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Showing posts with label IQ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IQ. Show all posts

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Metformin to raise Cognition in Fragile X and some other Autisms?




I started to write this post a long time ago, when Agnieszka first highlighted an interview with Dr Hagerman from UC Davis.  Hagerman is experimenting in using Metformin to treat Fragile-X.

Having again be reminded about Metformin, I realized that I never finished my post on this subject. With some extras about autophagy and a nice graphic courtesy of Ling’s excellent paper, here it is. 

Metformin has already been covered in 5 previous posts.


One interesting point is that the researchers at UC Davis are using the measurement of IQ as one of the outcome measures in their trial of Metformin.  I have been suggesting the French Bumetanide researchers do this for a long time.

It is my opinion that simple medical interventions can have a profound impact on the IQ of some people with severe autism. I mean raising IQ not by 5-10 points as at UC Davis, but by 20-50 points.  IQ can be measured using standardized tools and is far less subjective than any autism rating scale.

The big-time potential IQ enhancers we have seen in this blog include: -

·        Bumetanide/Azosemide
·        Statins (Atorvastatin, Lovastatin, Simvastatin, but they are not equivalent and the effect has nothing to do with lowering cholesterol)
·        Micro-dose Clonazepam
·        Clemastine
·        It seems DMF, in n=2 trial

The good news is that these drugs are all off-patent cheap generics (except DMF), as is metformin.  No need for drugs costing $50,000 a year.

For those that do not know, metformin is the first line medication for type-2 diabetes. It was introduced as a medication in France in 1957 and the United States in 1995.  In many countries Metformin is extremely cheap, with 30 x 500 mg tablets costing about $2 or Eur 2. In the US it costs about $10 for generic, so not expensive. 

There are sound reasons why Metformin could increase IQ in someone with autism or Fragile-X. In the case of idiopathic autism is there a likely biomarker to identify a likely responder? One has not yet been identified.

Clearly Metformin will not work for all people with autism and MR/ID, but even if it only works for 10% that would be great.

Are all parents going to notice an increase in IQ of 5-10 points?  You might think so, but I doubt it.  I would hope therapists, teachers and assistants would notice.

I think basic mental maths is the best way to notice improved cognitive function in people with IQ less than 70.  You can easily establish a baseline and then you can notice/measure improvements.

Improved cognitive function does not just help with maths, it helps with learning basic skills like tying shoe laces, brushing teeth and later shaving.  This does also involve many other types of skill.





In the study, researchers from the UC Davis Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute in California tested the long-term effects of metformin, delivered at 1,000 milligrams (mg) twice a day, for one year in two male patients, 25 and 30 years old. Genetic analysis confirmed that both patients had mutations in the FMR1 gene, confirming their fragile X syndrome diagnoses.

The younger patient had autism and was also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. First prescribed metformin at 22, he is currently taking 500 mg of metformin twice a day and 10 mg per day of simvastatin — used to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood.
The second patient was also diagnosed with anxiety and exhibited socially nervous behaviors, including panic attacks. He had severe limitations in language use, and communicated in short sentences and by mumbling. He had been on an extended-release formulation of metformin, taking 1,000 mg once a day for one year.

Both patients showed significant cognitive and behavioral improvements. After one year of treatment with metformin, test results revealed an increase in the patients’ IQ scores, from 53 to 57 in the younger patient and from 50 to 58 in the second patient.

Verbal and nonverbal IQ — the ability to analyze information and solve problems using visual or hands-on reasoning — were also improved in both patients. Non-verbal IQ increased from 50 to 52 in the younger patient and from 47 to 51 in the other. Verbal IQ went from 61 to 66 in the first patient, and from 58 to 68 in the second.

                                                              

Researcher Randi Hagerman is a big proponent of metformin — a diabetes drug that helps people manage their weight. In fact, Hagerman takes the drug herself as a preventive measure against cancer.
Metformin has also unexpectedly shown promise for improving cognition in people with fragile X syndrome, a leading genetic cause of autism characterized by severe intellectual disability.

