Wednesday, 29 December 2010

No simple answers for autism or any condition with mental symptoms that shift over time?

I have observed that there are many families where different members have diagnoses varying from bi-polar disorder to chronic fatigue syndrome, or from Aspergers to rheumatoid arthritis, and that these change between the family generations. Also many of those given one diagnosis also have another (or even two or three) diagnoses - known as comorbidities.

I have seen a few instances of the medical profession beginning to admit that their diagnoses don't always fit neatly and therefore are not always helpful ways of ensuring the patient gets the most effective treatment. But today's opinion piece in Scientific American on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders by Steven E. Hyman, a top neurobiologist and international advisor on mental health conditions, absolutely lays bare the contradictions revealed by the advances of molecular scientific research.

"What the DSM treats as discrete disorders, categorically separate from health and from each other, are not, in fact, discrete.... I would hypothesize that what is shared within disorder families, such as the autism spectrum or the obsessive-compulsive disorder spectrum, are abnormalities in neural circuits that underlie different aspects of brain function, from cognition to emotion to behavioral control, and that these circuit abnormalities do not respect the narrow symptoms checklists."

HOORAH! The beginnings of recognition of complexity in genetic effects and the stupidity of simplistic medical naming. Roll on the medical paradigm shift!