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Research on Autism Still Missing the Forest For The Trees

Blue forestBy  David Foster

January 5, 2016

Autism Speaks recently posted an article titled "Evidence that brain-chemical imbalance drives autism symptoms" which discusses a new study published in the journal Current Biology: "Reduced GABAergic Action in the Autistic Brain". This is an important study as it is the first to demonstrate a link between severity of autistic symptoms and reduced action of the neurotransmitter GABA in humans. GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter and several studies have found strong evidence of its association with autism, one finding reduced GABA receptor subunits in post-mortem tissue of autistic brains, and another finding disrupted GABAergic signaling in mouse models of autism (references).

Typically a finding like this would not only help us develop new methods for treating individuals with the disorder in question, it could also help us understand what might be causing the disorder in the first place. One would hope that research efforts would be motivated by both of these goals.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Caroline Robertson, is quoted in the Autism Speaks article as saying We want to see more research bridging the gap between animal and human research on autistic neurobiology, with the aim of developing new medications to ease symptoms in people disabled by the condition”.

One out of two is pretty good, at least in baseball.

If we were talking about any disorder other than autism, the next logical question the researchers -- and advocacy groups like Autism Speaks -- would be asking would be: “What could possibly cause this reduced GABA activity in the autistic brain”? If a researcher can suggest biologically plausible cause(s) that only servers to bolster their findings, and researchers do love to bolster their findings.

So why is there no discussion of what could possibly be causing this reduced GABA signaling in the autistic brain? Developing treatments for autism is a worthy goal, but shouldn’t we also be looking for ways to prevent new cases of autism?

Researchers and many advocacy groups like Autism Speaks cannot see the forest for the trees when it comes to discussing causes of autism, especially any possible association with vaccines.

Earth to Autism Speaks...mercury targets GABA receptors in the brain.

You know, mercury. Or more specifically, the ethylmercury which comprises roughly 50% of the preservative thimerosal which is still being injected in significant amounts into infants, children and pregnant women on a regular basis. There have been at least two studies showing that mercury interacts with GABA receptors (see here and here). Both studies looked at methylmercury and mercuric chloride, which does limit how their results can be interpreted for ethylmercury. Furthermore, the second study actually found conflicting results for the two compounds, showing that different mercury compounds can indeed have different effects.

So this begs the question, has ethylmercury itself been found to negatively impact GABA signaling? Why yes it has, see: Intermingled modulatory and neurotoxic effects of thimerosal and mercuric ions on electrophysiological responses to GABA and NMDA in hippocampal neurons.

"These data indicate that prolonged exposure of neurons to low micromolar THIM [thimerosal] concentrations significantly reduces both GABAergic and NMDA-evoked currents."

"We found that in control cultures, after 60-90 min exposure to the normal external solution, 18±2.5% of neurons (n=6 culture dishes tested) were classified as dead. Treatment with THIM for 60-90 min significantly increased the percentage of dead cells to 34±2.6 % for 1 μM THIM (n=6) and to 47±2.8% for 10 μM(n=6)."

The concentrations of thimerosal used in the study were quite high, but as the authors point out in the Discussion section:

"It needs to be emphasized, however, that mercurials supplied with vaccines accumulate in the brain tissue for several days (8) and it is likely that the effect reported here could appear at submicromolar THIM concentrations if administered for a prolonged time duration."

It seems reasonable to conclude that, at the very least, it is biologically plausible that the reduced GABA signaling found in the study described by Autism Speaks could be caused by exposure to mercury from vaccines, mercury amalgam, or the environment.

These researchers chose to avoid this information entirely. We have been seeing this for years, for example when the supposed “experts” ask what could possibly explain why boys are nearly 5 times more likely than girls to have autism? Of course it couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the toxicity of mercury is synergistic with testosterone, whereas estrogen is actually protective against damage from mercury exposure. We’ve seen Dr. Eric Courchesne’s research, which found that brain volume in very young autistic individuals was larger. This finding has been replicated by multiple researchers, and has even been presented as “evidence” that autism is not an environmental insult, but rather a genetic disorder which children are born with. I suppose it is not at all relevant that this exact same finding has been found in a mouse model study and the cause was exposure to mercury.

For how long must we endure research like this which focus in on one particular aspect of autism, but refuses to look at the bigger picture because, as Wolfgang Ehrengut has so aptly said, “What must not be, cannot be”?


Michael Polidori

Robertson's research was funded by Bill Gates and the NIH.
Robertson's bio also talks about understanding how we "neurodiverge", a big red flag revealing a bias toward treating autism as a normal human condition, fitting within a range of neurodiversity.

As always,
For the protection of children,
In the interests of truth and science,
Michael Polidori



I sent him several examples of vaccine safety issues he could investigate should he ever want to expand his thesis to include them (the coverup of the Vaerstraten 1999 study and Simpsonwood was one, the 2004 DeStefano MMR paper and the CDC Whistleblower was another).