A study published in 2017 linked impaired insulin signalling in the brain to cognitive and social deficits in a fruit fly model of fragile X, and the flies improved on metformin. A second paper that year showed that metformin reverses abnormalities in a mouse model of the syndrome, including the number of branches the mice’s neurons form. It also improved seizures and hyperactivity in the mice — issues we also see in people with fragile X.
I began prescribing metformin to people with fragile X syndrome to help curb overeating. Many of the people I treat are overweight because of this habit — it’s one of the symptoms of a subtype of fragile X called the Prader-Willi phenotype, not to be confused with Prader-Willi syndrome.
I was surprised when the families of these individuals told me they could talk better and carry out conversations, where they couldn’t before. That really gave us impetus to conduct a controlled clinical trial.
It’s not a cure-all, but we do see some positive changes. It doesn’t resolve intellectual disability, but we have seen IQ improvements of up to 10 points in two boys who have been treated with metformin. We are very excited about that.

Individuals on metformin tend to start eating less, and often lose weight as a result. I could kick myself, because metformin has been approved to treat obesity for many years, but I never thought to use it in fragile X syndrome. Oftentimes children with fragile X syndrome have so many problems that you aren’t thinking about obesity as the top priority.
We’ve also seen a gradual effect on language, which we can detect after two to three months. Sometimes there are improvements in other behaviors too; I’ve seen mood-stabilizing effects. Many people with fragile X syndrome have issues with aggression, and it’s possible these could be moderated with metformin too. 

Individuals with fragile X syndrome (FXS) have both behavioral and medical comorbidities and the latter include obesity in approximately 30% and the Prader‐Willi Phenotype (PWP) characterized by severe hyperphagia and morbid obesity in less than 10%. Metformin is a drug used in individuals with type 2 diabetes, obesity or impaired glucose tolerance and it has a strong safety profile in children and adults. Recently published studies in the Drosophila model and the knock out mouse model of FXS treated with metformin demonstrate the rescue of multiple phenotypes of FXS.

Materials and Methods

We present 7 cases of individuals with FXS who have been treated with metformin clinically. One case with type 2 diabetes, 3 cases with the PWP, 2 adults with obesity and/or behavioral problems and, a young child with FXS. These individuals were clinically treated with metformin and monitored for behavioral changes with the Aberrant Behavior Checklist and metabolic changes with a fasting glucose and HgbA1c.

Results

We found consistent improvements in irritability, social responsiveness, hyperactivity, and social avoidance, in addition to comments from the family regarding improvements in language and conversational skills. No significant side‐effects were noted and most patients with obesity lost weight.

Conclusion

We recommend a controlled trial of metformin in those with FXS. Metformin appears to be an effective treatment of obesity including those with the PWP in FXS. Our study suggests that metformin may also be a targeted treatment for improving behavior and language in children and adults with FXS.

Recruiting: Clinical Trial of Metformin for Fragile X Syndrome


While a growing number of families are trying metformin and reporting mixed results, metformin has not yet been systematically studied in patients with Fragile X syndrome. This open-label trial is designed to better understand the safety and efficacy of this medicine on behavior and cognition, and to find the best dosages for children and adults.

20 children and adults with Fragile X syndrome will take metformin 250mg twice a day for the first week, followed by metformin 500mg twice a day for the next 8 weeks.
The study will measure changes in the total score on the Aberrant Behavior Checklist-Community (ABC-C) after 9 weeks of metformin treatment. The ABC-C is a 58-item behavior scale which is filled out by a caregiver. In addition, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) will be used to look for changes in cortical excitability and Electroencephalography (EEG) will assess levels of synaptic plasticity.
Participants in this study must be Canadian residents and be able to travel to the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, for several visits. If you are interested in metformin but this trial is not convenient, there are two alternatives. FRAXA is funding a new trial of metformin in New Jersey, and Dr. Randi Hagerman is currently recruiting for metformin trial at the University of California at Davis MIND Institute.



