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"Our findings support the need for a multidisciplinary approach to management of children with CP [cerebral palsy] to adequately identify and address all facets of presentation, including ASD [autism spectrum disorder]."So said the results of the study published by Malika Delobel-Ayoub and colleagues [1] who looked at the "prevalence of co-occurring autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) among children with cerebral palsy (CP)" among other things. Continuing a research theme (see here), researchers reported that around 9% of their 1200+ cohort of children diagnosed with CP had an "associated diagnosis of ASD". Said participant data coming from various European registries including one here in the bracing North-East of England.What's more to say other than yet again, preferential screening for autism might be indicated? One might also advance the idea that clues about the origins of at least some autism may be forthcoming when the label is comorbid to CP. The particular finding that 'co-occurring epilepsy' might be something important for example, is as good a research starting point as any given what other independent datasets have similarly observed [2] combined with the ever-growing [bidirectional] links being discussed between epilepsy and autism / autistic traits (see here).----------[1] Delobel-Ayoub M. et al. Prevalence and characteristics of autism spectrum disorders in children with cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2017 Apr 25.[2] Christensen D. et al. Prevalence of cerebral palsy, co-occurring autism spectrum disorders, and motor functioning - Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, USA, 2008. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2014 Jan;56(1):59-65.----------Delobel-Ayoub M, Klapouszczak D, van Bakel MME, Horridge K, Sigurdardottir S, Himmelmann K, & Arnaud C (2017). Prevalence and characteristics of autism spectrum disorders in children with cerebral palsy. Developmental medicine and child neurology PMID: 28439889...

Delobel-Ayoub M, Klapouszczak D, van Bakel MME, Horridge K, Sigurdardottir S, Himmelmann K, & Arnaud C. (2017) Prevalence and characteristics of autism spectrum disorders in children with cerebral palsy. Developmental medicine and child neurology. PMID: 28439889   Prevalence and characteristics of autism spectrum disorders in children with cerebral palsy.


