NOTE: I'd like to thank Dr. Amaral for responding to Anne Dachel last week. We're going to move the ball forward (Superbowl analogy) by conversation. He did not have to make that effort and I am asking readers to respond to him with courtesy and manners. Even if you're really pissed. Thanks. KIM
By Anne Dachel
Recently I wrote about David Amaral, Director of Autism Research at UC Davis MIND Institute. Amaral had been quoted in a Spectrum.News.org article where he said he was “worried” about President Trump’s plans to look into vaccine safety and autism research. The piece was a call for the status quo to continue, after all, we already have the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (of which Amaral is a member) which advises HHS on autism.
In my story, Autism Scientist Worried About a Vaccine Safety Panel, I reminded readers that six years ago, Amaral was covered on PBS admitting this about vaccines and autism, “It’s not to say, however, that there is a small subset of children who may be particularly vulnerable to vaccines.
“And in their case, having the vaccines, or particular vaccines, particularly in certain kinds of situations — if the child was ill, if the child had a precondition. Like a mitochondrial defect. Vaccinations for those children actually may be the environmental factor that tipped them over the edge of autism. And I think it is incredibly important, still, to try and figure out what, if any, vulnerabilities, in a small subset of children, might make them at risk for having certain vaccinations.”
I wanted to know what happened to Amaral to make him now more worried about someone looking into the vaccine safety than about which kids are there are susceptible to a vaccine reaction.
Dr. Amaral posted this comment on my story:
The beauty of science is that you are taken where the evidence leads you. The MacNeil interview was carried out early in 2011 and at that time I thought that there was some chance that postnatal factors might lead to some cases of autism - particularly in children that had a genetic or other medical predisposing condition. But, our own research has argued against this view. Later in 2011, we published a paper about brain changes in children with and without regression (Nordahl et al 2011). We found that it was the children with evidence of regression that generally had enlarged brains. We also found that head enlargement started at 4-6 months of life - long before the behavioral regression.
Nordahl, C.W., et al., (2011) Brain enlargement is associated with regression in preschool-age boys with autism spectrum disorders. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 108(50): p. 20195-200.
Posted by: David Amaral, Ph.D.
I think that the phrase “postnatal factors” was intended as a reference to vaccines, since he didn’t actually use the word in his explanation. I was at a lost to understand how a study of regression, “enlarged brains” and “head enlargement” could nullify the claim of vaccine-induced autism.
I asked a number of experts in medical and scientific fields and advocates in the autism community for their opinions on what Dr. Amaral wrote. Here are their responses.
Response from Laura Hayes:
As I said in my recent WAPF presentation: "MIND has been a huge disappointment and has chosen to ignore and deny the unmistakable role that vaccines have played in the vaccine-induced Autism epidemic that has been plaguing our country for more than 25 years."
Furthermore, MIND has now wasted nearly 2 decades of time, money, and precious resources...thus failing miserably, and inexcusably, in its mission to find the cause of and cure for Autism, in addition to other neurodevelopmental disorders. The actions and inactions of those who comprise MIND have helped to continue and proliferate the many childhood epidemics now plaguing our children, at a rate so devastating I don't even think the powers that be are tracking it accurately anymore, as the last stat I am aware of is now years old...i.e. that 54% of U.S. children have some form or a developmental disability and/or chronic illness. No doubt, that figure is much higher now, and continuing to grow. What has MIND done to address and stop that?
Under MIND's watch, both the Autism Epidemic and the Vaccine Holocaust have continued and worsened. It appears they have no desire to stop either.
Co-Founding Family of MIND
Does not currently support MIND, and would support its immediate closure.
Response from Dr. Paul Thomas:
David Amaral has just disqualified himself as one who is honest, one who is looking for the actual causes of the autism and health crisis we find our children in. He has to know the literature on thimerosal, on aluminum and he has to know that there are no long term studies comparing unvaccinated to fully vaccinated or selectively vaccinated.
When I hear this nonsense I know I am dealing with someone who is compromised - usually by conflicts of interest, or they are just too afraid of losing their status or income or both by being open and honest on this topic.
Sadly most of my Pediatrician peers fall into this same category (conflicted or fearful) - but in their case many of them I suspect really are ignorant. I don't think David Amaral can claim ignorance.
Paul Thomas, MD
Founding Director of PIC (Physicians for Informed Consent)
Co-Chair for OFMF (Oregonians for Medical Freedom)
Author of The Vaccine-Friendly Plan
Response from Barbara Loe Fisher:
Amaral conveniently ignores the body of scientific evidence that demonstrates there is an association between biodiversity, epigenetics and individual susceptibility to harm from environmental exposures, including pharmaceutical products like vaccines. He ceases to be an intellectually honest scientist when he becomes so enamored of his own autism hypothesis that he excludes all other hypotheses because they do not conform with his own. Amaral begins with the a priori assumption that vaccines do not cause any negative changes in immune and brain development and function or genetic integrity when a fetus is exposed to maternal vaccination and an infant is injected in the first six months of life with multiple vaccines starting on the day of birth. It is ignorant to categorically dismiss a causal association between vaccination and autism when there are no large, methodologically sound scientific studies that evaluate all morbidity and mortality outcomes and measure biological and genetic changes among children in the U.S. who are highly vaccinated and those who remain unvaccinated in the first two years of life.
