Friday, February 10, 2012

interesting parallels between FTD and autism

It was with interest that I read an article in today's L.A. times about frontotemporal dementia. The man described in the article had a variety of social judgment impairment problems. When he stood in line behind a tattooed woman he said loudly, "Wow, that's a lot of tattoos." He would wander into property with no trespassing signs. This condition, also called 'Pick's disease', is similar to Alzheimer's in that it is caused by the buildup of proteins in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain resulting in the degeneration of neurons in these areas. Alzheimer's usually happens in the area of the hippocampus and surrounding areas where it affects memory. FTD happens in a different area of the brain, thusly producing different types of manifestations and symptoms.

Upon looking at yet another website. It appears that some other symptoms can be inability to speak, echolalia and lack of emotional warmth.

I can't help but seeing some of the parallels between this condition and autism. Of course, this may be superficial. Those who believe that mercury could be the cause of autism have tried to demonstrate that there are similarities between the symptoms of those two conditions. Others, such as Karin Nelson and Margaret Bauman, have disputed these showing there are differences as well.

I have to wonder if what is known about FTD could open the door into resolving the mysteries of the etiology of autism. I'm interested in knowing exactly what have caused the myriad of problems and disability that I've had in my life.

A variety of research has suggested that autism could be caused by problems in the frontal lobes of the brain, particularly the most recent autopsy study published by Courchesne, et. al. I wrote about this research and the relationship to my life about a few months ago. Also, the data from the mirror neuron research done by Marco Iacoboni, Mirella Depratto(sp?) and others have also suggested frontal lobe involvement. Based on other frontal lobe impairments this area of the brain could be considered a good candidate, as it is where Broca's area, which generates spontaneous speech is located. Also, the frontal lobes are responsible for executive functioning.

I think the temporal lobes have been implicated in the etiology also but I'm not as familiar with this area. I do remember the Kluver-Bucy syndrome in monkeys whose temporal lobes were removed and the social problems and aggression it caused.

A problem with this line of thinking is that developmental impairments may be different than adult impairments. I asked Eric Courchesne about this when I first met him back in 1989. At the time, their research showing the hypoplasia of lobules VI and VII of the cerebellar vermis was making news. If the cerebellum were responsible for the problems of autistics, I wondered why they would have intact motor systems much of the time. His answer was that if the damage occurred early enough, it would not affect the motor abilities of persons with autism. Developmental lesions were different than adult lesions.

I have a bad handwriting and fine motor coordination problems, but my ability to type and do other types of motor activities is intact. These problems are sort of similar to the constructional apraxias of adults that have had lesions in the right hemisphere of the parietal lobe. A cerebellar impairment would not explain my ability to type fast unless what Courchesne said about the differences between developmental and adult lesions were true.

After I read Marco Iacoboni's book, I contacted him and wondered why if mirror neurons were deficient in persons with autism, why didn't someone with Broca's aphasia from a stroke develop autistic-like behaviors. I wondered if it were because developmental lesions were different than adult lesions. He responded stating that this could possibly be the case and also that the frontal lobes were just one part of the mirror neuron system so this could be a reason as well.

My disability has made it too difficult for me to apply myself and study neuroscience as extensively as I want to. Even if it didn't, I guess no one really knows exactly what causes autism.

The article about the frontotemporal dementia in today's times was quite intriguing. I was interested in reading about Stuart Bryant's problems. There did seem to be some parallels with autism, though I suppose it may not provide a clue about my problems or what is wrong with myself.


Anonymous said...

There may be possible connections between frontotemporal lobar dementia (FTLD) and autism. Some familes tend to have both. FTLD is an autosomal dominant disorder caused by mutations in several genes, most notably progranulin and microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT). A recent Saudi study of 40 children showed that the autistic children tended to have lower progranulin levels than typically developing children. Other studies have implicated progranulin deficiency in depression as well as autism. Environment may play a role too. For example, it has been proposed that some cases of autism with folate receptor autoimmunity respond to folinic acid which can cross the blood-brain barrier without engaging the folate receptor. The connection is that folic acid is a promoter for progranulin. Sun burns can also deplete folic acid in pregnant women with neurological consequences for the baby such as hydrocephalus. A recent Chinese study showed the complex relationship between progranulin, disabetes, and blood vessel disease - in short, more is not necessarily better. Single studies require validation, but I think that we are on the right track in recent years. Autistic symptoms are like a fever with many possible causes. It is exceptionally promising research because there are drugs that can modify both progranulin and microtubules.

Nicolq Roberts said...

Thank you both for this information six years ago our nightmare started. There is myself mum my brother. I have 2 kids. My brother has 2 boys.
Six years ago my brothers boys that are both twins where diagnosed with severe autism. They are 8 now and both hardly speak and they are both incompetent. Both having to wear nappies. They have obsessions and routines that they like to keep. Ie watching certain programs and eating certain things. Going to bed at a certain time etc.
A year after my nephews where diagnosed, my mum was diagnosed with FTD frontal lobe dementia, which you have spoken about. I was my mum's full time carer. My displayed autistic tendencies before she was diagnosed. She loved following a routine and had to have things done at certain times. She also had to watch certain programmes. Mum was very pretictable. When she got ill these character traits became much more magnified. Also her motor skills where diterating. Mum and the twins where showing parallel behaviours which myself and my brother noticed.
My brother also has certain behaviour traits which are very similar also. He doesn't like eating in front of people. He has terrible difficulties taking in a conversation or information.
With myself I have suffered with depression from a child. I'm highly sensitive and get very easily over whelmed by things around me. I also feel others pain and cry and feel distressed when something bad happens. I cry hard. My brother mum and me all suffer from this. I ended up turning to drink because I needed something to numb the pain. I really do feel strongly all of this is interlinked. I would love someone to do a study on all of us to see what this all is?? I wouldn't know where to start though. Thanks for this article something to mule over.