Good for you, David. Hooper has similarly been loathe to link up to the broader vaccine debate. Unfortunately, I don't see a lot of us aware of his work. For anyone who isn't, I heartily encourage spending some time at the website AidsOrigins.Com.

David Foster

Twyla thank you for the references regarding aluminum's impact on GABA! This is something I had wanted to research and include as well, but ran out of time.

It is amazing how much "research" on autism is this myopic, I've lost count of the number of studies I've come across where it took me about 2 minutes to research the missing pieces. As an example and if you want to have some fun Google "mitochondria mercury".

About a month ago I came upon a very interesting article which has a very interesting take on what's happening here:

A Strange Case of Certainty


"The unresolved debate about the origin of HIV/AIDS is used as a case study investigating the power of institutional interests to control or influence what J M Keynes called the
encroachment of ideas and Michel Foucault referred to as the battle over regimes of truth. The case study examines the creation of unreasonable public certainty about an unresolved scientific dispute."

I thought it was ironic that the author, Robert Dildine, included a paragraph where he insisted he was NOT anti-vaccine...all of his children were vaccinated. I emailed him to ask him why he felt that was necessary, and to point out that it really seemed that he himself was a victim of his own thesis. He responded by basically admitting this was the case. I sent him several examples of vaccine safety issues he could investigate should he ever want to expand his thesis to include them (the coverup of the Vaerstraten 1999 study and Simpsonwood was one, the 2004 DeStefano MMR paper and the CDC Whistleblower was another).



Thank you for your comments. Can you by chance point me to the toxicologist you mentioned, who does metal testing on schizophrenics and says they are always off the charts for mercury? I believe you mentioned this toxicologist before, that he is in Canada? Yes? I would like to contact him via email (or phone) if possible and find out more about his testing.


Excellent piece David! I was also satisfied up-voting your comments at AS, and adding Dr Russell Blaylock's take on vaccines and damaged GABA receptors. Still, rather than pointing to a new revenue stream, these talks of new medications for autisn amount to just smokescreens. Autism has become such a crisis, and the medical/scientific community are so short on answers that they are grasping at any and everthing, and throwing them up in the air, hoping they will fly with the public. Reality and feasibility are not so much of concerns.

Seriously -- think about it folks -- when in the history of medicine has medication ever truly fixed brain damage or mental defects? Along this line, surely by now we should have tons of medications to solve mental retardation. And keep in mind folks, pharma has recently all but pulled the plug on all clinical trials for new autism drugs. What's driving this renewed optism? It's all merely cycling and spinning folks.

Cherry Misra

@Bob Moffit- Its the sign of the devil- the "aim of developing new medications" - NEVER PREVENT NEVER CURE NEVER RECOVER JUST MEDICATE (And be thankful that you have those meds ! )

Cherry Misra

@lisa - Absolutely right. the only thing you have left out is Alzheimers disease , which we know for sure is caused by mercury. Why??? .....Because when they have a conference on Alzheimers Disease, they never invite the mercury toxicologists (insert laughter) who have at least 4 good research papers that point to mercury as the cause.
I have a dream that one fine day all the sufferers of mercury toxicity and those in their family who suffered because of their suffering- will get together and wipe out the scourge. But speaking of missing puzzle pieces- we have another one here- FISH ! The fishing industry does not want us to talk about mercury in fish.
Getting back to schizophrenia- the similarities to autism are many and one person who does mercury testing of schizophrenic patients, says that he has never had samples that were not off the charts for mercury. We have to face the facts- When it comes to mercury , we live in the Dark Ages.

tears of despair

Who makes money from Mercury mining and otherwise and who would be liable ?

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Hyperacusis (hands over the ears) is the most striking evidence of impaired inhibitory function in autism. Most of us are able to relegate the sound of a vacuum cleaner as background noise within seconds. Inhibitory neurotransmitters like GABA or serotonin prevent ongoing firing of neurons in the auditory pathway that evoked initial awareness of the machine being turned on.

Animal experiments more than 50 years ago provided evidence of auditory system damage caused by asphyxia at birth. Damage of the same auditory relay centers by heavy metals like lead and mercury, as well as poisonous substances, has also been reported in the medical literature.

I have been, and will continue to try to point out the vulnerability of the auditory system, and it's possible involvement in autism, especially the language handicap. Among many comments I recently submitted for the next IACC meeting, I have asked Dr. David Amaral to consider conducting experiments on asphyxia at birth with monkeys, then to compare developmental delay and brain injury with that reported by WF Windle back in the 1960s. Brain injury can now be looked for with MRI and fMRI rather than killing the monkeys.


