الإثنين 22 يوليو 2024

Newborn Foals and Childhood Autism

موقع أيام نيوز

Is there a common denominator between equine neonatal maladjustment syndrome in newborn foals and children born with autism? 

According to a University of California, Davis, press release, foals born with maladjustment syndrome seem detached, don’t recognize their dams, and they have no interest in nursing. The condition, also known as dummy foal syndrome, occurs in three to five percent of live foal births. However, with intensive care, 80 percent of the foals recover.

For years, the syndrome was thought to be caused by hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen during birth. But hypoxia results in serious, permanent damage. Most foals with maladjustment syndrome, though, not only survive but they have no lingering health problems.

Veterinary researchers at the University of California, Davis, wondered why and began looking for other possible causes. They were drawn to the foals’ sense of detachment which was eerily similar to detachment symptoms displayed by all autistic children.

“The behavioural abnormalities in these foals seem to resemble some of the symptoms in children with autism,” said John Madigan, a UC Davis veterinary professor and an expert in equine neonatal health.

The maladjustment syndrome in foals also caught the attention of Isaac Pessah, a professor of molecular biosciences at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and a faculty member of the MIND Institute (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders).

Madigan, Pessah, and other veterinary researchers teamed with their colleagues in human medicine to investigate possible connections between the disorder in foals and childhood autism. One common link seemed to be abnormal levels of naturally occurring neurosteroids which not only sustain pregnancies in horses but keep the foal with its long legs and tiny hooves relatively quiet in the womb. But immediately after birth, the foal must be ready to scramble up, know its mother, nurse, and be able to run in the face of predatory danger. Somewhere in the birthing journey, a biochemical “switch” must activate the process and that switch could be the physical pressure exerted on the foal’s body during passage through the birth canal.

Curiously, many foals with maladjustment syndrome were either delivered by cesarean section or had a very rapid birth.