January 24, 2022

Nationwide twin cohorts in the Netherlands and Sweden suggest antibiotic use in infants is not a risk factor for ADHD

Proper development of the gut biota is important for the health of the brain and nervous system. It has been hypothesized that disturbances of gut bacteria by antibiotics could contribute to the development of neurodevelopmental disorders, including ADHD.

In the case of ADHD, studies to date have produced conflicting results. To tease out any familial confounding reflecting shared environment and genetics, a joint Dutch-Swedish team of researchers further tested the hypothesis through 7- to 12-year-old twins in the Netherlands Twin Register (25,781 twins) and 9-year-old twins in the Swedish Twin Registry (7,946 twins).

ADHD symptoms in the Netherlands cohort were derived from mothers' answers to the short Conners' Parental Rating Scale-Revised. For the Swedish cohort, ADHD was determined through the International Classification of Diseases codes for ADHD in the cross-linked National Patient Register.

Exposure to antibiotics during the first two years of childhood was determined by parent reports for the Netherlands twin cohort, and by prescription claims for antibiotics in the Swedish twin cohort.

Covariates were explored in both twin cohorts including educational attainment of parents, gender of the infant, birth weight, delivery mode, and asthma. Breastfeeding was also explored in the Dutch cohort.

In the unmatched analysis, comparing children with ADHD with non-related children without ADHD, early-life antibiotic use was associated with a significant 8% greater odds of ADHD in the Netherlands cohort and a significant 14% greater odds of ADHD in the Swedish cohort.

However, when limiting the analysis to matched monozygotic twins, the association disappeared altogether in both the Dutch and Swedish cohorts. Pooling both cohorts resulted in the same outcome. In all three cases, the odds flipped into a mildly negative association, but with no statistical significance.

Using higher cutoff values for ADHD symptoms made no difference.

The authors concluded, "In this large co-twin study performed in two countries, early-life antibiotic use was associated with increased risk of ADHD and ASD, but the results suggest that the association disappeared when controlled for shared familial environment and genetics, indicating that this association may be susceptible to confounding. Our results indicate that there is no association between ADHD and ASD diagnoses and early antibiotic use when environmental and genetic family factors are taken into account."

Elise M A Slob, Bronwyn K Brew, Susanne J H Vijverberg,Talitha Dijs, Catharina E M van Beijsterveldt, Gerard H Koppelman, MeikeBartels, Conor V Dolan, Henrik Larsson, Sebastian Lundstrom, Paul Lichtenstein,Tong Gong, Anke H Maitland-van der Zee, Aletta D Kraneveld, Catarina Almqvist,Dorret I Boomsma, "Early-life antibiotic use and risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder: results of a discordant twin study," International Journal of Epidemiology(2020),https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyaa168.

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Understanding Attention to Social Images in Children with ADHD and Autism

NEWS TUESDAY: Understanding Attention to Social Images in Children with ADHD and Autism

In the field of mental health, professionals often use a variety of tools to diagnose and understand neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One such tool is the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), which is specifically designed to help diagnose autism. However, the ADOS wasn't originally intended for children who have both autism and ADHD, though this comorbidity is not uncommon.

A recent study aimed to explore how children with ADHD, autism, or both, pay attention to social images, such as faces. The study focused on using eye-tracking technology to measure where children direct their gaze when viewing pictures, and how long they look at certain parts of the image. This is important because differences in visual attention can provide insights into the nature of these disorders.

The researchers included 84 children in their study, categorized into four groups: those with ASD, those with ADHD, those with both ASD and ADHD, and neurotypical (NT) children without these conditions. During the study, children were shown social scenes from the ADOS, and their eye movements were recorded. The ADOS assessment was administered afterward. To ensure that the results were not influenced by medications, children who were on stimulant medications for ADHD were asked to pause their medication temporarily.

