Posts Tagged Dr Paul

Involved Dads Boost Behavioral Outcomes at Year 1


Involved Dads Boost Behavioral Outcomes at Year 1 Children whose fathers are more engaged with them at 3 months have fewer behavioral problems at 12 months, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Oxford studied 192 families recruited from two maternity units in the UK to see whether there was a link between father-child interactions in the early postnatal period and the child’s behavior.

“We found that children whose fathers were more engaged in the interactions had better outcomes, with fewer subsequent behavioral problems,” said Dr. Paul Ramchandani, who led the study.

“At the other end of the scale, children tended to have greater behavioral problems when their fathers were more remote and lost in their own thoughts, or when their fathers interacted less with them.”

The association tended to be stronger for boys than for girls, suggesting that boys may be more susceptible to the influence of their fathers from a very early age, he said.

“We don’t yet know whether the fathers being more remote and disengaged are actually causing the behavioral problems in the children, but it does raise the possibility that these early interactions are important,” he added.

The researchers believe there are a number of possible explanations for the link. The lack of engagement by the father could reflect wider problems in family relationships, with fathers who are in a more troubled relationship with their partners finding it more challenging to engage with their infants, they said.

Alternatively, it may reflect a lack of supervision and care for the infant, resulting in an increase in behavioral problems.

Another possibility is that the infant’s behavior represents its attempts to elicit a parental reaction in response to an earlier lack of parental engagement, the researchers said.

“Focusing on the infant’s first few months is important as this is a crucial period for development and the infant is very susceptible to environmental influences, such as the quality of parental care and interaction,” Ramchandani said.

“As every parent knows, raising a child is not an easy task. Our research adds to a growing body of evidence which suggests that intervening early to help parents can make a positive impact on how their infant develops.”

The research was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Source: Wellcome Trust

Father with infant photo by shutterstock.

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Mice Study Shows Overactive Immune System Contributes to Autism


Mice Study Shows Overactive Immune System Contributes to Autism  A new study suggests that changes in an overactive immune system can contribute to autism-like behaviors in mice.

The study from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) also found that, in some cases, this activation can be related to what a developing fetus experiences in the womb.

“We have long suspected that the immune system plays a role in the development of autism spectrum disorder,” said Dr. Paul Patterson, the Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences at Caltech, who led the work.

“In our studies of a mouse model based on an environmental risk factor for autism, we find that the immune system of the mother is a key factor in the eventual abnormal behaviors in the offspring.”

The first step was establishing a mouse model that tied the autism-related behaviors to immune changes, he said.

Several large studies — including one that involved tracking the medical history of every person born in Denmark between 1980 and 2005 — found a correlation between viral infection during the first trimester of a mother’s pregnancy and a higher risk for autism in her child. As part of the new study, researchers injected pregnant mouse mothers with a viral mimic that triggered the same type of immune response a viral infection would.

“In mice, this single insult to the mother translates into autism-related behavioral abnormalities and neuropathologies in the offspring,” said Elaine Hsiao, a graduate student in Patterson’s lab and lead author of the paper.

The team found that the offspring exhibit the core behavioral symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder, including repetitive or stereotyped behaviors, decreased social interactions, and impaired communication.

In mice, this translates to such behaviors as compulsively burying marbles placed in their cage, excessively self-grooming, choosing to spend time alone or with a toy rather than interacting with a new mouse, or vocalizing ultrasonically less often or in an altered way compared to typical mice.

Next, the researchers studied the immune system of the offspring of mothers that had been infected and found that they displayed a number of immune changes.

Some of those changes parallel those seen in people with autism, including decreased levels of regulatory T cells, which play a role in suppressing the immune response, the researchers said.

Taken together, the observed alterations add up to an immune system in overdrive, which promotes inflammation.

“Remarkably, we saw these immune abnormalities in both young and adult offspring of immune-activated mothers,” Hsiao said. “This tells us that a prenatal challenge can result in long-term consequences for health and development.”

The researchers were then able to test whether the offspring’s immune problems contribute to their autism-related behaviors. In a test of this hypothesis, the researchers gave the affected mice a bone-marrow transplant from typical mice.

The normal stem cells in the transplanted bone marrow not only replenished the immune system of the mice, but altered their autism-like behavior, the researchers report.

The researchers note that because the work was conducted in mice, the results cannot be readily extrapolated to humans, and they do not suggest that bone-marrow transplants should be considered as a treatment for autism.

They also have yet to establish whether it was the infusion of stem cells or the bone-marrow transplant procedure itself — complete with irradiation — that corrected the behaviors.

However, the results do suggest that immune irregularities in children could be an important target for innovative immune manipulations in addressing the behaviors associated with autism, said Patterson. By correcting these immune problems, it might be possible to ameliorate some of the classic developmental delays seen in autism, he noted.

The results appear in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Source: California Institute of Technology

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