Good news! “Zoning out” a crucial mental state


  • Stop Paying Attention: Zoning Out Is a Crucial Mental State – “When our minds wander, we lose touch with the outside world [...] we are more likely to make mistakes, fail to encode memories, or miss a connection. [...] [Scientists] tested the effect of zoning out by having a test group read a Sherlock Holmes mystery in which a villain used a pseudonym. As people were reading the passages discussing this fact, the researchers checked their state of attentiveness. Just 30 percent of the people who were zoning out at the key moments could give the villain’s pseudonym, while 61 percent of the people who weren’t zoning out at those moments succeeded. [...] The regions of the brain that become active during mind wandering belong to two important networks: [the executive control system, and the default network.]“

Both of these networks are used for thinking about goal directed behavior and the future. The article suggests that mind-wandering may lead to those Eureka!-like moments of spontaneous insight that may not occur when attentive to the present.


Autism & Vaccinations


I figured I’d just harvest a few links and give short excerpts:

Toxic metal clue to autism
“A study of mercury levels in the baby hair of children who were later diagnosed with autism has produced startling results. The babies had far lower levels of mercury in their hair than other infants, leading to speculation that autistic children either do not absorb mercury or, more likely, cannot excrete it.”

A link between thimerosal and the brain: Can vaccines affect central nervous system function?
“In their work, the scientists found that insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and the neurotransmitter dopamine both stimulated folate-dependent methylation pathways in neuronal cells. At the same time they noted that compounds like thimerosal, ethanol and metals (like lead and mercury) effectively inhibited these same biochemical pathways at concentrations that are typically found following vaccination or other sources of exposure.”

Autoimmunity in autism
“Most reports of immunological abnormalities in autistic children have been from this subgroup of affected children, and the authors cite the increasing body of evidence for abnormal immune regulation and autoimmunity in autism. The initial observation of unexpected bowel pathology in autistic children came from the same group, and centered on pathology in the colon (Lancet 1998; 351: 637-641, American Journal of Gastroenterology 2000; 95: 2285-2295). Use of immunohistochemical techniques had suggested a novel form of colitis, in which the epithelium of the colon was particularly affected (Journal of Pediatrics 2001; 138: 366-372), and, thus, possibly suggestive of autoimmunity.”

Thimerosal, found in childhood vaccines, can increase the risk of autism-like damage in mice
“A new study indicates that postnatal exposure to thimerosal, a mercury preservative commonly used in a number of childhood vaccines, can lead to the development of autism-like damage in autoimmune disease susceptible mice. This animal model, the first to show that the administration of low-dose ethylmercury can lead to behavioral and neurological changes in the developing brain, reinforces previous studies showing that a genetic predisposition affects risk in combination with certain environmental triggers.”


Thimerosal Increases Autistic-like Behavior In Mice


A reader, CHCH, asked me to dig up some research that went against the consensus that mercury being the cause of autism was a bunch of bullshit. Sounded like a cool challenge.
Here’s one study in favor of the autism and thimerosal/mercury vaccines link:

Researchers at the Mailman School, led by Dr. Mady Hornig, created an animal model to explore the relationship between thimerosal (ethylmercury) and autism, hypothesizing that the combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental exposure to mercury in childhood vaccines may cause neurotoxicity. Cumulative mercury burden through other sources, including in utero exposures to mercury in fish or vaccines, may also lead to damage in susceptible hosts. Timing and quantity of thimerosal dosing for the mouse model were developed using the U.S. immunization schedule for children, with doses calculated for mice based on 10th percentile weight of U.S. boys at age two, four, six, and twelve months

The researchers found the subset of autoimmune disease susceptible mice with thimerosal exposure to express many important aspects of the behavioral and neuropathologic features of autism spectrum disorders, including:

  • Abnormal response to novel environments;
  • Behavioral impoverishment (limited range of behaviors and decreased exploration of environment);
  • Significant abnormalities in brain architecture, affecting areas subserving emotion and cognition;
  • Increased brain size.
    (Read more at: Eurekalert)
  • The increased brain size associated with autism being caused from thimerosal is of particular interest to me. That’s a pretty unlikely coincidence.


    Fever Reduces Symptoms in Autistic Spectrum Children


    Researchers evaluated 30 children with ASD, ages two to 18 years, during and after an episode of fever (fever was defined as 100.4 degrees F/38.0 degrees C or greater). Parents were asked to observe their child’s actions and complete a standardized behavior questionnaire at three different points: during fever; when the fever subsided and the child was asymptomatic; and when the child was fever-free for seven days. These data were compared to data collected from parents of 30 afebrile children with ASD who made up the control group. Children in the control group were matched to children in the fever group in terms of age, sex and language skills. Results revealed fewer autistic-like behaviors for children with fever compared to controls, with more than 80 percent of fever subjects showing some behavioral improvements and approximately 30 percent exhibiting dramatic improvements. [...] “Pilot research studies such as this provide clues about the underlying metabolic changes in the brain that may prove to be targets for novel autism therapies,” said Dr. Gary Goldstein, President and CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute. “These and other similar findings are shaping the future direction of autism research.” (via.)