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Adenotonsillectomy refers to the surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids and is typically indicated for a variety of reasons, not least in cases of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) (where breathing is interrupted during sleep). It's not an unfamiliar operation and is generally categorised as low-risk surgery. The positive outcomes following surgery have been described as 'dramatic' both in clinical terms and also related to quality of life [1].A recent study published by Emi Murata and colleagues [2] (open-access available here) adds a further dimension to the use of adenotonsillectomy (AT) for obstructive sleep apnoea specifically with the autism spectrum in mind. They concluded that: "Behavioral problems were significantly improved following AT in ASD [autism spectrum disorder] children with OSA."First off, I'll direct you to a previous post that I wrote about sleep apnoea and autism (see here) based on the findings reported by Hirata and colleagues [3]. They concluded that within their research cohort: "sleep problems, especially obstructive sleep apnea, are more common in ASD preschoolers than in community preschoolers." Then there are the study results by Malow and colleagues [4] who detailed a case report of treating sleep apnoea in a child with autism via use of AT. Bearing in mind this was an N=1, they observed that treatment coincided with "improvements in sleep, social communication, attention, repetitive behaviors, and hypersensitivity" based on use of the ADOS among other measures.Set within this context, the Murata paper detailed the results of a study including some 54 children diagnosed with ASD. Their aims were two-fold: "to determine whether AT for the treatment of OSA improves the behavior of Japanese children with ASD using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)" and "to identify characteristics for behavioral improvement following the treatment of OSA in these children with ASD." Thirty of the study participants were diagnosed with OSA and all underwent surgery for AT. I must also stress that said surgery was a clinical decision: "Because hypertrophy of the adenoids and/or palatine tonsils was observed." The rest of the cohort served as a control group used "to establish whether observed changes in CBCL scores were due to the natural course or a result of the experimental intervention."The results are pretty interesting: "After AT, T-scores of the CBCL scales were significantly improved in the OSA group, but no change was observed in the control." This was based on before and after inspection at 0 months (before surgery) and 6 months after surgery. The sorts of things seemingly improved in the AT group were aspects of behaviour and functioning linked to being withdrawn, social problems. attention issues and aggressive behaviour. Authors noted that: "The domain of “thought problems” showed the largest decrease... in the OSA group."When it came to the 'characteristics for behavioural improvement' side of their study, authors noted that: "the improved group show[ed] significantly higher scores on the CBCL at pre-AT than the unchanged/deteriorated group in ASD children with OSA after OSA treatment". This implies that baseline presentation might be important when it comes to behavioural outcomes following the use of AT and also that not every child with ASD and sleep apnoea undergoing AT will show the same pattern of behavioural changes.I find these results to be fascinating. Not least because they offer a roadmap for (a) screening for sleep apnoea in cases of autism and (b) details of how a treatment for one cause of sleep apnoea in such cases might have effects well beyond just related to breathing patterns. Then also, there is the question of why such surgery might impact on presented behaviour? I'm afraid I don't know enough about such issues to offer any definitive explanations. I might refer you back to some other discussions on this blog about middle ear infections and autism (see here) in the context of ear, nose and throat being linked on several levels but further investigations are very much required on the biological parameters potentially important to findings such as those described by Murata et al. That being said [5] there may already be some clues in the peer-reviewed science literature...----------[1] Mitchell RB. Adenotonsillectomy for obstructive sleep apnea in children: outcome evaluated by pre- and postoperative polysomnography. Laryngoscope. 2007 Oct;117(10):1844-54.[2] Murata E. et al. Evaluation of behavioral change after adenotonsillectomy for obstructive sleep apnea in children with autism spectrum disorder. Res Dev Disabil. 2017 May 14;65:127-139.[3] Hirata I. et al. Sleep problems are more frequent and associated with problematic behaviors in preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 2016; 49-50: 86-99.[4] Malow BA. et al. Impact of treating sleep apnea in a child with autism spectrum disorder. Pediatr Neurol. 2006 Apr;34(4):325-8.[5] Mitchell RB. & Kelly J. Behavioral changes in children with mild sleep-disordered breathing or obstructive sleep apnea after adenotonsillectomy. Laryngoscope. 2007 Sep;117(9):1685-8.----------Murata E, Mohri I, Kato-Nishimura K, Iimura J, Ogawa M, Tachibana M, Ohno Y, & Taniike M (2017). Evaluation of behavioral change after adenotonsillectomy for obstructive sleep apnea in children with autism spectrum disorder. Research in developmental disabilities, 65, 127-139 PMID: 28514706...


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While you may think most of the things we write about here are on litigation advocacy (and you would be correct) we also care about you, dear reader. We have written often about smartphones and their ubiquitous presence in our lives. This is a post to update you on the increasingly cruel reality of the […]...

Barque-Duran, A., Pothos, E., Hampton, J., & Yearsley, J. (2017) Contemporary morality: Moral judgments in digital contexts. Computers in Human Behavior, 184-193. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2017.05.020  Contemporary morality: Moral judgments in digital contexts.


