Caroline Rodgers, whose ideas I blogged about yesterday, wrote to me about lack of research on the possibility that prenatal ultrasound causes autism:
I have heardÂ confidentially that applications for funding of prenatal ultrasound studies (not specifically investigating autism) have been repeatedly denied over the years — whichÂ helps explain the great paucity ofÂ safety studies, especially since the early ’90s, when the FDA approved anÂ allowable eightfold increase in acoustic output.Â As recentlyÂ as this year, funding was denied an ambitious, multi-site study that would have investigated if there was a relationship between ultrasound and autism.
In 2006 when Yale neuroscientist Pasko Rakic announced the results of his study that found prenatal ultrasound interrupted neuronal migration in mice in a way that was consistent with the brains of autopsied autistics, I was surprised that several scientists, including Rakic, did their best to downplay the results. At the time, Rakic was one of many of Autism Speaks’s scientific advisors.
I have spoken with various people throughout the NIH about my concerns [about ultrasound]. They all pointed to various large studies they believe are investigating ultrasound as a possible environmental cause of autism — most recently, the National Children’s Study and EARLI, but when I tracked down the study designs, it turned out that ultrasound is not being studied.
In a report at the time Rakic’s study was published, he indeed downplayed the results:
Dr. Pasko Rakic, chairman of the Yale department of neurobiology and leader of the study, was quick to offer parents reassurance about the safety of ultrasound — done for the proper reasons — in human pregnancies.
“If I had a daughter and she was pregnant, I would recommend she had it for medical reasons,” Rakic said.
Another researcher agreed:
“I couldn’t agree with him more,” said Dr. Joshua Copel, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale and spokesman for the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). He was not involved in the study. . .
The researchers noted that mice are very different from humans, so the results of their study must be interpreted with caution.
“The forms of migration [of brain cells] and the timing of migration differ in primates like humans than in mice,” Copel said. “In humans, there is a much longer period in which neurons [nerve cells] are migrating.”
Does that sound “very different”?