Metformin has emerged as a candidate drug for the targeted treatment of FXS based on animal studies showing rescue of multiple phenotypes in the FXS model. Metformin may contribute to normalizing signalling pathways in FXS in the central nervous system, which may include activities of mTOR and PI3K, both of which have shown to be pathogenically overactive in FXS. In addition, metformin inhibits phosphodiesterase, which would lead to correction of cAMP levels, and MMP9 production, which is also elevated in FXS. Looking at the potential signalling pathways, metformin appears to be a good candidate for targeting several of the intracellular functions in neurons disrupted in FXS and, therefore, has potential to rescue several types of symptoms in individuals with FXS. The researchers have utilized metformin in the clinical treatment of over 20 individuals with FXS between the ages of 4 and 58 years and have found the medication to be well tolerated and to provide benefits not only in lowering weight gain and normalizing appetite but also in language and behavior. In this controlled trial, the researchers hope to further assess metformin's safety and benefits in the areas of language and cognition, eating and weight loss, and overall behavior.


mTOR and P13K

Hagerman highlights Metformin’s effects on mTOR and P13K pathways.

This is a highly complex subject and the graphic below from an early post shows how interconnected everything is.  If mTOR is not working correctly you can expect many things not to work as nature intended.

Numerous things can cause an imbalance in mTOR and so there are numerous ways to re-balance it.

Not surprisingly much of this pathway plays a role in many types of cancer.

Hagerman herself is taking Metformin to reduce her chances of developing cancer. I think that is a good choice, particularly if you are overweight.  My anticancer choice, not being overweight, is Atorvastatin which targets inhibition of PI3K signalling through Akt and increases PTEN.

Hagerman is 70 years old and I think many cancers actual initiate years before they are large enough to get noticed and to be effective any preventative therapy needs to be started before that initiation has occurred. Hopefully she started her Metformin long ago. 

Given that 50% of people are likely to develop one cancer or another, I am with Dr Hagerman on the value of prevention, rather than treatment/cure.







The Wrong Statin for Fragile-X?

In the first article highlighted in this post, there is a case history of a man with FX being treated by a Statin, it looks to me that he has the wrong prescription (Simvastatin). Perhaps Dr Hagerman should read this old post from this blog:-


Choose your Statin with Care in FXS, NF1 and idiopathic Autism







   Simvastatin does not reduce ERK1/2 or mTORC1 activation in the Fmr1-/y hippocampus.
So  ? = Does NOT inhibit

The key is to reduce Ras. In the above graphic it questions does Simvastatin inhibit RAS and Rheb.
                                                                                                     

For anyone really interested, the following graphic from a previous post shows the fragile X mental retardation protein, FMRP.  Lack of FMRP goes on increase neuroligins (NLFNS) this then creates an excitatory/inhibitory imbalance which cause mental retardation and features of autism.





This all suggests that the 25 year-old young man with Fragile X treated at UC Davis (case study above) should switch from Simvastatin to Lovastatin.




Metformin and Autophagy

I also think Dr Hagerman is less likely to get dementia now that she is talking metformin.  If she takes vigorous exercise at least once a week, I think that is also going to keep her grey cells ticking over nicely. Like Dr Ben Ari, Hr Hagerman is working way past normal retirement.  If you love your job, then why not?  As with many things, in the case of neurons, “use them or lose them”.

Autophagy in Dementias


Dementias are a varied group of disorders typically associated with memory loss, impaired judgment and/or language and by symptoms affecting other cognitive and social abilities to a degree that interferes with daily functioning. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of a progressive dementia, followed by dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), frontotemporal dementia (FTD), vascular dementia (VaD) and HIV associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND).
The pathogenesis of this group of disorders has been linked to the abnormal accumulation of proteins in the brains of affected individuals, which in turn has been related to deficits in protein clearance. Autophagy is a key cellular protein clearance pathway with proteolytic cleavage and degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway representing another important clearance mechanism. Alterations in the levels of autophagy and the proteins associated with the autophagocytic pathway have been reported in various types of dementias. This review will examine recent literature across these disorders and highlight a common theme of altered autophagy across the spectrum of the dementias.

