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JLeslie's avatar

Do you have any information about anti nmda receptor encephalitis and a possible connection to autism?

Asked by JLeslie (61471points) May 3rd, 2013

I became aware of the disease a few months ago when I saw an interview with Susannah Cahalan about her extreme symptoms that mimicked an extreme psychotic break, people described it as what people think of as demonic possession portrayed in the movies. A link about her is here. It might seem unrelated, but there has been a suggested link between anti

The receptors most affected are in the frontal lobe according to what I read. What I think might be interesting is if what they used to cure the woman, who was already an adult, might have an impact on treatments for autistic kids? Just thinking out loud.

I found this and this in Pubmed referencing the same case I think of a 9 year old boy, but I only read the abstract.

What I am interested to know is if you know any further information about drug trials or research regarding treating autistic children with similar therapies? I believe Susannah Calahan was cured with aggressive steroid treatment.

It seems like it suggests autism might be an autoimmune, or maybe more accurately an immune, response that affects the brain.

I don’t really know much about the science of the brain or autism, so I thought I would ask the collective about it.

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25 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Never even heard of it until your question. It makes sense in women. If the immune system is going after similar cells in the ovaries the cells in the brain would get similar treatment. But why children and men? Interesting angle on autism. That might be a link to why vaccinations and autism were thought to be related at one point. GQ

cazzie's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe it has/had nothing to do with the vaccinations and autism link. That was pure bullshit.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@cazzie I agree that study was bullshit. But think it through. You crank up the immune system with a vaccination. In a person susceptible to this condition might that trigger it? It’s just a half formed thought in my head now. But that might be worth looking into to rule it out or see if it has merit.

cazzie's avatar

Autism is a much more complex issue. In fact, the clinical diagnosis, as it currently stands, may very well encompass one or more syndromes. They really have so little clue about it at all.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I know everyone’s brain is unique and it affects different people differently. But your last sentence makes my point. I’m just saying it might be something to look into. I have no clue either if it’s valid but why leave it uninvestigated?

cazzie's avatar

There is no link between autism and immunisations. Other than… a child with autism will be immunised against measles, mumps and rubella when they are immunised and that is a good thing.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@cazzie I’m not going to discuss this anymore with you. We’re friends. I just hit a sensitive issue with you. I apologize.

cazzie's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe there are much much more things in our environment and mother’s immune system that trigger immune responses than a shot specifically designed for certain pathogens that we get when we are 2 or 4 years old. I am not saying that immune disorders should be ruled out, but I am saying that we need to forget about the conspiracy shit.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@cazzie Gotcha. I was missing your point a bit. I agree with you. That conspiracy thing was ridiculous.

JLeslie's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I agree with you. I never believed the mercury connection to autism via vaccines, but I did think there still might be something about the vaccines. An immune response that attacks the brain in some way seems feasible. I don’t know exactly what the studies measured when they decided vaccines had no causal relationship to autism? As far as I know they were looking at the mercury link, and most vaccines don’t have mercury anymore. So, depending how and what the studies specifically measured, possibly there is still something to be looked at regarding vaccines as a possible antagonist. But, I think there are likely other antagonists out there, and genetic predispositions of course. Autoimmune conditions tend to run in families, but I have no idea if there have been genetic markers isolated for autoimmune disease or, if we simply observe it in families? Observations like that can just mean the family is generally exposed to the same environmental things.

My question was mostly focused on whether the doctors and researchers have really looked at this type of brain damage (I hate to use the word damage) for children with autism, and if it can be reversed or symptoms alleviated with similar treatments they use for the other disease.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@JLeslie The body and mind are so complex I’m amazed so many of us stay healthy. I did like your idea that the entire family was exposed to the same thing. That would give us another angle to attack this from. Nice.

Cupcake's avatar

New autism research (unrelated to encephalitis, perhaps.)

I wonder if there are any links between maternal autoimmune disorders and placental trophoblast inclusions.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Cupcake Your link doesn’t work for me.

JLeslie's avatar

It worked for me, but I had to create a username and password. Did you get that page @SpatzieLover?

SpatzieLover's avatar

I’ll try that now. Thanks!

jerv's avatar

The brain is complex, and it’s entirely possible for the same causes to yield differing symptoms, or for different things to cause the same symptoms.

As Autism has genetic elements to it, anything short of gene therapy ism for lack of a better word, a kludge. And given how different people respond differently to different treatments, not a universal fix-all one at that.

It also assumes that a cure is desired and necessary, but that is a whole other discussion. Just because we’re different, that doesn’t mean we’re all defective :p

SpatzieLover's avatar

Laundau-Kleffner Syndrome can mimic autism. It can be treated with high-dose steroids for a period of time. Here is one such case.

For any of those that don’t know, Jenny McCarthy’s son had LKS, not autism, as she told the world he “fully recovered” from. Her son never had autism, was fully misdiagnosed and in the beginning mistreated medically. Once properly diagnosed her son was able to speak after the brain inflammation was decreased.

Do I personally think autism will be treated with steroids? In some homes, people already use corticosteroids for other conditions their autistic child has.

The autistic brain is a brain that is hard wired in a way atypical from the typical brain. In general, it is not an inflamed brain unless there are co-morbid conditions present causing this to be so.

@Cupcake, yes there are studies linking familial health/inflammation with increased autism in children

Since the vaccination link was complete made up BS, hypothesis like this one did not help researchers spend time wisely.

As a side note: That 2nd link you have up there @JLeslie was connected to “Age of Autism”. In my opinion, they (all of the people that make up AoA are the devil. They believe and encourage others to believe there is something to blame other than their own genes causing Autism. They still encourage families to remain unvaccinated.