For those who will say, "But the mercury preservative thimerosal is no longer used in most vaccines." Besides the fact that thimerosal is still used in some vaccines, and that mercury has continued to increase in the environment --

Aluminum (used in vaccines as an adjuvant) also impacts GABA systems. For example:

Neuropathology of aluminum toxicity in rats (glutamate and GABA impairment).
"Aluminum levels were high in brain specimens of the treated groups comparing to the control and it was dose-dependent. Marked increase in glutamate and glutamine levels was noticed while GABA level was significantly decreased. The most pronounced changes in brain tissue included spongioform changes in the neurons specially those of hippocampus, nuclear deformity, and neurofibrillary degeneration, similar to neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer's disease. It is concluded that accumulated aluminum in brain and altered amino acid neurotransmitters are important mechanisms of aluminum neurotoxicity."

Effects of aluminium exposure on brain glutamate and GABA systems: an experimental study in rats.
"The glutamate level increased significantly in the cerebrum, thalamic area, midbrain-hippocampal region and cerebellum in response to in vivo aluminium exposure. The aluminium insult also caused significant increases in glutamate alpha-decarboxylase activity in all the brain regions. However, on aluminium insult, the GABA content was not significantly changed except in the thalamic area, where it was elevated. On the contrary, the GABA-T activities of all the regions were reduced significantly in all regions except the midbrain-hippocampal region. However, the succinic semi-aldehyde content of all brain regions increased, often significantly. The aluminium-induced modification of the enzyme activities may be either due to the direct impact of aluminium or due to aluminium-induced changes in the cellular environment. The aluminium-induced differential regional accumulation of glutamate or other alterations in enzymes of the glutamate-GABA system may be one of the causes of aluminium-induced neurotoxicity."

Driving through the forest, the autism scientists were able to arrive at the "GABA-disruption-autism link" place, but after that when they continued driving they found that the road to the "GABA-disruption-mercury-aluminum" place was completely blocked off.

The mercury and aluminum scientists driving up the other side of the mountain arrived at the "GABA-disruption-mercury-aluminum" place but the "GABA-disruption-autism link" place was completely blocked off.

And never the twain shall meet, if our govt-pharma complex has it's way - thus failing to develop a better understanding of both prevention and treatment.

Just like the "Autism-immune system" research is blocked from continuing on to the "autism-immune system-vaccines" road.

And what a shame that the only goal mentioned is new medications. Like providing better pain meds to a man who keeps getting hit on the head by falling bricks, instead of addressing the cause of the falling bricks and the man's susceptibility to harm while standing under them.


I agree that research should be focused on the need to prevent the future rising rate of autism to end this tragic epidemic. I also feel that since our children have already been affected by this tragedy it is critical that research should also focus on correcting the damage done to our children who already have the diagnosis of "autism."


You ask, for how long must we endure research like this? As the sister of a schizophrenic man, I can tell you that the answer may well be: More than 150 years, because that's how long this type of research that has been going on about schizophrenia. Both schizophrenia and autism appear to be part of the same cluster of disorders, which has led me to conclude that they most likely result from the same environmental insult: mercury. Vaccines are the primary source of mercury for autism, and it looks increasingly likely that dental amalgams (50 % mercury by weight) are the primary source of mercury for schizophrenia. Same environmental insult, different delivery system, different timing. And because both disorders are man-made epidemics, scientists naturally must avoid doing any research that could possibly reveal this deep, dark secret. I have been reviewing all the research on mercury amalgams. It is strikingly similar to the research on vaccines in one very important respect: No matter what the study, there is never a control group (i.e. a comparison group of people with no amalgams, large enough and followed for sufficient duration to reach statistical significance on any measure). Coincidence? Highly unlikely. Conspiracy? Well, you be the judge.


Not only does mercury to it but they can get our own body and brain to produce antibodies against both GABA and NMDA- Many different kinds - they think.

So it is not just mercury.

What a mess.

Lisa Thompson

Excellent, well written synopsis!

Bob Moffit

"The study’s lead author, Dr. Caroline Robertson, is quoted in the Autism Speaks article as saying “We want to see more research bridging the gap between animal and human research on autistic neurobiology, with the aim of developing new medications to ease symptoms in people disabled by the condition”.

Apparently .. Dr Robertson well recognizes "more research" on "autistic neurobiology" will only be financed and supported if it will serve to increase the "development of new medications" .. and .. the potential profits such medications may provide.

After all .. "people disabled by autism" have created a multi-BILLION DOLLAR industry .. an industry so wide and diverse it would include Autism Speaks .. and .. finding the "cause" of autism would not serve the "heavily vested interests" that have profited so handsomely as the rate of autism inexplicable increased from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 45.

That Dr Roberston ignores the logical and critical argument her research may "prevent" the future rising rate of autism .. in favor of arguing her research may lead to the "development of new medications" .. while predictable .. is .. none-the-less shameful.

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