Below is an excellent graphic from a paper highlighted by Ling. Note metformin, above AMPK.


Autophagy Activator Drugs: A New Opportunity in Neuroprotection from Misfolded Protein Toxicity









I would highlight the presence of IP3R, the calcium channel proposed by Gargus as being a nexus in autism, for where multiple types of autism meet up, to do damage.

Verapamil, in Monty’s Polypill, increases autophagy independently of mTOR in a complicated mechanism  involving IP3R and likley calpain.  It is proposed as a therapy for Huntington’s Disease via this mechanism. At the lower right of the chart below we see calpain, a group of calcium dependent enzymes, not well understood.  ROS can activate calpains via L-type calcium channels.





I would not worry about the details.  The take home point is that if you have autism, dementia or many other neurological conditions, you might well benefit from increasing autophagy.  There are very many ways to do this.      
                                                           
Conclusion

Fortunately, I am not a doctor.  I do recall when my doctor father was out visiting his sick patients at their homes, he did have not only his medical bag, but also some useful gadgets always kept in his car, that might come in handy.

The autism equivalent is the personalized Polypill therapy for daily use and the autism toolbox to delve into to treat flare-ups in autism as and when they arise.

I do think some people should have metformin in their daily Polypill therapy.

I think we can safely call Fragile-X a type of autism, so we already know it works for at least some autism.  Metformin is a very safe old drug, with minimal side effects and it is cheap.  It ticks all the boxes for a potential autism therapy.  Will it work for your case?  I can tell you with certainty that it does not work for everyone.

Metformin has been trialled to treat people with obesity and autism, since it can reduce appetite.

Metformin forTreatment of Overweight Induced by Atypical Antipsychotic Medication in YoungPeople With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial.


INTERVENTIONS:

Metformin or matching placebo titrated up to 500 mg twice daily for children aged 6 to 9 years and 850 mg twice daily for those 10 to 17 years.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:

The primary outcome measure was change in body mass index (BMI) z score during 16 weeks of treatment. Secondary outcomes included changes in additional body composition and metabolic variables. Safety, tolerability, and efficacy analyses all used a modified intent-to-treat sample comprising all participants who received at least 1 dose of medication.

RESULTS:

Of the 61 randomized participants, 60 participants initiated treatment (45 [75%] male; mean [SD] age, 12.8 [2.7] years). Metformin reduced BMI z scores from baseline to week 16 significantly more than placebo (difference in 16-week change scores vs placebo, -0.10 [95% CI, -0.16 to -0.04]; P = .003). Statistically significant improvements were also noted in secondary body composition measures (raw BMI, -0.95 [95% CI, -1.46 to -0.45] and raw weight, -2.73 [95% CI, -4.04 to -1.43]) but not in metabolic variables. Overall, metformin was well tolerated. Five participants in the metformin group discontinued treatment owing to adverse events (agitation, 4; sedation, 1). Participants receiving metformin vs placebo experienced gastrointestinal adverse events during a significantly higher percentage of treatment days (25.1% vs 6.8%; P = .005).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:

Metformin may be effective in decreasing weight gain associated with atypical antipsychotic use and is well tolerated by children and adolescents with ASD.

My guess is that a minority will be responders, the benefit will manifest itself in different ways and so it will be a useful part of polytherapy for some people, but it will not be a silver bullet.  Other than via an IQ test, I think the benefit will be hard to measure, even when it is very evident. 

In the end there will be a clever way to predict who will respond to which therapy.  Today’s post actually replaces one that will look into genetic testing and DEGs (differentially expressed genes). Most likely testing for DEGs will be the best predictor of what drugs work for whom.

Intelligent, cautious trial and error using safe drugs is an alternative strategy.  It is available today; it is cheap and it does work.

