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September 2011



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Archive for September 22nd, 2011



Genetic Mutation Links Inherited Narcolepsy With Multiple Neuropsychiatric Disorders


Article Date: 11 Sep 2011 – 0:00 PDT


Narcolepsy is a rare disorder characterized by an excessive urge to sleep at inappropriate times and places. Narcoleptics are also often subject to “cataplexy,” a sudden muscle weakness that is triggered by strong emotions. Although most cases of narcolepsy are thought to be caused by complex mechanisms, a small percentage of cases are associated with unidentified inherited mutations. Now, a new study published by Cell Press in the American Journal of Human Genetics uncovers a mutation that causes narcolepsy in a large family affected by the disorder. The research sheds new light on the genetics of inherited narcolepsy and provides intriguing insight into other complex neuropsychiatric disorders.


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Insomnia Exhausts US Productivity

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 2, 2011


Have trouble sleeping at night? If so, you are not alone as new research shows that insomnia is costing the average U.S. worker 11.3 days, or $2,280 in lost productivity every year. That’s $63.2 billion for the nation as a whole; 252.7 days.


“We were shocked by the enormous impact insomnia has on the average person’s life,” said lead author Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D.


“It’s an underappreciated problem. Americans are not missing work because of insomnia. They are still going to their jobs but accomplishing less because they’re tired. In an information-based economy, it’s difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity.”


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Is the Circadian Rhythm Less Effective with Age?

Women, sleep, and age

  • 1.  Difficulty falling asleep
  • 2.  Trouble staying asleep
  • 3.  Problems with daytime alertness

In addition to difficulty with nightly sleep, as we age we’re less likely to be able to cope with disruptions to our night-day routines, including difficulty adapting to time-zone changes, or working non-traditional hours, late at night or early in the morning.


Sleep is a critical factor in our long-term health and well being:studies show that it can play an important role in extending health and longevity and lack of sleep, in turn, can pose serious health consequences as we age.


Women face particular challenges to sleep throughout their lives. Research shows they are more likely than men to experience difficulty sleeping. Evidence also suggests that over time, sleeplessness can have a more serious impact on women’s overall health than on men’s. Some of the sleep challenges for women are a matter of physiology, and others can be a matter of the many roles and responsibilities that women so often take on, particularly as mothers.


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Will chats about Anne Droyd, The Feeling’s Unmutual, Doctor Who and Asperger Syndrome in this interesting and not to be missed interview with host John S. Drew.


Will published his debut children’s novel Anne Droyd and Century Lodge in 2002. It was later republished as an “Asperger adventure” in 2004 alongside Will’s autobiography The Feeling’s Unmutual. The latter was endorsed by Doctor Who actor Colin Baker and Tripods author John Christopher.


In 2008 Will published Anne Droyd and the House of Shadows. The third instalment, Anne Droyd and the Ghosts of Winter Hill, is due in February 2010.


His latest book, a teen novel entitled The Blueprint, will be released this Fall.


To Tune in:

September 20, 2011


When I unwrapped my New York Times on Sunday, I was met with a surprise: A front-page, above-the-fold story about a young adult with autism. The story — a must-read, which you can do here — follows Justin Canha, a 20-year old with autism as he stretches towards adulthood and aspires to an independent life. The feature, written by Amy Harmon, who won a National Academies communication award last week for her  “Target: Cancer” series, is beautifully wrought and a joy to read. It’s already been praised as a brilliant and insightful piece of medical journalism on blogs and twitter.


But I want to praise it for something else. Many articles about autism focus on the highest-functioning people on the spectrum, who certainly struggle socially, but who are brilliant beyond average academically or in some other quirky way. (Often they have Asperger’s syndrome, which will no longer be a diagnosis with the publication of the fifth edition of the psychiatric handbook,  the DSM-5, in May 2013, merging into the broader autistic spectrum.) Instead, Harmon celebrates Justin, a young man with a knack for cartooning, but whose autism is more familiar to me than in any profile I’ve read thus far.


And I am quite familiar with autism, as my youngest brother, Jonah, is on the autistic spectrum. There was a point in my life when I had to explain what autism was nearly every time I spoke about him. But I rarely have to do that anymore. As soon as I mention his diagnosis, acquaintances sigh with recognition, as if they know what that means. And, no doubt, they know more than they once did: autism awareness has never been higher, with one in 110 children born now diagnosed. But I wish I were still given the chance to explain. Too frequently, they follow-up with statements about his intellectual gifts — “Oh, he must be really smart then.” — a sign of the influence of the stories about those with high-functioning autism.


I usually laugh, and respond, “ah, yes, he is smart.” But I don’t mean ‘smart’ in any way that society currently values. At nearly 16-years old, Jonah can’t count change or multiply. He has favorite books, but he flips through them too frantically to actually absorb the text. I swell with triumph whenever we have a conversation that lasts longer than 30 seconds, an actual exchange rather than repetitions of his favorite topics, which include pasta shapes, wheeled vehicles, and what we’re having for dinner that night. What I see as his ‘smartness’ is his view of the world, little influenced by the social and societal pressures that feed my own insecurities.


In her article, Harmon gets at that smartness in her descriptions of Justin. It’s very difficult to articulate but, given the expanse of a feature, she was able to do it through dialogue and his interactions with others. And my eyes teared up as I recognized Jonah, the kind of autism that I know and love so dearly, in an autistic character portrayed elsewhere.


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The software testers at Aspiritech are a collection of characters. Katie Levin talks nonstop. Brian Tozzo hates driving. Jamie Specht is bothered by bright lights, vacuum cleaners and the feel of carpeting against her skin. Rider Hallenstein draws cartoons of himself as a DeLorean sports car. Rick Alexander finds it unnerving to sit near other people.


This is the unusual workforce of a U.S. startup that specializes in finding software bugs by harnessing the talents of young adults with autism.


Traits that make great software testers — intense focus, comfort with repetition, memory for detail — also happen to be characteristics of autism. People with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, have normal to high intelligence and often are highly skilled with computers.


Aspiritech, a nonprofit in Highland Park, Ill., nurtures these skills while forgiving the quirks that can make adults with autism unemployable: social awkwardness, poor eye contact, being easily overwhelmed. The company’s name plays on the words “Asperger’s,” “spirit” and “technology.”


Clients, nine companies in Aspiritech’s first two years, have been pleased.


“They exceeded my expectations,” said Dan Tedesco of Shelton, Conn.-based HandHold Adaptive, which took a chance on Aspiritech to test an iPhone application. “There is a pride in their product you don’t usually see in this type of work.”


Aspiritech was founded by Moshe and Brenda Weitzberg after their son, Oran, now 32, was fired from a job bagging groceries. Oran was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 14. He now works at Aspiritech.


“He went from failing at bagging groceries to being one of the best software testers on our team,” said Brenda Weitzberg.


The Weitzbergs modeled Aspiritech on a successful Danish company called Specialisterne, or “the Specialists.” Specialisterne also employs software testers with autism. Its satisfied clients include Oracle and Microsoft.


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