Meta-review presents the risks of all-cause and suicide mortality in mental disorders

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This recent and well-conducted meta-review concludes that the impact on mortality and suicide of mental disorders is substantial, and probably poorly appreciated as a public health problem. Raphael Underwood’s blog summarises the data for all-cause and suicide mortality in mental disorders.

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Children of older fathers have an increased risk of psychiatric and academic problems, says new cohort study

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Research suggests that the risk of developing psychiatric problems (such as autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability or schizophrenia) may be linked to increased paternal age at the time of conception. This seems quite plausible given that advancing age in men is associated with increased genetic mutations in sperm. However, studies so far have generally not [read the full story...]

A statistically significant, but small, increased relative risk of learning disabilities in children born via IVF

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In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is used to help people who experience difficulties in conceiving (see NICE’s guideline for information eligibility). It involves fertilising an egg with sperm in the laboratory, before reimplanting the fertilised egg into the woman’s womb to develop as normal. In cases of male infertility, the sperm can be injected directly in to [read the full story...]

Can MRI scanning help diagnose autism in infants?

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After recent posts delving off into dark woodlands of some methodologically challenging brain imaging studies, we are coming back to a more simple idea: repeatedly scanning the same people from before they develop a disorder through to receiving a diagnosis.  What is different about this study is that it was done with infants aged 6-36 [read the full story...]

Cutting across diagnostic categories: Does stimulant medication improve ADHD symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorder?

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Until fairly recently, it was thought that autism spectrum disorder (ASD; previously known as PDD or pervasive developmental disorder) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were two entirely separate childhood-onset conditions and that they could not both be diagnosed in one individual. Numerous studies in the last decade have shown that, in reality, a number of [read the full story...]

Maternal antidepressant use in pregnancy may be associated with a small increased risk of autism

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The prevalence of autistic spectrum disorders has risen dramatically in the last thirty years, with recent estimates suggesting that 1 in 88 children in the United States have an autistic spectrum disorder. This increasing prevalence could simply be due to changes in the diagnosis of such disorders and so be of little interest. However, there [read the full story...]

Foetal exposure to sodium valproate is linked with autism risk

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The risks of congenital malformations and impact of cognitive development after foetal exposure to anti-epileptic drugs has been known for some time. Sodium valproate is a frequently used drug for epilepsy and other disorders (including bipolar disorder and migraine). The researchers aimed to examine the link between foetal exposure and subsequent development of autism. Methods [read the full story...]

Can functional brain imaging of social judgments shed light on the gender imbalance in autism spectrum disorder?

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It is well-documented that there are gender differences in mental health (see for example this Men’s Health Forum publication (PDF) about key mental health issues affecting men). In early development, boys are at a significantly higher risk than girls for meeting diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as other developmental problems (e.g. developmental [read the full story...]

Do folic acid supplements in pregnancy prevent autism in children? A new cohort study suggests there is a link but more evidence is needed

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For many mums-to-be it is advised that taking regular folic acid supplements during pregnancy, and whilst trying to conceive, has significant health benefits for their unborn baby, namely around reducing the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida (NHS, 2013). However, do these supplements also affect the risk of the unborn baby developing [read the full story...]

Cochrane review finds weak evidence for early intensive behavioural intervention for autism spectrum disorders

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Early intensive behavioural intervention (EIBI) involves 20-40 hours of individualised instruction each week for children with autism. The therapy usually begins at age 4 or younger and continues for 2-3 years.  The technique was pioneered by Dr. Ivar Lovaas and colleagues in the 1970s. A new systematic review from the Cochrane Developmental, Psychosocial and Learning Problems [read the full story...]