I have not tried Metformin yet, in recent years I have had most success with my own ideas. I have some of Dr Frye's calcium folinate sitting at home waiting for a trial.  Both Metformin and calcium folinate should be trialled.  The other obvious thing to trial is that Japanese PDE4 inhibitor Ibudilast (Ketas).  Thanks to Rene we now know you can acquire this is via any international pharmacy in Germany, with a prescription. It also reappeared on the website of a Japanese online pharmacy. The Western PDE4 inhibitors, like Daxas/Roflumilast are not selective enough and so are emetic (they make you want to vomit). Low dose Roflumilast has been patented as a cognitive enhancer, but you may need to have a bucket with you at all times.




     






Thursday, 7 December 2017

Trajectories of Intellectual Development in Autism




Tracking IQ over a 3-4 year period, in 4 sub-groups of 2-8 year olds

Today’s post is about trajectories of intellectual development in autism, which I have to come to believe is the most important aspect of autism and certainly helps you understand where your type of autism fits in.
As regular readers may recall average IQ = 100 and the IQ scale fits a bell-curve, so most (68%) people have an IQ within the range 85-115.  2.1% of the general population have an IQ less than 70, which is the cut off for a diagnosis of MR/ID (Intellectual Disability).
There are special tests to measure IQ in non-verbal people and IQ testing is matched to your age; so the older a child gets the more there is expected from them in the test.
I do wonder how you can fairly test the IQ of a 2 year old with severe autism. So I think some testing in very young children may substantially underestimate IQ. 
A study was recently published taking data from the Autism Phenome Project run by UC Davies.



Even though the sample size is only a hundred, what makes it interesting is that it is a longitudinal study, meaning they collect data from the same kids over a period of many years.


They fitted data from the hundred kids into four groups and then took the average IQs within each group. The kids had IQ measured twice, not at exactly the same ages, but about 4 years apart. (The youngest at T1 was two years old and the oldest at T2 was eight)
I used their data and apply my interpretation. I do not think they made the most of their own data.
So the first group (black) are the Asperger’s kids who were 22% of the sample group.  This group started out at 2-3 years old with IQ just under 100 but in the next 4 years they raised their cognition at an above average rate, so that average IQ rose to 110. Not bad going.   Average IQ in the general population is 100.
Classic autism is the red group at the bottom and as expected their IQ starts out low and gets worse, because they add skills at a lower rate then NT kids, so even though they learn, their measured IQ falls. This group was 26%.  Even though the sample is very small at 100, this is close to my estimate of classic autism (SDA) being about 30% of all autism. In some countries you have to measure IQ to access services. Our behavioral consultant was not a fan, because the parents get upset when IQ goes down over time, so we never measured IQ. The red line is even lower than I had expected.
The green line I called responsive autism, because even though IQ is low it does not fall during the 4 years period where it was measured. This group account for 18% of the total. These children are acquiring new skills at a fair rate.
The good news is the blue line; in that large sub-group of 35%, the kids had some kind of “dysmaturation” at time 1, allowing them to make rapid cognitive improvement in the 4 years after their diagnosis (Time 1). They have gone from a technical definition of MR/ID to getting close to average IQ.
It would be great to see what happens at Time 3. I suppose if we wait 4 years we may find out.
I think some of the 35% (blue line) likely did not perform to their full ability at the first test (at time 1), for which there are numerous reasons, not liking/being familiar with the tester being an obvious one.  Based on other sources from this blog, I think it is about 15% of autism cases that make such a dramatic improvement to the age of eight.

In the above study the type of intervention chosen by parents (how many hours of ABA, speech therapy etc) had no correlation with IQ improvement from Time 1 to Time 2. It is your biology that matters most and to tweak that you need a little help from chemistry, as some regular readers have discovered. 

Counter Argument 
There is a alternative view that IQ is not important in ensuring favorable outcomes in autism; this does sound rather odd. It is a view put forward not just by the small, but vocal, group with Asperger's promoting their "neurodiversity" ideas, but also some well paid researchers. In my chart above I used Asperger's for the black line representing the people with average IQ. In the actual paper they do not call it Asperger's.