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Of the many themes that seem to quite consistently surface on this blog looking at the peer-reviewed science in relation to various behavioural/psychiatric labels, the idea that various pharmacological interventions might do quite a bit more than 'what they say on the tin' is a recurring one. Take one case in point (see here)...Today's offering adds to that theme as the results reported by Ning Fan and colleagues [1] are presented for your reading pleasure and the particular finding that: "Serum Hcy [homocysteine] levels were significantly decreased in schizophrenia patients after risperidone treatment."OK, a few points need explaining first. Homocysteine is a compound that has also received considerable attention on this blog as per it's involvement in a particular group of intersecting biological cycles with relevance to various diagnostic labels including schizophrenia (see here for example). Alongside other independent pieces of research (see here), the diagnosis of schizophrenia seems to have some important connections to homocysteine although the precise details still need to be properly elucidated.High levels of homocysteine are generally not thought to be a good thing for quite a few reasons [2] and that goes as much for persons diagnosed with schizophrenia as it does for everyone else. So when elevated plasma levels of homocysteine are recorded, medicine really does need to do something to (a) identify why and (b) try and bring levels back to within a more typical range.Fan et al reported a few important things in their study of 56 participants "first-episode and drug-naïve inpatients with schizophrenia" compared with a similar number of sex- and age-matched asymptomatic controls. First, plasma homocysteine levels were elevated in those with schizophrenia. Nothing new there. They also reported on some potentially interesting *associations* between elevated homocysteine levels and specific symptoms relevant to schizophrenia: "a significant positive correlation between Hcy levels and PANSS negative sub-score was observed." Finally, they reported that risperidone use seemed to affect homocysteine levels in their clinical group. Interesting.That last point is rather intriguing. Risperidone is a treatment of choice as per its second generation antipsychotic label and accompanying properties. Despite quite a lot of focus on the side-effects associated with such a medicine (see here for example) it does serve an important purpose for many people. It's mode of action is still under debate but it is generally thought to have some action in relation to effects on one or more neurotransmitter receptors. But... other potential effects have also been noted in the peer-reviewed research literature pertinent to mode of action including some in relation to immune function (see here) and how schizophrenia (some schizophrenia?) *might* have a significant immune component attached to it (see here for example). The Fan results add another potential mode of action to risperidone use and why it may impact on symptom presentation for some diagnosed with schizophrenia and related conditions. I'm not by any means saying that homocysteine is 'causative' of schizophrenia but the Fan results do suggest that quite a few more investigations may be warranted on the connection between schizophrenia, homocysteine and risperidone. Indeed, whether also other homocysteine-lowering compounds may provide some novel intervention options for some diagnosed with schizophrenia (see here) (with no medical or clinical advice given or intended).----------[1] Fan N. et al. Effect of Risperidone on Serum Homocysteine Levels in First-episode, Drug-naïve Patients with Schizophrenia. Neurosci Lett. 2017 Apr 15. pii: S0304-3940(17)30326-9.[2] Zhang D. et al. Elevated Homocysteine Level and Folate Deficiency Associated with Increased Overall Risk of Carcinogenesis: Meta-Analysis of 83 Case-Control Studies Involving 35,758 Individuals. PLoS ONE. 2015; 10(5): e0123423. ----------Fan N, Tan Y, Yang F, Tian L, Chen S, Li J, Wang Z, & Zhang X (2017). Effect of Risperidone on Serum Homocysteine Levels in First-episode, Drug-naïve Patients with Schizophrenia. Neuroscience letters PMID: 28419824...