As for the boy linked to that study (from the AoA link): Late onset autism is generally found around age 2–4 (meaning the child is then noticed to be symptomatic through regression or loss of skills). By age 9, I would be much more inclined to believe this boy was misdiagnosed with autism. It sounds more like Childhood Disintegration Disorder. It’s another disorder commonly misdiagnosed and mistreated as autism.

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover Good to know about age of autism. The other link is Pubmed, used by legitimate scientists.

It was my impression the 9 year old was misdiagnosed, but that the misdiagnosis could be a clue.

It also raises the question that some you children might be misdiagnosed, and then once put in the box of autism spectrum, doctors don’t investigate any further. This was happening with children being diagnosed ADHD and they actually were/are bipolar.

Steroids don’t only work on inflammation they are immunosupressants that supress other parts of the immune system also.

Last time I saw Jenny McCarthy talking about her son she said he is autistic, which surprised me because previously I had seen her say her son was cured of autism.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JLeslie
ADHD, Autism, Bipolar, Schizophrenia and Depression are all genetically linked. It is often the case that these are co-morbids of one another, too. Many of the autistics I know (including both of mine) have ADHD. Many also have chronic depression.

Schizophrenia has long been known as a “cousin” to Asperger’s Syndrome. It wasn’t until this latest genetic research that researchers understood the hows and whys the two are connected and so closely resemble one another in the earliest stages of diagnosis. Most autism professionals that specialize in Asperger’s also specialize in Schizophrenia.

ADHD & Bipolar have always been linked (as seen above in AS & Schizophrenia). Many people with Bipolar either first present with ADHD like symptoms or have ADHD as a co-morbid to their Bipolar disorder. Again with Bipolar, depression is a common co-morbid.

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover What I remember is shortly before my father retired he was reviewing a study to be done for medications used for ADHD in children. For many years they didn’t do studies because of the ethical dilemma with including children in a study. The problem was children are often given drugs not tested in children, basically used off label. Or, at least in years past that was the case. Part of what they were finding was children who did not have a good repsonse to medications for ADHD were actually being misdiagnosed, which explained why the drugs were ineffective.

The information you just provided is very very interesting to me. I was unaware of all those reationships of so many diseases/disorders. It’s interesting for a number of reasons, including when I think about some people in my family.

jerv's avatar

@SpatzieLover I always figured I got AS from my father, but the AS/Schizophrenia link explains quite a bit; he was schizophrenic.

cazzie's avatar

The autism gene clearly runs in my husband’s family. His maternal grandfather, by all accounts, was clearly effected by the disorder. My husband fathered a child now 18, who has infantile autism. Hubby, himself, has been diagnosed with a mild form of autism, and my son, 8 years old, is being counselled and diagnosed currently. I always wondered if my husband was bi-polar because of his erratic and impulsive behaviour, but the absence of general executive function certainly fits better, because, after the erratic and impulsive, comes the effort to justify and when that doesn’t work, the simple deny and ignore tactic. Or denial and blame someone else…. He has recently claimed to a friend of his that he is leaving his child not because he wants to leave his kid, but because he fears killing me. This frightens me a tad. He has admitted to me, to attempting suicide in January and with this recent rant, it does leave me reason for pause and reflection. Is this autism? Bi-polar? Schizophrenic? Or perhaps someone on the autism scale who simply abuses alcohol and refuses to go to counselling? His mother swears that he never showed any sign of problems until he reached about the age of puberty… about 12. She said his personality changed then. After talking to a distant relative, I contemplated that perhaps his issues may have been a result of a brain injury that may have gone unnoticed, caused by a sudden, short lived, but acute lack of oxygen. Perhaps early drug use or an attempted suicide that he simply refuses to admit to. I think some of the long term effects of Anoxic Brain Injury can look like adult ADD or PDD NOS. Anyone know more about ABI and can say for sure that I am barking up the wrong tree?

JLeslie's avatar

@cazzie Has he had a brain scan done? I think maybe it would be a PET scan that might detect damage in certain areas of the brain, but it might be a different scan? Ugh, I wish I knew more. Anyway, one of the types of scans can show activity and also they are able to surmise if they think there has been some sort of damage or trauma, rather than just assuming the neural pathways or neurons are just not “normal.”

My grandfather was schizophrenic and a couple of his siblings, but none of the following generations are. Depression runs in the family also, but no signs of bipolar. I would say some family members maybe would answer yes to some of the asperger’s evauative questions, but not meet the criteria necessary for the diagnosis. My only point is, I think people are genetically predisposed, but I think environment has some influence usually. In some extreme cases, maybe when multiple genes cause the autism, maybe the environment can be totally benign and the child still is autistic.

The link above about the placenta of the mothers, it doesn’t suggest how to prevent, just that you can diagnose younger. That’s not enough for me. I guess for science it might be one step closer to an answer.

cazzie's avatar

No, he has never had a brain scan done.

It is a PET scan, I believe because they are the ones marked for glucose uptake and use. Funny, we were just discussing this with my Science Friday group about what PET scans are good for, but seeing areas of the brain when they are being used for certain tasks is one of the things PET scans are, indeed, used for, but we ended up arguing if a positron was antimatter or simply a sub-atomic particle that happened to cancel out an electron. Caught up in semantics, I guess. Gotta love gamma radiation, irregardless? or should I say… regardless… or should I just say…....? LOL… I would never normally use the word ‘irregardless’.. I was trying to be funny.

augustlan's avatar

What an interesting discussion. Lots of new-to-me information here. Thanks, jellies!

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