Intelligence scores do not predict success for autistic adults 

This is a very recent, rather light weight, article and would be much better if titled "Intelligence scores do not predict success for Aspies."   
Aspies do indeed share some biological problems with people with severe autism, but their daily life problems are much closer to those faced by people with Schizophrenia or Bipolar. A good example is suicide, where it is extremely common in bipolar, said to be 10% (as cause of death) in schizophrenia and ten times the "normal" level in Asperger's.  In severe autism the suicide rate is zero, they may have accidents but do not try to kill themselves.

In someone with Asperger's and an IQ of 120, boosting their IQ to 140 will likely not help them; it would just make them feel more different. In a ten year old with severe autism and an IQ of 50, a child who cannot figure out which way round to put on his T shirt, cannot tie his shoelaces and does not understand why you need to cut your finger nails, a boost in IQ to 80 would be transformative. 
The education of people with severe autism focuses on adaptive behavior, or life skills. These are key skills for semi-independent living. These are skills that children of average IQ just pick up from observing the people around them. People with impaired cognitive function cannot just pick up these skills, they need to be taught (again and again and again).  I spent three years trying to teach prepositions to my son Monty to the age of eight, using a special computer program created for other people with exactly the same difficulty. Once I started addressing cognitive function, with Bumetanide, from the age of 9, Monty figured out prepositions all by himself, without any teaching. I never even bothered to use the remaining language teaching software that I had paid $1,500 for, as a bundle, when he was four years old.  It is still sitting unopened on the shelf. 







Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Reassessing Cognitive Impairment in Autism – Improving the Prognosis




When Monty, now aged 11 with ASD, was diagnosed aged three and a half we were told that he had autism and “this may be indicative of the presence of an associated learning disability, but it is impossible at this stage to give a prognosis as to his future difficulties” and also “he is not yet able to take part in formal assessments of his cognitive ability. When his skills and ability to share interests with adults and to follow direction/instruction develop, it will be possible to formally assess his cognitive skills using standard measures.”

Off the record, we were also told that he might develop epilepsy.

We never measured his IQ and he has never had a seizure.

With hindsight, it is interesting what they said about it being pointless to try and measure his IQ.  Apparently it is not uncommon to do just that.


Improving Cognitive Function

This post is about cognitive improvement, so do not be put off by the introduction to MR/ID.  Several regular readers who are using some of the suggested drugs discussed in this blog are now also commenting on the resulting cognitive improvement, so it really is not just a case of N=1.

Nobody here is measuring the change in their child’s IQ, so these remain anecdotes.


To start on a happy note

Monty, aged 11 and diagnosed with classic autism, has been learning the piano for three years.  At the start he was not very cooperative with his teacher and after a few months the lessons stopped.  

27 months ago he started on bumetanide, the first part of his autism Polypill.  After years of ABA, slow but solid development appeared to have reached a plateau; but then he began to accelerate.  We restarted piano lessons again, with a new teacher.  Having added Atorvastatin, from the very next day he began to practice daily, playing without his teacher.  He has had two 40 minutes lessons most weeks since.  Two years later this is the result:-



 Click the image to play, turn up the volume (video may not work on Apples)

  
  
So there is no doubt that Monty got smarter.  When I heard him playing this piece, I thought it was the piano teacher, but she was recording Monty on her phone.

Big brother also did not believe little brother was playing this, until he saw the full video (with moving fingers).

Reading, writing, and numeracy have all improved and are now at a similar level to those of many of his NT classmates (who are 2 to 3 years younger than him).  Rather unexpectedly, he was recently the only one in class who understood how to multiply fractions; this was never taught at home.   

Prior to starting the Polypill drugs, I had spent three years, on and off, trying to teach Monty prepositions, without much progress.  This is almost always a difficult area for those with classic autism.  In the end he figured it all out by himself, with a little help from Bumetanide.

Recently yet another cognitive step forward seems to have have occurred, which appears to be the result of PAK 1 inhibiting propolis and/or the tangeretin flavonoid.  Monty's assistant in school was today proudly showing me his latest school test result, "73% and it was all his own work".  She thinks it is the tangeretin.

In earlier years school was for “socialization”, not learning.  This is fine as long as the learning takes place at home, otherwise inclusion means no education.



