Research by Topic: Risk Factors

Podcast: Sobering statistics on suicide

Published June 4, 2018

Suicidal thoughts and suicidal attempts have been shown to be increased in people with ASD. Rates are similar to those with bipolar depression and schizophrenia, but are higher even without psychosis. This is shocking and an urgent health issue in the autism community. This week’s podcast summarizes recent data, publications, presentations, and concerns of thought […]

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Increased Risk of Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Siblings

Published May 5, 2016

In a new study published JAMA Pediatrics yesterday examined psychiatric records of siblings of people with autism living in Finland.  They found the rates of ASD, ADHD, ID, childhood emotional disorders, learning and coordination disorders, conduct and oppositional disorders, and tic disorders, were more frequent among siblings of siblings with ASD.  Also, there was an increase in schizophrenia […]

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Advancing Maternal Age is Associated with an Increasing Risk for Autism: A Review and Meta-Analysis

Published May 8, 2015 in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

The results of this meta-analysis support an association between advancing maternal age and risk of autism. The association persisted after the effects of paternal age and other potential confounders had been considered, supporting an independent relation between higher maternal age and autism.

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ASF Podcast: New Research on the Source and Mechanism of Gene/Environment Interactions

Published April 20, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

Two separate studies published last week independently add to the body of evidence showing that genes and environment, together, are important to study risk factors in autism. The first is a study looking at the risk of autism in mothers who had diabetes and the other is an analysis of epigenetic markers from dads of kids with autism. While they tackle two different angles, they have a common thread: factors or mechanisms of the combined effects of genes/environment in ASD.

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Is Maternal Influenza or Fever During Pregnancy Associated with Autism or Developmental Delays?

Published January 8, 2015 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Though neither ASD nor DD was associated with influenza, both were associated with maternal fever during pregnancy. However, the fever-associated ASD risk was attenuated among mothers who reported taking antipyretic medications but remained elevated for those who did not.

Is maternal influenza or fever during pregnancy associated with autism or developmental delays?

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Age Alters Patterns of Chemical Tags on Sperm DNA

Published August 18, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

The configuration of methyl tags that modify DNA in sperm change as men get older, according to a study published PLOS Genetics. These alterations may help explain why children of older fathers are at increased risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism. Researchers at the University of Utah collected sperm from 17 men, once in the 1990s and again in 2008. They found that the distribution of methyl tags, a particular kind of DNA modification, shows relatively consistent changes over time in the sperm. However, the study does not necessarily prove that these altered patterns survive past fertilization or influence the risk of disorders such as autism.

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Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Prenatal Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticides

Published June 23, 2014 in University of California-Davis

A study out of the University of California Davis found that women who live near farmland where pesticides are applied are 60 percent more likely to give birth to a child with autism or other developmental delays. In the study, the association was stronger for women exposed during their second or third trimester. The study looked at three categories of pesticides: organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates; all three were found to have associations with ASD or other developmental delays.

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Neurobehavioural Effects of Developmental Toxicity

Published February 14, 2014 in The Lancet

Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency. A new study in The Lancet states that industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence. Building on a 2006 study in which researchers identified five industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants (lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene), epidemiological studies have documented six additional developmental neurotoxicants manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers. To protect children from exposure to such harmful chemicals, researchers say that untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development.

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Epilepsy Drug Alters Rodent Gut

Published February 14, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

In utero exposure to the epilepsy drug valproic acid (VPA), which ups the risk of autism, may alter the composition of gut bacteria in rodents, according a study published in Brain Behavior and Immunity. Rats and mice exposed to VPA in utero have social deficits, repetitive behaviors and anxiety, making them a good model for studying autism. It is unclear exactly how VPA exposure leads to these symptoms, however.

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Study Links Autism and Somalis in Minneapolis

Published December 16, 2013 in New York Times

A long-awaited study has confirmed the fears of Somali residents in Minneapolis that their children suffer from higher rates of a disabling form of autism compared with other children there. The study by the University of Minnesota, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the research and advocacy group Autism Speaks found high rates of autism in two populations: About one Somali child in 32 and one white child in 36 in Minneapolis were on the autism spectrum. But the Somali children were less likely than the whites to be high-functioning and more likely to have I.Q.s below 70. (The average I.Q. score is 100.) The study offered no explanation of the statistics.

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Babies Born to Women with Diabetes may be at Higher Risk for Autism

Published October 15, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Babies born to women with gestational diabetes tend to be large and go through spells of low blood sugar within their first few days of life. They may also be at an increased risk for autism, reports a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. The study also found that the risk extends to children born to women who had diabetes prior to pregnancy.

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Multinational Resource Combines Autism Risk Factors

Published August 5, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

A new database compiles health data from seven countries, greatly expanding sample size for epidemiological autism studies. This project, the International Collaboration for Autism Registry Epidemiology (iCARE), combines data from 80,000 individuals diagnosed with autism from the years 1967 to 2009.

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Problematic Antibodies Affecting Brain Development During Pregnancy Could Help Explain 1/4 of Cases of Autism

Published July 9, 2013 in Translational Psychiatry

Antibodies found almost exclusively in mothers with children who have autism have a certain anitbody that may be affecting brain development during pregnancy. The same study says that these antibodies could account for nearly 1/4 of all cases of autism.

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Abnormal Placenta Folds Could Be Indicator of Autism

Published April 22, 2013 in Biological Psychiatry

This study suggests that the placentas from women whose fetuses are at elevated risk for autism are markedly different from control placentas. Specifically, the identification of an increase in folds in the placenta could be used to identify children at risk of being autistic.

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Association of Maternal Exposure to Childhood Abuse With Elevated Risk for Autism in Offspring

Published March 20, 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry

This study examined the relationship between maternal childhood abuse and autism in children in a large population-based sample. Maternal abuse was significantly associated with increased autism risk even after researchers controlled for perinatal risk factors, including gestational diabetes, smoking during pregnancy, preeclampsia, exposure to intimate partner violence and premature birth.

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Association between maternal use of folic acid supplements and risk of autism spectrum disorders in children

Published February 13, 2013 in Journal of the American Medical Association

The goal of this study was to determine the relationship between the use of prenatal folic acid supplements and presence of autism spectrum disorders in offspring. The study concluded that the use of prenatal folic acid supplements around the time fo conception was associated with a lower risk of autism spectrum disorders. These findings support […]

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An Incidence Study of Diagnosed Autism-Spectrum Disorders Among Immigrants to the Netherlands

Published December 9, 2012 in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia

This study looks at the incidence of autism-spectrum disorder (ASD) in children born to Scandinavian immigrants as well as the incidence of ASD in children born to native Dutch parents.

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Rate of De Novo Mutations and the Importance of Fathers Age to Disease Risk

Published August 23, 2012 in Nature

The diversity in mutation rate of SNP’s is dominated by the age of the father at conception of the child. The effect is an increase of about two mutations per year.

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PCBs Identified as Possible Environmental Risk Factor Contributing to Autism

Published July 12, 2012 in Environmental Health Perspectives

Study identifies Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB), which are widely used as dielectric and coolant fluids, as a candidate environmental risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism.

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Sporadic Autism Exomes Reveal a Highly Interconnected Protein Network of De Novo Mutations

Published April 4, 2012 in Nature

Researchers demonstrate that de-novo point mutations are overwhelmingly paternal in origin (4:1 bias) and positively correlated with paternal age, consistent with the modest increased risk for children of older fathers to develop ASD.

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