of other research. It's not hard to imagine that this was just one of his many academic projects. I'm not familiar with this about his not wanting to disclose where the money came from, but it would not be surprising that he won't admit his funding was intended for research in economics, not this.

11/2/06, 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joseph, I'll let someone else argue the epidemiology... but you are ignoring lab and clinical data showing these kids are toxic. And the thousands of children who are improving dramatically as a result of removing heavy metals.

I KNOW my daughter's gut was damaged by the MMR and that mercury from her other shots poisoned her. I saw her crash the week of her 15 month shots. As plain as witnessing a car crash and concluding that high speed and obstacles damage cars. And her labs paint a very clear picture.

Epidemiology is easily manipulated. The answers are in our kids. To deny that is to keep them sick and hinder their development.

Fortunately, we're going to win this battle as further studies are done. We have distribution (quantitative) studies showing mercury enters the brain and vital organs... and soon we'll have pathology that can correlate autistic brain structures with vaccine injuries, etc.

All the IOM reports in the world won't stand against that.

Erik

11/3/06, 8:20 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

but you are ignoring lab and clinical data showing these kids are toxic

There's no such thing. If it were true, for example, that autistic children had higher blood or urine mercury burdens, that would've been published somewhere by now. Levels in tissue is harder to do, but again, there's nothing published on that regard. One hair study says autitic kids have lower levels of mercury in the hair at a young age, but a cursory look at the data of the study shows something is seriously wrong with it. Other hair studies have found no difference, including one by Jim Adams. Old studies show higher lead burdens, but I don't think that has been replicated recently. Higher lead burdens would not be surprising in developmentally disabled children when there was a lot of lead in the environment, because of Pica. I'm aware of the study on porphirins, but there are many confounding candidates in that one.

Epidemiology is easily manipulated.

That's true. But when it is, it's not difficult to demonstrate so.

11/3/06, 10:52 AM  
Blogger Ian Parker said...

3.14, as well as being inaccurate, your comment is uncalled for and clearly over the top. I would suggest that you delete it and repost the links. You may also want to seriously consider offering Joseph an apology.

11/4/06, 9:27 AM  
Blogger María Luján said...

3.14, I agree with Ian totally.

11/4/06, 10:52 AM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

For only the thrid time since staring this blog, I have had to delete a comment. I apologize to everyone for not catching it sooner. I particulaly apologize to Joseph for not deleting it sooner. As much as Joseph and I disagree, I do not bear any animosity, and I will not allow my site to degenerate to that level. That crap goes on at far too many blogs already.

11/4/06, 3:26 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

I missed 3:14, but I guess thanks for deleting it.

11/4/06, 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joseph, mercury leaves the blood very quickly and settles in tissue... so you're not going to see a study of blood and urine levels of mercury. All we have are assays for measuring what's EXCRETED... except the porphyrin tests, which are different.

Denying that data exists doesn't mean it doesn't. (how's that for a sentence?)

My daughter didn't show a mercury problem until we did a chelation challenge. Then she showed a very high level (including lead & aluminum). For two years straight, that level remained high during chelation. As we saw the levels go down in her tests (eventually), we documented improvements in my daughter's eyeglass prescription (60% better) and her mineral levels came into reference ranges.

She's still showing mercury in her porphyrin tests... but we've suspended chelation until we could heal her gut and deal with the testosterone issue. As we've been treating her testosterone problem, we've been seeing her glutathione levels rise. And her cognitive and behavioral gains were astonishing.

But go ahead and live in your world where science has no understanding of autism... where everything is genetic and immutable and hopeless. But don't expect me to visit.

Erik

11/9/06, 7:00 AM  

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