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Better experiments to evaluate potential causes of autism

Posted by optimalpolicies on 18 Jul 2010 at 14:25 GMT

Brain changes caused by ultrasound waves during pregnancy are far more likely than alterations to other tissues or organs. In general, brain cells involved in cognitive activities have distinctive functions. Damage to one cell during development is probably enough to produce measurable behavior changes. Other organs have numerous cells that perform essentially the same function (e.g., kidney), so damages to one cell are less likely to produce measurable biochemical changes.
Furthermore, the effects may depend on tissue composition and factors that affect cell membrane fluidity and phase transitions, such as diet, genetics (some people may be more susceptible), environment (temperature, humidity), etc.
Experiments to measure the effect of ultrasound on brain cells seem feasible. One could evaluate the function of brain cells in tissue culture (protein formation, DNA expression, biochemical activities, etc.) before and after bombarding them with ultrasound at levels similar to those received by the baby’s brain when it is closest to the source of ultrasound (experts can design better experiments). That these studies have not been mandated by the FDA or supported by NIH speaks poorly of government.

No competing interests declared.