Cognitive Function, IQ, MR/ID

I prefer to talk about cognitive function, and its improvement or enhancement.  Drugs that achieve this are usually called Nootropic.

I think that many people remain skeptical about Nootropics.

Psychiatrists, Pediatricians and Psychologists prefer to think about IQ, MR/ID.

People affected do not like the old term of Mental Retardation (MR) and so quite recently, in English speaking countries, it was replaced by the term Intellectual Disability (ID).  The World Health Organization still use the old term, as does almost everybody else.

Somebody is diagnosed with MR or ID if their IQ is below 70.  In a typical group of 100 people, two people (2.2%) would be expected to fall into that category.  The average IQ (mean, median and mode) is 100.




In theory as you progress through childhood and into adulthood your IQ is expected to stay the same.  So the tests used adjust for your age.  There are special non-verbal tests.

If you acquire new skills at a lower rate than typical, your IQ would appear to fall over time.  This does not mean that you have lost skills just that you are acquiring new skills at a slower rate than your peers.  This explains why parents of kids with ASD, who do have their IQ tested, often find their score goes down as they get older.


Measuring IQ in Autism

I think it is generally a bad idea to measure IQ in people with autism.

There is anecdotal evidence to show that the results are often not valid, because the test is based on the assumption of compliance and that the child is actually doing his/her best.  Not surprisingly, the experts have found that children undergoing an ABA program improve their measured IQ by 10s.  After a few months of ABA the previously unfocused child has been trained to sit down, sit still, pay attention and work.  Of course they then get a higher score, but are they now more intelligent?

One reason put forward for not measuring IQ, is that while people will go a long way to help a child with autism to learn, once you add a diagnosis of MR/ID, some people will try much less hard.

Nonetheless people do measure IQ in autism and it is worth a quick look at what is known.

Some people are saying that 50% of people with autism have MR/ID.  I always found that odd, and what exactly do they mean by autism?

Using the previous US DSM definitions, Asperger’s was a part of the autistic spectrum but had the precondition that there was no MR/ID and no language delay.  Then you had the middle group with the odd name of PDD-NOS    (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).  This groups the people with more issues than Asperger’s, but without many of the problems experienced by those diagnosed with Autism.

So in the old US system there were 3 main categories, plus 2 minor ones:-

1.     Asperger’s
2.     PDD-NOS
3.     Autism
4.     Retts Syndrome
5.     Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)

Very few people have Retts or CDD.

The Autistic Spectrum was, in effect, also called PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) just to confuse people a little more.  PDD = ASD = the above five conditions.

The latest version DSM5 went several steps backwards.  Everybody affected in the US is now just ASD, all five categories were merged.  

Hopefully nobody else in the world will pay any attention.

Unfortunately being Psychiatrists, they again have to muddy the water and all the future data/statistics.  A portion of people formerly diagnosed with PDD-NOS, will now get diagnosed with SCD (Social Communication Disorder) which is set outside the new definition of ASD.

“Congratulations you are off the Spectrum” 


I really do wonder about the IQ of these Psychiatrists.


Reliable Data on ASD

I do like to have some reliable data.  The quality of data in the field of autism is usually very poor and incompatible (i.e. rubbish).  Most data, like that from the CDC in the US, is unreliable.  It seems that richer “Ethnic European” parents push to get an autism diagnosis much harder than poorer “Hispanic” and “African American” parents.  Perhaps hard to believe as an outsider, but in the US poverty equals low diagnosis of autism and wealth equals high diagnosis.  Incidence does not equal diagnosis.  CDC data is just who got diagnosed; in the US many poorer people do not get diagnosed.  If you live in a country with free socialized healthcare, as in Europe, this will look strange.

I have chosen a highly regarded, and very highly cited, Canadian source for my data.

Éric Fombonne  is a French psychiatrist and epidemiologist based at McGill University in Montreal.  He co-authored a pair of studies in 2001 and 2005 with Suniti Chakrabarti, that examined the entire preschool and early school population of one large area of the United Kingdom (falling under the South Staffordshire Health Authority).

