Older dads contribute to autism

31 Dec

Just a quick one as I haven’t read the whole paper yet but it’ll be of interest to readers of this blog so:

Advancing paternal age is associated with deficits in social and exploratory behaviors in the offspring: a mouse model.

BACKGROUND: Accumulating evidence from epidemiological research has demonstrated an association between advanced paternal age and risk for several psychiatric disorders including autism, schizophrenia and early-onset bipolar disorder. In order to establish causality, this study used an animal model to investigate the effects of advanced paternal age on behavioural deficits in the offspring.

METHODS: C57BL/6J offspring (n = 12 per group) were bred from fathers of two different ages, 2 months (young) and 10 months (old), and mothers aged 2 months (n = 6 breeding pairs per group). Social and exploratory behaviors were examined
in the offspring.

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The offspring of older fathers were found to engage in significantly less social (p = 0.02) and exploratory (p = 0.02) behaviors than the offspring of younger fathers. There were no significant differences in measures of motor activity.

CONCLUSIONS: Given the well-controlled nature of this study, this provides the strongest evidence for deleterious effects of advancing paternal age on social and exploratory behavior. De-novo chromosomal changes and/or inherited epigenetic changes are the most plausible explanatory factors.

5 Responses to “Older dads contribute to autism”

  1. Socrates December 31, 2009 at 17:55 #

    Gaaaarrrgh! Who gave the Kev Kool-Aid!?

    SHOULD READ:

    “Given the well-controlled nature of this study, this provides the strongest evidence for deleterious effects of advancing paternal age IN MICE on social and exploratory behavior.”

    I am not a mouse. Neither is Kev. Nor are You.

    And, as far as I can see (ie Google) there is no evidence of Autistic Spectrum Disorders/Conditions in great apes, let alone rodents. (Unless of course, you’re in a cage in Wakefield’s Dungeon)

    Q: Is there any evidence at all of an effect relating to PDDs in a mouse model that can verifiably be said to occur in humans.

  2. Kev December 31, 2009 at 18:02 #

    LOL, don’t panic I’m not suggesting this study _on its own_ is evidence of anything. But there have been non mouse studies which have reached similar conclusions ergo, maybe its time to accept that increased paternal age does play a part in autism…?

  3. passionlessDrone December 31, 2009 at 19:06 #

    Hello friends –

    Interesting study, Kev. I haven’t read it yet, but will probably try to sometime soon. Thanks for posting.

    @Socrates – This study wasn’t conducted out of thin air, but rather, in the context of a variety of studies that show increased risk of behavioral diagnosis, including autism, in children born to parents of older ages.

    Risk of autism and increasing maternal and paternal age in a large north American population.

    Advanced parental age and the risk of autism spectrum

    Advanced parental age at birth is associated with poorer social functioning in adolescent males: shedding light on a core symptom of schizophrenia and autism

    Maternal and paternal age and risk of autism spectrum disorders

    Advancing paternal age and autism

    Now, there is the chance that all of these findings are spurious, but the fact that you don’t like the idea of a rodent based model of behaviors with similarities to autism shouldn’t be one of them.

    Q: Is there any evidence at all of an effect relating to PDDs in a mouse model that can verifiably be said to occur in humans.

    Tons if you look. Here is one in particular.

    Smaller dendritic spines, weaker synaptic transmission, but enhanced spatial learning in mice lacking Shank1.

    There are many more.

    @kev

    But there have been non mouse studies which have reached similar conclusions ergo, maybe its time to accept that increased paternal age does play a part in autism…?

    Heh.

    However, if we accept that we have evidence that increased parental age leads to increased risk of an autism diagnosis, it becomes much more difficult to find a reason to believe that autism rates have remained static; after all, the gradual but real increase in age of parents in the past few decades is very real and difficult to overcome with arguments centering around greater awareness.

    – pD

  4. Socrates December 31, 2009 at 19:35 #

    Just playing to the Gallery on a quiet New Year’s Eve…

    I do remember sitting in on several discussion where this was discussed at length.

    There’s some interesting bits and pieceshere. The author freely admits to being an amateur theoretician and I can’t vouch for the validity of anything he says, but as Spoon to stir-up the Cauldron of Usual Ideas – it works very well.

  5. Phil Schwarz January 1, 2010 at 04:48 #

    What Socrates said, at 17:55:17.

    There are *way* too many potential confounds (several trillion neurons’ worth, in frontal cortical matter and elsewhere, present in the human brain and involved in its cognitive activity, and absent or at least radically different in mice) for me to take seriously any mouse model of aspects of autism that attempt to extrapolate beyond direct sensory and motor processing. At least until someone conclusively demonstrates that it is the structures human and mouse brains have in *common* that entirely mediate the aspects being studied (and extrapolated about). Sorry, to me this smacks of less-than-acceptable standards of science. Where was it published?

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