Autism & vitamin D

Vitamin D hormone regulates serotonin synthesis. Part 1: relevance for autism
The FASEB Journal. June 2014. 28(6): 2398-2413
Rhonda P. Patrick and Bruce N. Ames

Serotonin and vitamin D have been proposed to play a role in autism; however, no causal mechanism has been established.

Here, we present evidence that vitamin D hormone (calcitriol) activates the transcription of the serotonin-synthesizing gene tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2) in the brain at a vitamin D response element (VDRE) and represses the transcription of TPH1 in tissues outside the blood-brain barrier at a distinct VDRE.

The proposed mechanism explains 4 major characteristics associated with autism:

  • the low concentrations of serotonin in the brain and its elevated concentrations in tissues outside the blood-brain barrier;
  • the low concentrations of the vitamin D hormone precursor 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D3];
  • the high male prevalence of autism;
  • and the presence of maternal antibodies against fetal brain tissue.

Two peptide hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, are also associated with autism and genes encoding the oxytocin-neurophysin I preproprotein, the oxytocin receptor, and the arginine vasopressin receptor contain VDREs for activation.
Supplementation with vitamin D and tryptophan is a practical and affordable solution to help prevent autism and possibly ameliorate some symptoms of the disorder.

DSM-5 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

DSM-5 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry

The new guidebook, DSM-5, contains significant changes to the criteria currently used to diagnose autism, including incorporating several diagnoses into the single diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). AACAP crafted a list of Frequently Asked Questions to help families who have a child with autism understand the impact of these changes.
In addition, we updated the Fact for Families on Asperger’s. For more information, visit AACAP’s Autism Resource Center.

AACAP also created a new Facts for Families on the new diagnosis Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD).

How A Pregnant Woman’s Choices Could Shape A Child’s Health

How A Pregnant Woman’s Choices Could Shape A Child’s Health
September 23, 2013

There’s growing evidence that epigenetics is critical in determinin g a child’s risk of developing problems ranging from autism to diabetes, says Dani Fallin, who studies the genetics of mental disorders at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Much of what’s known about the epigenetics of pregnancy comes from experiments with mice, specifically a group of genetically identical agouti mice.
When these mice are exposed to certain chemicals or put on a special diet during pregnancy, it switches on the agouti gene in their offspring.
That causes the pups to produce a lot of agouti protein, which turns their fur a striking yellow.

The agouti protein also prevents these mice from feeling full, no matter how much they eat, Murphy says.
“So they become very obese and are predisposed to developing diabetes and cancer,” she says

But the results of epigenetic changes don’t necessarily appear at birth or even during childhood.
That’s because things that affect development very early in life can show up decades later, she says.

“At specific places, we see differences in the brains from the autistic children,” she says. “That’s important because those particular genes may give us a clue about what’s being turned on and off differently in autistic children.”


Epigenetic influence and disease.
Nature Education, 2008. 1(1)
Simmons, D.

H3K4me3 Breadth Is Linked to Cell Identity and Transcriptional Consistency
Cell, 158(3): 673–688, 31 July 2014
journalistic version:


Schandra Singh

THE ROSE GARDEN, 2005, Mixed media on canvas

Schandra Singh

A Picture is Worth A Thousand… Dollars.
This American Life. Apr 19, 2013
Painter Schandra Singh usually sells her paintings to wealthy art collectors.
So when she gets a letter from a father of a boy with autism, saying his son loves her work, she decides to do a trade with him, one of her sketches for one of his.
It’s only later that she realizes she’s not the only artist in her circle of friends who got that letter.
Reporter Scott Pinkmountain looks into who is behind the form letter. (24 minutes)