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So: "These results support the potential of creating a quick, accurate and widely accessible method for differentiating risks between ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder]."That was a conclusion reached in the paper by Marlena Duda and colleagues [1] (open-access) building on their previous foray into this important research area (see here). Last time around [2] this research group - the Duda/Wall et al research combination - set the scene for boiling down the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) from 65 items to something considerably smaller when it came to distinguishing autism from ADHD. This based on the idea that autism and ADHD are not unstrange diagnostic bedfellows (see here).This time around, researchers set out to "expand upon our prior work by including a novel crowdsourced data set of responses to our predefined top 15 SRS-derived questions from parents of children with ASD (n=248) or ADHD (n=174) to improve our model’s capability to generalize to new, ‘real-world’ data." Mention of the term 'crowdsourced' means that authors utilised various online social media platforms to "to inform the community of the study" and gather responses. Importantly, they note that "diagnoses of ASD or ADHD were provided as parent report."Results: once again applying various machine learning algorithms to their recently captured data and "mixing these novel survey data with our initial archival sample (n=3417)" authors reported some interesting findings. Taking the two samples - the archival samples and the recent crowdsourced data  - together they reported on the creation of "a classification algorithm that can generalize well to unseen data (AUC=0.89±0.01), even when those data have more natural variablity like the kind seen in our survey sample." This was based on the use of 15 items from the SRS.But... things were not all smooth sailing in this latest research effort. Bearing in mind the use of those 'parent reported' autism and ADHD participants in this latest study, authors noted that 'real-world' data is not necessarily the same as the very clinical data relied upon on the last research occasion. So: "In the archival sample, the responses for ADHD subjects were more uniform and on average less severe than the ADHD responses in the survey sample."Still, these are important results albeit requiring 'continued evaluation' as further crowdsourced and other data filter through. Indeed 'adaption' to new data seems to be something that the authors are particularly keen on to "further improve the generalizability of the classifier." I continue to applaud their research in this area as a function of their efforts (see here) to make autism and/or ADHD screening quicker, easier and more cost-effective.And on that last point. it is timely that such research continues given what is being proposed in certain parts of England when it comes to autism diagnoses (see here). Indeed, the suggestion of "restricting an autism diagnosis to only the most severe cases" as a function of some quite spectacular increasing demand - "The team is supposed to carry out 750 assessments a year. But it is getting almost double that level of demand, with about 25 referrals a week" - reiterates a need to streamline diagnostic services to make screening/diagnosis quicker, easier and more cost-effective.For those also who have said 'so what' to the increase in cases of autism (yes, someone actually did albeit with caveats), such proposals to potentially restrict autism diagnoses, I would say, are a direct result of such a mindset to 're-think' autism. Although well meaning, if enough people talk about difference over disability for example, purse string holders in the NHS (National Health Service) were eventually bound to ask 'why diagnose?' and 'why offer services?' (services that can cost quite a lot and even for those with 'severe autism' are often not there). As other authors have eloquently argued (see here) and indeed, foretold, mixed in with the current economic situation being put forward all in the name of austerity, low-hanging NHS services fruit like autism screening/assessment were certain to be eventually targeted and the 'difference over disability' framing unfortunately provides ample ammunition for such proposals...----------[1] Duda M. et al. Crowdsourced validation of a machine-learning classification system for autism and ADHD. Transl Psychiatry. 2017 May 16;7(5):e1133.[2] Duda M. et al. Use of machine learning for behavioral distinction of autism and ADHD. Transl Psychiatry. 2016 Feb 9;6:e732.----------Duda M, Haber N, Daniels J, & Wall DP (2017). Crowdsourced validation of a machine-learning classification system for autism and ADHD. Translational psychiatry, 7 (5) PMID: 28509905...


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And it doesn’t really matter if the expert is male or female, if they are young or old, and they can be any ethnicity! In other words, said the researchers—the variables we have read so much about (i.e., gender, age, ethnicity) are not as notable as whether someone “looks like” our stereotype of a “good […]...

Gheorghiu, A., Callan, M., & Skylark, W. (2017) Facial appearance affects science communication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)., 201620542. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1620542114  Facial appearance affects science communication.


