Friday, January 18, 2008

Autism: Fever may unlock the brain

from autism today newsletter

Fever 'can unlock grip of autism'

Fever 'can unlock grip of autism'Fever can temporarily unlock autism's grip on children, a finding that could shed light on the roots of the condition and perhaps provide clues for treatment, researchers said.

It appears that fever restores nerve cell communications in regions of the autistic brain, restoring a child's ability to interact and socialize during the fever, the study found.

"The results of this study are important because they show us that the autistic brain is capable of altering current connections and forming new ones in response to different experiences or conditions," study author Dr Andrew Zimmerman said.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, was based on 30 children with autism aged two to 18 who were observed during and after a fever of at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 C).

More than 80 per cent of those with fever showed some improvements in behavior during it and 30 per cent had dramatic improvements, the researchers said.

The change involved things like longer concentration spans, more talking, improved eye contact and better overall relations with adults and other children.

Zimmerman, a pediatric neurologist at Baltimore's Kennedy Krieger Institute, and his team said the fever effect had been noted anecdotally in the past by parents and doctors.

Lee Grossman, president and chief executive officer of the Autism Society of America, said he had noticed it in his own son, who is now 20.

But he noted in an interview that the study's authors said expanded research was needed on the fever effect and its implications. "It's good that they've noticed this and are bringing it forward," he said.

People with autism spectrum disorders suffer in varying degrees from limited social interactions, lack of verbal and non-verbal communication and other abilities.

As many as 1.5 million Americans have some form of autism, according to ASA. It is not known what causes the condition.

Zimmerman said that while there currently is no definitive medical treatment, speech and language therapy started as soon as possible after diagnosis "can make a significant difference."

He called the fever research, headed by colleague Laura Curran, "an exciting lead" that could help point the way to a treatment that would reconnect the autistic brain. He said the fever effect was believed found only in children, whose brains are more "plastic" than those of adults.



That is very interesting. I am glad they are moving forwad, but it's a shame that autism is such a mystery when it hits children.

Irishcoda said...

I saw this article too and thought it was fascinating. The only difference I see when our little guy has a temperature is that he sleeps. I also read the article about how parents of children diagnosed with an ASD may have those traits too and never were given a seems possible with the little guy's mother and late biological grandmother

klasieprof said...

Yes Irish, I'm certain that 'dad' has Asperger's alos. It makes SOO much sense, the flat affect, the lack of being able to expressively give much,
the fixated fascination with x, y or z (Stereo's, Motorcycles or PARTS of bikes etc). .. so many things.
Son (14 now) used to know EVERY aspect of anything...trap door spiders, Monster Trucks=the driver's name, hometown, number on the truck, parts, etc.
gets wacky sometimes.

Suzanne said...

I've noticed this when my son is sick. He tends to perseverate a lot less, too. Irishcoda, my guy sleeps more, too.

Anonymous said...

I have seen this myself! It is true! Years ago, when my son was about 5, he had a bad case of chicken pox. He had a low grade fever for over a week. His thoughts were noticably more lucid and concise, and his normally unclear speech became very clear. I was dumbfounded and reported my observations to his pediatrician and neurologist who didn't say much. At that time, I also met Temple Grandin who was speaking in my area. I had the wonderful opportunity to drive her to the event and have dinner with her as well. When I told her about son, who was still sick with chicken pox at the time, she listened with great interest and commented that this had been reported by other parents as well.

Alex's Mom