Monday, October 05, 2009

Autism Rate Now 1 in 100 but Nothing is Clear for Dr. Tom Insel

"It is not clear more children are affected rather than just changes in our ability to detect,"

Dr. Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, LA Times, October 5, 2009

What is not clear is whether Dr. Tom Insel has informed the media that funding of the autism research that might "clear up" some of his confusion has been denied for the most part over the last 10 years and that he has played a significant part in ensuring that some of the possible factors or causes, such as vaccines, are not properly researched.

The man who is "not clear" over the reality of autism increases has played a key role in ensuring that any possible vaccine autism causal connection is not properly studied and has done nothing to reverse the grossly disproportionate funding of genetic autism research over environmental autism research. Environmental autism research might disclose causal factors or triggers of autism and might indicate, even to Dr. Tom Insel, that the increase is real and why it is happening.

What is not clear is why Dr. Tom Insel is director of the US National Institute of Mental Health and Chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. Not clear at all.

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One Sick Mother said...

"What is not clear is why Dr. Tom Insel is director of the US National Institute of Mental Health and Chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. Not clear at all."

Excellent point.


Astrid said...

Harold, the way I understand it, this was the first official estimate since 2002. We have already debated the increased awareness/screening possibility so I'm not going to argue tha tpoitn with you again. However, if you say that vaccines should be considered as at least part of the reasonf or the autism "epidemic", do you know anything that's changed about vaccines since 2002 that could account for the increase in autism? Was mercury, or whatever harmful ingredient in vaccines is now thought to be involved in autism, increased since then?

Unknown said...

Actually Astrid there are more vaccines now and there are other ingredients, adjuvants which are also questionable.

What I say is that more research needs to be done on all potential environmental causes or triggers of autism disorders including vaccines. On vaccines I do not believe the research to date decides one way or the other whether vaccines or specific vaccine ingredients are involved although I am increasingly suspicious of vaccines and their impact on vulnerable population subsets. (As per Dr. Bernadine Healy)

With respect to real increases yes I think it is likely that the results reflect at least in part a real increase in autism. On that point see the view of Simon Baron-Cohen who has 3 times stated that autism is caused by the interaction of genetic and environmental causes citing the fact that in cases where on identical twin is autistic the other genetically identical twin is no always autistic.

Even the IACC begrudgingly acknowledges an emerging consensus that autism arises from the interaction of genetic and environmental factors.

The problem in identifying specific environmental causes with certainty or near certainty is the lack of funding for environmentally based autism research compared to genetic autism research.

When environmental autism research is funded on a level with genetic funding we will have more certainty about some of the environmental factors.

Astrid said...

Harold, I never said that autism cannot possibly be caused by environmental factors. I have read Baron-Cohen's view on the issue and it indicates that, since the concordance between monozygotic twins regarding autism is about 60%. I agree with you that this indicates that autism is 60% genetic at most - and it may be less, since monozygotic twins also share an environemnt more common than non-twins, eg. prenatal infections, etc. are more likely to catch both than non-twin siblings, of course. This, however, doesn't say a thing about vaccines. And if there even were a correlation between vaccines and autism, that still woudln't indicate a causative link. Again, I am not principly agains tthe vaccine theory (I don't care whether autism is genetic or environemtnally-caused), but it does make me suspicious that, each time one part of the vaccine theory is defeated (thimerosal, etc.), its proponents come up with another, usually very ill-defined, possible link, that has no solid, medical logic behind it. If vaccine theorists really came up with a scientifically sound reasoning behind their theories, I'd have no problem agreeing with you that it warrants research, but just saying that the two happen at the same time, is not enough (computer use also increased together with autism prevalence estimates, so should the link between computers and autism also be researched?). There is only so much research budget, and I'd like to have that spent on issues with scientific merit.