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"Black women from East Africa had more than 3.5 times the odds of autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability in their children than Caucasian nonimmigrant women."So said the study results reported by Jenny Fairthorn and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) providing yet more evidence for the need for much greater scrutiny as to why children of immigrant parents from East Africa are seemingly at higher risk of 'more severe' autism than other groups (see here and see here).Based on data from "Western Australian state registries" (yet again), researchers set about comparing autism prevalence with and without intellectual (learning) disability as a function of various variables: race (ethnicity), immigrant status and region of birth of mothers of children. The authors really drilled down into the details on immigrants according to their birth region in this study.Results: from a study sample of over 130,000 mothers, some 1000 had a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) together with intellectual disability (ID) and nearly 350 with a child with autism without ID. The figures equated to something like 0.7% of the total cohort with a child with autism and ID and 0.2% of the cohort with a child diagnosed with autism but not with ID. Authors also indicated that: "mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability were more likely to be 40 years or more."Then to some important data: "After adjustment for demographic factors and compared to nonimmigrant women, immigrant women were less likely to have a child diagnosed with either autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder without intellectual disability." This finding covered various geographic locations from which migrant mums came together with their race/ethnicity. That is however, aside from mothers from East Africa, and that "three-fold higher odds of having a child identified with autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability." Authors added that "all autism spectrum disorder diagnoses in the children of Black mothers were of autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability" and that all cases "were from mothers born in East Africa, with four born in Ethiopia and one each from Eritrea, Kenya, and Somalia."The authors acknowledge that their categorisations based on race/ethnicity and migration status led to some quite small group numbers being analysed (including not including any participants from other parts of Africa outside of East Africa). They also drew attention to the fact that their participant group of children with autism but without ID was quite a bit smaller than would be typically expected in comparison to the group with autism and ID (see here).But the results do paint an interesting picture and particularly with regards to those from East Africa, where they are in line with what has been previously discussed in the peer-reviewed and lay literature. The question of 'why' is probably going to be a complicated one as the authors suggested that "at least some of this difference could be the result of various factors leading to higher ascertainment of autism spectrum disorder in this group of children." They also qualify that statement by saying that they "cannot rule out the possibility of some biological risk factor, such as nutrition or stress" being involved which opens up a role for variables such as vitamin D exposure for example (see here).Personally, I think there are a few additional research directions that might need to be considered, primary among them is to have a little more detail on what autism prevalence might specifically look like in various areas of East Africa and Africa in general. I know this is a bit of a difficult ask in places where resources are really quite scarce, cultures are different (see here) and practical efforts for population screening are hindered by politics and the like. Until however we have such data, alongside some other important social and biological information, science doesn't have any 'baseline' measures on which to compare and contrast when it comes to families emigrating from such places and the possible reasons/changes that could be involved in this process and pertinent to offspring autism risk.----------[1] Fairthorne J. et al. Maternal Race-Ethnicity, Immigrant Status, Country of Birth, and the Odds of a Child With Autism. Child Neurol Open. 2017 Jan 12;4:2329048X16688125.----------Fairthorne J, de Klerk N, Leonard HM, Schieve LA, & Yeargin-Allsopp M (2017). Maternal Race-Ethnicity, Immigrant Status, Country of Birth, and the Odds of a Child With Autism. Child neurology open, 4 PMID: 28503625...


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"Adults and children with CFS/ME [chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalomyelitis] have greater health care needs than the rest of the population for at least ten years before their diagnosis, and these higher levels of health care resource use continue for at least ten years after diagnosis."So concluded the study published by Simon Collin and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) who once again (see here) relied on data derived from the "Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) GP practices in the UK" to further explore aspects of the debilitating condition(s) headed under the banner of CFS/ME.Using a case-control design, researchers set out to "investigate long-term patterns in health care resource use before and after a diagnosis of CFS/ME." They had a hypothesis in mind before any study results were produced in that "health care resource use would increase from around the time of patient-reported onset of illness... until diagnosis" but "did not have a prior hypothesis about post-diagnosis health care resource use, although this might be expected to fall if diagnosis led to referral and effective treatment."Their results based on "916 child (age <18 years) and 6710 adult patients" suggested a few things: (i) "a steep drop in resource use immediately after diagnosis was followed by sustained higher levels of health care resource use for at least ten years after diagnosis", (ii) adults and children with CFS/ME tended to have greater healthcare resource use "for at least ten years before the diagnosis", and (iii) allied to that last point: "there were steep increases in use of health care resources 2–4 years before diagnosis in adults and 1–2 years before diagnosis in children." Healthcare resource use, by the way, was defined as including several things including: "GP [general practitioner] consultations, tests, prescriptions, and referrals" (with certain caveats).Although carrying an important message that elevated healthcare resource use is associated with a diagnosis of CFS/ME (bearing in mind the limitations of the CPRD when it comes to CFS/ME), one has to be quite careful with how facets of the Collin data are handled. I say this specifically on the basis that healthcare use 'at least ten years before diagnosis' was found to be elevated for those with CFS/ME and how authors talk about this conflicting with "patients reporting that they were fit and well prior to the onset of their illness." You can perhaps see how this data *could* be used by some to 'challenge' patients with reference to their reliability in reporting their illness onset for example and/or the idea that "behaviour traits such as disease conviction and somatic concern could not be discounted as aetiological factors." This in the context that the biopsychosocial model of CFS/ME is still prevalent in some quarters (see here) particularly those linked to healthcare interactions.Thankfully the authors offer a couple of other potentially important reasons to account for their results based on (a) "people may simply have had CFS/ME for a very long time" and/or (b) "it is possible that people who develop CFS/ME have pre-existing risk factors which lead to higher rates of health care resource use." Indeed, on that second point, one might even argue that specific pre-existing medical complaints could/would/might predispose someone to developing CFS/ME (see here) particularly with all the talk about immune function potentially being a facet of some CFS/ME for example (see here). In this context, we perhaps need to know a little more about the genetics potentially important to CFS/ME, bearing in mind the emerging theme that condition-specific genes are not just genes specific to any one condition (see here for example).Accepting also that authors were "unable to determine from our data whether the type of health care resource use by patients changes following diagnosis" the finding that healthcare use continues to be fairly high after diagnosis is a worrying sign. It suggests that modern medicine might not be particularly good at treating/managing those with CFS/ME (and their associated conditions) in the longer term based on current best practice. I could be a little bit cynical on this point in relation to how current 'best practice' for managing/treating CFS/ME involves some rather controversial techniques which could be construed as 'failing' in the context of these results. Indeed, I will refer you to a quote by Jonathan Edwards [2] talking about the on-going controversy in CFS/ME circles in relation to how current best practice might not be as successful as many might think: "If they are still ill, presumably these approaches have failed and the priority is to find something more effective." Indeed.----------[1] Collin SM. et al. Health care resource use by patients before and after a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME): a clinical practice research datalink study. BMC Fam Pract. 2017 May 5;18(1):60.[2] Edwards J. PACE team response shows a disregard for the principles of science. 2017. J Health Psychology. March 28.----------Collin, S., Bakken, I., Nazareth, I., Crawley, E., & White, P. (2017). Health care resource use by patients before and after a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME): a clinical practice research datalink study BMC Family Practice, 18 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12875-017-0635-z...


