What causes autism and ADHD? Are they born from environmental toxins, or are they genetic disorders? Or perhaps both? Scientists are scrambling to find answers by interpreting the complex gene code, performing studies, and publishing peer reviewed papers. Meanwhile, autism activists and Feingold Diet proponents are speculating that autism and ADHD are respectively caused by vaccines and artificial food coloring. I doubt it on both counts, but at least Feingolders have collected some scientific data (in the decades since the diet was first proposed) to help corroborate their claims. The vaccine crowd, on the other hand, have resorted to anecdotes, misleading propaganda, and bad biased science to support their speculations.
Well, for the first time, scientists have revealed two promising leads to understanding the genes that cause both autism and ADHD. I doubt that these findings will quiet the alarmists quacking about toxins; they’ll just say that the environment triggered the genes. I’m not sure how such a triggering would work, but inevitably something like that must be proven. I’m open to an explanation, since I plead ignorance on the topic. But, it seems to me, that if the microscopic antigens in vaccines can trigger genetic disorders, then so can anything, really. Unless your kid lives in a bubble.
On the autism front, Harvard researchers have identified inactive learning genes in the DNA of individuals with autism. These genes are different than previously identified genes for autism because they are not permanently disabled. This indicates that the new genes can be stimulated and activated; it gives hope to parents that early intervention and therapy can help their child make progress.
As far as ADHD, the genetic discovery by scientists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center can be isolated to a biological rewiring of the dopamine transporter. This protein behaves as if amphetamines are present and causes dopamine to flow backwards.* The research indicates that children with ADHD have pathways of neurons that are disturbed in similar ways to the disturbances caused by amphetamines, but of course amphetamines are a complex drug that affect the brain in ways that make it an imperfect analogy.
The discovery that dopamine is flowing backwards gives encouragement to the advice (and science) that Ritalin, a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, can help prevent symptoms of ADHD. I’m not sure how Feingolders will interpret the discovery, but I know from previous responses to my posts that an ADHD gene will be news to them.
*Update* An ADHD gene is not news to them, even though Shula Edelkind said this in the comments of my last post: “no scientist has yet discovered any such gene”, which would imply that the discovery is news to them.