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(10,173 posts)
Tue Sep 19, 2017, 10:01 PM Sep 2017

Studies help explain link between autism, severe infection during pregnancy

Last edited Wed Sep 20, 2017, 03:16 AM - Edit history (1)


A Korean couple who are both working as professors at prestigious U.S. universities proved the main cause of autism.

The couple found that certain bacteria in the mother’s digestive tract can lead to having an autistic child. Furthermore, they found the exact brain location linked to autistic behaviors, which can be used to find a cure for autism.

Science journal ‘Nature’ published the couple’s two research studies on the 14th. The couple are Harvard Medical School’s professor Huh Jun-ryeol, and MIT’s professor Gloria Choi.

The studies vividly explain the detailed process of a pregnant mouse, which is infected by a virus, having offspring that shows autistic behaviors.

The researchers found out that certain bacteria in the mother’s digestive tract can develop immune cells that directly influence the baby’s brain cells development. When the researchers removed the bacteria with antibiotics, the mouse had a normal baby mouse.

From MIT:

The researchers found that the patches are most common in a part of the brain known as S1DZ. Part of the somatosensory cortex, this region is believed to be responsible for proprioception, or sensing where the body is in space. In these patches, populations of cells called interneurons, which express a protein called parvalbumin, are reduced. Interneurons are responsible for controlling the balance of excitation and inhibition in the brain, and the researchers found that the changes they found in the cortical patches were associated with overexcitement in S1DZ.

When the researchers restored normal levels of brain activity in this area, they were able to reverse the behavioral abnormalities. They were also able to induce the behaviors in otherwise normal mice by overstimulating neurons in S1DZ.

The researchers also discovered that S1DZ sends messages to two other brain regions: the temporal association area of the cortex and the striatum. When the researchers inhibited the neurons connected to the temporal association area, they were able to reverse the sociability deficits. When they inhibited the neurons connected to the striatum, they were able to halt the repetitive behaviors..

EDIT: Changed original OP title to headline from MIT.
14 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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(10,173 posts)
5. I share some of your skepticism but it provides avenue for further studies.
Tue Sep 19, 2017, 10:18 PM
Sep 2017

This is most telling from the MIT link:

A 2010 study that included all children born in Denmark between 1980 and 2005 found that severe viral infections during the first trimester of pregnancy translated to a threefold risk for autism, and serious bacterial infections during the second trimester were linked with a 1.42-fold increase in risk. These infections included influenza, viral gastroenteritis, and severe urinary tract infections.

Similar effects have been described in mouse models of maternal inflammation, and in a 2016 Science paper, Choi and Huh found that a type of immune cells known as Th17 cells, and their effector molecule, called IL-17, are responsible for this effect in mice. IL-17 then interacts with receptors found on brain cells in the developing fetus, leading to irregularities that the researchers call “patches” in certain parts of the cortex.

Loki Liesmith

(4,602 posts)
8. Oh definitely
Tue Sep 19, 2017, 11:45 PM
Sep 2017

My grad work was in neuroscience and in the late 90s everybody had a mouse model of any behavioral syndrome you'd imagine. Most came to nothing...

But obviously we need to investigate it more.


(10,173 posts)
9. haha I hear you..
Tue Sep 19, 2017, 11:49 PM
Sep 2017

I really really hope more studies bear fruit on this, and give way to some kind of cure ( which might probably be preventative) but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Bernardo de La Paz

(49,144 posts)
10. The MIT excerpt correlates very well with autism symptoms. Thanks for posting! Bookmarking.
Wed Sep 20, 2017, 12:11 AM
Sep 2017

Proprioception: Autistic people are often very sensitive to touch. On the other hand, some are calmed by pressure. See the work of Temple Grandin and the hug machine.

Sociability deficits

Repetitive behaviors: Such as rocking back and forth.

All very interesting. Thank you for posting!


(3,014 posts)
11. I have a real problem
Wed Sep 20, 2017, 12:20 AM
Sep 2017

With saying they "proved" the cause of autism. Interesting findings and I would be interested in seeing the results of similar research, but science doesn't "prove" anything. The data we scientists generate lend evidence for or against an hypothesis or hypotheses.

I know I am being picky here, but it is one of my pet peeves and distracts from the rest of the article (for me).


(10,173 posts)
12. Nah you're not being picky. I get that, the headline in the first link veers towards sensationalist
Wed Sep 20, 2017, 12:24 AM
Sep 2017

The research is really compelling though.


(33,030 posts)
13. The MIT journal headline is better phrasing I think
Wed Sep 20, 2017, 01:07 AM
Sep 2017

The MIT source uses this headline:
"Studies help explain link between autism, severe infection during pregnancy."

And it's basically the same story, but they aren't suggesting that it has been proven yet.
Still this is ground-breaking work and I'm happy to see it posted here.

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