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If you are young(er) you likely know precisely what vocal fry means and if you are old(er)—probably not so much. It is a cultural phenomenon seen primarily (but not only) in young(er) women as described at the Mental Floss website: “Vocal fry describes a specific sound quality caused by the movement of the vocal folds. […]...


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"Our study indicated that the use of ART [assisted reproductive technology] may [be] associated with higher risk of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] in the offspring. However, further prospective, large, and high-quality studies are still required."So said the results of the meta-analysis published by Liang Lui and colleagues [1] (open-access) surveying the peer-reviewed research literature - "11 records (3 cohort studies and 8 case-control studies)" - between 2006 and 2015. ART covers a variety of techniques "to achieve pregnancy and live birth" most notably including IVF (in vitro fertilisation) and artificial insemination. Some, but not all, of the studies included for review suggested an *association* between ART use and enhanced risk of offspring autism particularly in "European and Asian populations." The authors were however unable to tease apart which specific ART(s) might be associated with a higher risk than others.This is not the first time that this topic has been covered on this blog (see here). On that previous occasion I intimated that the source of any risk from ART on offspring autism was not yet identified and, in some cases, other birth factors might exert some effect. In short, it's more complicated than paper titles can transmit.Does my opinion change as a result of these meta-analysed findings? Well, not really. I appreciate the findings reported by Lui and colleagues but I still think other birth factors might come into play outside of just ART exerting a primary effect. Not least is the possibility that issues affecting fertility in the first place might be particularly relevant among other confounders. I echo the sentiments of the authors that more research might be required in this area but with the various stresses and strains being placed on autism research resources these days, I'm not inclined to suggest that this area should necessarily be top of this list of priorities. Sorry.----------[1] Liu L. et al. Association between assisted reproductive technology and the risk of autism spectrum disorders in the offspring: a meta-analysis. Sci Rep. 2017 Apr 7;7:46207.----------Liu L, Gao J, He X, Cai Y, Wang L, & Fan X (2017). Association between assisted reproductive technology and the risk of autism spectrum disorders in the offspring: a meta-analysis. Scientific reports, 7 PMID: 28387368...


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