There is a stable population of indigenous British people with a small (1.4%), mostly Asian, immigrant population. The total population living in the area was 320 000 people.



The studies are:-







All children from 2.5 to 6.5 years old were screened, a total of 15,500 children in total 97 children (79.4% male)  were found to have a PDD (i.e. be somewhere on the autistic spectrum)

Of the 97 children, 29 (29.9%) had no functional use of language defined as the daily spontaneous use of 3-word phrases. The proportion of children without functional language was however strongly associated with diagnostic subtype (AD, 69.2%; Asperger syndrome, 0%; PDD-NOS, 16.1%).

Of the 97 children, 37 children underwent Merrill-Palmer testing and 56, Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence testing. Four children could not be tested for practical reasons. Overall, 24 (25.8%) of 93 children had some degree of mental retardation. The 2 children with childhood disintegrative disorder and Retts syndrome scored in the moderate range of mental retardation.








Side-note about shoddy research

To show those of you still unconvinced that published, and moderately highly cited, autism research can be rubbish, the authoritative sounding paper written by a Professor of Psychology below also reviewed the above research data.


The author commented:-

Recent epidemiological surveys have shown that the prevalence rates of MR in children with autism is between 40% and 55% (e.g., Chakrabarti & Fombonne, 2001), much lower than the typical rates cited in the literature.”

The Chakrabarti & Fombonne 2001 paper clearly shows 69% of people with the narrow diagnosis of “autism” had MR whereas 25.8% of those with the broader diagnosis of ASD/PDD.

More than 100 other papers now cite the author’s incorrect readings of the original research.

I do not know what IQ you need to have to be a Professor of Psychology, but it clearly needs to be increased.



Back to the Fombonne studies

Four years later they repeated the same study on the next cohort of English school children:-

The rate of mental retardation in the autistic disorder group was 66.7%, compared to 12.0% in the group with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified and 0.0% in the Asperger's disorder group


So I will take the average of the two studies

            Autism                       68% with MR/ID
            PD-NOS                     10% with MR/ID
            Asperger’s                    0% with MR/ID


What surprised me was the breakdown of the children by PDD.  Most kids (>50%) were PD-NOS, I did not expect that.

  Autism                        31%
            PD-NOS                     52%
            Asperger’s                  16%
            CDD/Retts                    1%

So the percentage all PDD (i.e. all ASD) with MR was 27%



Combining this as a graphic:-  






  

So now when people tell me that 50% of kids with autism have MR/ID, at least I know the likely reality.  It is either more, or less, depending on what you mean by “autism”; but is not 50%.



Conclusion

Most people think you cannot change your IQ.

The reality is that testing a young child with severer ASD is highly likely to underestimate their IQ, since the test assumes that the child will comply with the tester.  Most young children with autism do not comply with their parents, let alone an IQ tester.

ABA will improve compliance and hence improve an IQ test result.

Long term ABA use will, in many cases, gradually improve the child’s ability to learn and hence boost cognitive function and by implication an IQ test result.  You will find references to people saying ABA raised their kids IQ score by one or two dozen.

Correcting the biological dysfunctions underlying autism undermines the whole shaky DSM system.

PDD-NOS is, in effect, milder classic autism without the stereotypy .
Take some N-acetyl cysteine pills, you lower oxidative stress and you can stop the stereotypy.  So then your “expert” diagnosis would change from classic autism to PDD-NOS?

Take a few more pills and instead being in the 68%, with an IQ of less than 70, you can move up to 85 and, who knows, maybe much higher.

But it has to be said that the concept of IQ is something many people think they understand.

If one day, I were to make a clinical trial of my autism Polypill, I would definitely include a before and after measurement of IQ, alongside all the usual behavioral measures that most people would not understand.

And then …

“Wonder drug rescues people with autism from mental retardation”

In the meantime, we can continue correcting the remaining biological dysfunctions underlying autism and thus improving cognitive function.






Note the rocket, for those with classic autism doing just this and changing their prognosis.