The results of the study showed that children with ASD, whether they also had ADHD or not, tended to spend less time looking at faces compared to children with just ADHD or NT children. The severity of autism symptoms, measured by the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ), was associated with reduced attention to faces. Interestingly, ADHD symptom severity, measured by Conners' Rating Scales (CRS-3), did not correlate with how children looked at faces.

These findings suggest that measuring visual attention might be a valuable addition to the assessment process for ASD, especially in cases where ADHD is also present. The study indicates that if a child with ADHD shows reduced attention to faces, it might point to additional challenges related to autism. The researchers noted that more studies with larger groups of children are needed to confirm these findings, but the results are promising. They hope that such measures could eventually enhance diagnostic processes and help in managing the complexities of cases involving comorbidity of ADHD and ASD.

This research opens up the possibility of using eye-tracking as a supplementary diagnostic tool in the assessment of autism, providing a more nuanced understanding of how attentional differences in social settings are linked to ASD and ADHD.

May 14, 2024

NEW STUDY: RASopathies Influences on Neuroanatomical Variation in Children

NEW STUDY: RASopathies Influences on Neuroanatomical Variation in Children

This study investigates how certain genetic disorders, called RASopathies, affect the structure of the brain in children. RASopathies are conditions caused by mutations in a specific signaling pathway in the body. Two common RASopathies are Noonan syndrome (NS) and neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), both of which are linked to a higher risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The researchers analyzed brain scans of children with RASopathies (91 participants) and compared them to typically developing children (74 participants). They focused on three aspects of brain structure: surface area (SA), cortical thickness (CT), and subcortical volumes.

The results showed that children with RASopathies had both similarities and differences in their brain structure compared to typically developing children. They had increased SA in certain areas of the brain, like the precentral gyrus, but decreased SA in other regions, such as the occipital regions. Additionally, they had thinner CT in the precentral gyrus. However, the effects on subcortical volumes varied between the two RASopathies: children with NS had decreased volumes in certain structures like the striatum and thalamus, while children with NF1 had increased volumes in areas like the hippocampus, amygdala, and thalamus.

Overall, this study highlights how RASopathies can impact the development of the brain in children. The shared effects on SA and CT suggest a common influence of RASopathies on brain development, which could be important for developing targeted treatments in the future.

In summary, understanding how these genetic disorders affect the brain's structure can help researchers and healthcare professionals develop better treatments for affected children.

April 30, 2024

News Tuesday: Integrating Cognition and Eye Movement

Integrating Cognitive Factors and Eye Movement Data in Reading Predictive Models for Children with Dyslexia and ADHD-I

In a recent study, researchers delved into the complex interplay of cognitive processes and eye movements in children with dyslexia and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Their findings shed light on predictive models for reading outcomes in these children compared to typical readers.

The study involved 59 children: 19 typical readers, 21 with ADHD, and 19 with developmental dyslexia (DD), all in the 4th grade and around 9 years old on average. Each group underwent thorough neuropsychological and linguistic assessments to understand their psycholinguistic profiles.

During the study, participants engaged in a silent reading task where the text underwent lexical manipulation. Researchers then analyzed eye movement data alongside cognitive factors like memory, attention, and visual processes.

Using multinomial logistic regression, the researchers evaluated predictive models based on three key measures: a linguistic model focusing on phonological awareness, rapid naming, and reading fluency; a cognitive neuropsychological model incorporating memory, attention, and visual processes; and an additive model combining lexical word properties with eye-tracking data, specifically examining word frequency and length effects.

By integrating eye movement data with cognitive factors, the researchers enhanced their ability to predict the development of dyslexia or ADHD, in comparison to typically developing readers. This approach significantly improved the accuracy of predicting reading outcomes in children with learning disabilities.

These findings have profound implications for understanding and addressing reading challenges in children. By considering both cognitive processes and eye movement patterns, educators and clinicians can develop more effective interventions tailored to the specific needs of children with dyslexia and ADHD.

April 30, 2024