Autism Brain Differences Begin In Utero: Study

Arrested Development

Autism Brain Differences Begin In Utero: Study

autism in utero

Just as autism rates jump to 1 in 68, a new study has found patterns in the way the brains of children with autism change during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

According to an article on NBC News, researchers at the University of CaliforniaSan Diego’s Autism Center of Excellencehave likened the occurrence to an "arrested development" in the brain.

"Not only are there too many cells, but they are not developed properly," said lead researcher, Eric Courchesne. "Brain cells are there but they haven’t changed into the kind of cell they are supposed to be. It's a failure of early formation."

Genetics play a role, yet clearly something—or some things—are bringing about these changes during pregnancy, claim researchers in a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"It has to be something that involves mom, something that she is exposed to or that is happening to her," said Courchesne, who studied the brain samples of 11 children with and without autism, who died suddenly between the ages of 2 to 15.

Not surprisingly, similar patches of abnormal tissue—in the regions responsible for "social development, communication and language"—were detected deep in the brains of the autistic children, suggesting the changes happened early in development.

This goes some way to explain why kids on the spectrum tend to have larger than average brains. 

The study also highlights the importance of tissue and organ donation. 

More autism-related studies.


Mom Halts School Trip To Marineland

there's nothing educational about using animals for our entertainment

Mom Halts School Trip To Marineland


Jennifer Jamieson has cause to celebrate—the mom single-handedly put a stop to a school field trip to Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont.

According to an article in Yahoo, the Stoney Creek mom is hoping the public school board will ban all school visits to the tourist attraction.

“This is not some hippie bandwagon stunt," said Jamieson. "I am a mother [who is] truly concerned for and dedicated towards the welfare of animals."

Indeed, Jamieson's family has protested against Marineland, African Lion Safari, and the circus at Copps Coliseum in the past. So, when she heard about her nine-year-old son's forthcoming class trip to Marineland, she immediately got in touch with his teacher.

Fortunately, the teacher took her concerns to heart, and the kids at Mountain View are now headed to the Royal Botanical Gardens.

"I want my children to live a compassionate lifestyle and for society to stop viewing captivity as just another social norm," said Jamieson. "There's nothing educational about using animals for our entertainment.”

Last year, the board failed to approve school trips to Marineland due to "concerns." 

The park has long been dogged by allegations of abuse, though inspection of the park by associations, like the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, haven't revealed any "major issues."

Officials maintain that students will be missing out on “an unforgettable educational experience.”
Spill it. Should kids get a chance to experience animal parks as part of their "education"?
Marineland isn't the only park facing animal abuse allegations.

Gwyneth And Chris And The 'Conscious' Uncoupling

Were you saddened or surprised to hear about their split?

Gwyneth And Chris And The 'Conscious' Uncoupling


You may have felt the earth crumble a little as news broke that one of the biggest celebrity marriages has dissolved. Gwyneth Paltrow confirmed on her company website, Goop, that she and Coldplay singer Chris Martin decided to "consciously uncouple." But because Paltrow is largely regarded as an annoying media figure, critics haven't exactly extended their sympathy. Instead, she has been ridiculed and derided for her turn of phrase.

I'm no fan, yet can we all just agree right now that divorce is sad—no matter what you call it? And according to an article in Babble, it seems all wasn't well in paradise for some time. Like most celebrity couples, Gwynis spent a lot of time apart. Sprinkle in some infidelity rumours then fast-forward to this sad, white-flag wagging public statement:

It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate. We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us, and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate. We are, however, and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer than we have ever been. We are parents first and foremost, to two incredibly wonderful children and we ask for their and our space and privacy to be respected at this difficult time. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and coparent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.

Gwyneth & Chris

Individually, Gwynie and Chris may have been irritating, but together, at least to my mind, they represented something cool... After all, when a powerhouse couple manages to survive for 11 years, it fills the rest of us mortals with hope. (See, a marriage can last—even in the pressure cooker that is Hollywood via London!) 

Were you at all saddened or surprised to hear about their split?