Barbara Loe Fisher Co-founder National Vaccine Information Center
Response from Mary Holland, Esq.
Dr. David Amaral’s insights based on the 2011 Nordahl study are interesting. But to use those insights to seemingly dismiss all postnatal factors contributing to autism is preposterous. I commend to Dr. Amaral’s attention the new and comprehensive book by Dr. Lyons-Weiler, The Genetic and Environmental Causes of Autism, looking at all contributors to autism based on over 3,000 studies. The overwhelming yet still incomplete body of scientific evidence points to the reality of postnatal autism triggers, including vaccines.
Dr. Amaral and the MIND Institute can either myopically look at studies that support the ‘no link’ vaccine-autism hypothesis, as corporate-oriented scientists have long done, or they can look at the complete body of science about autism, which clearly points to postnatal factors as well as prenatal ones.
Research Scholar, NYU School of Law, Chair Advisory Committee, Health Choice
Board Member, Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge, Co-founder and Board member, Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy
Response from Dr. James Lyons-Weiler:
Early head enlargement in and of itself if not autism.
I don't see anywhere in the Amaral publication where any part of the the study look at rates of autism in children with early tendencies toward large heads who have been vaccinated vs. children with early tendencies toward large heads who have not been vaccinated.
So, the study found that boys with ASD especially tended to show brain changes early on. But nowhere in the study is there any evidence of consideration of their vaccination status, and nowhere is there any evidence of consideration of the fates of children who had the same tendencies who were not vaccinated.
For Dr. Amaral to justifiably change his position, or to make any knowledge claim on the potential role of vaccines (or any other source of toxins), it would seem a higher level of evidence would be needed. The study simply does not address the question.
It would be worth looking into vaccination histories during pregnancy, and a look into whether anti-brain antibodies in the autistics and their moms due to vaccination during pregnancy may explain anything.
Also the new Fogarty/Lyons-Weiler hypothesis of pelvic CT scans in parents prior to pregnancy causing the increase in CNVs seen in 20% of ASD patients could contribute both to macrocephaly and ASD, involving toxic overload, including susceptibility to toxins from vaccines (and many other sources).
Autism is a multifactorial complex disorder, and simple observations like tendencies toward early head enlargement do not rule out increased susceptibility. In fact, if you think about it, it may in fact be a predictor of increased sensitivity.
Compare ASD rates in kids tending toward early macrocephaly w/ and w/out vaccines, and you may have more information.
James Lyons-Weiler, PhD
Dr. Lyons-Weiler is the CEO and President of the Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge (IPAK), a pure public charity research institute that exists to reduce human pain and suffering through knowledge. He is former faculty member in the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, the Departments of Pathology and Biomedical Informatics, and the former Senior Research Scientist and Scientific Director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Genomic and Protoemic Core Laboratories’ Bioinformatics Analysis Core. He has made key contributions (study design, data analysis) to over 100 basic, translational and clinical studies in dozens of areas of biomedicine. “The Environmental and Genetic Causes of Autism” is Dr. Lyons-Weiler’s third book, and second book released in one year.
Response from Dr. F. Edward Yazbak:
The full text of the 2011 publication by Nordahl et al mentioned by David Amaral PhD yesterday is available for review.
RE the following paragraph: “The major finding of this study is that a subset of boys with regressive autism have normal head circumference at birth, which diverges from normality around 4–6 mo of age, well before any loss of skills were documented. Thus, rapid head growth beginning around 4–6 mo of age may be a risk factor for future loss of skills. Furthermore, whereas behavioral regression in autism usually occurs between 12 and 24 mo of age, we found that the brain changes that are associated with this form of autism begin as early as 4 mo of age. This calls into question the association of pediatric vaccinations, in particular the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, administered close to the time of regression as a causal factor in the disorder. Clearly, additional studies need to be conducted to elucidate the precise neural underpinnings of this rapid head growth that precedes the behavioral onset of regressive autism.”
“Calling into question” is of course not “incontestable evidence”
Of note: The publication #18 among the macrocephaly studies seems to be by the same authors who wrote the 2011 study mentioned by Dr. Amaral. It was published very recently (November 2016) and is titled: “Persistence of megalencephaly in a subgroup of young boys with autism spectrumdisorder.”
In that study, the investigators “evaluated head circumference and total cerebral volume in 129 male children with autism and 49 age-matched, typically developing controls“
They determined that: “At 3 years of age, 19 boys with autism had enlarged brains while 110 had brain sizes in the normal range” and only seemed to conclude that their data suggested “that there is a subgroup of boys with autism who have brains disproportionate to body size and that this continues until at least 5 years of age.”
One hundred and ten sets of parents should not be very difficult to locate.
May be someone from the MIND Institute can ask them what they thought caused their child’s regression.
- Edward Yazbak MD
Response from Dr. Edward Fogarty:
I hope you can take a moment to review my associated graphical heuristic.
This was presented years ago at the UC Davis MIND institute by Kenneth Stoller, MD. This was some time after I created it for an annual North Dakota American Academy of Pediatrics chapter meeting. I was invited by my close friend Todd Twogood, MD to give an overview of the landscape facing the nation, physicians and our American families in this extremely complex situation. By my profession’s ALARA ethics of toxin dosing, one must ask why pediatric radiologists are concerned about developmental timelines and the impact of waveform toxins while the CDC and pediatricians are not when it comes to chemical toxins they control. ALARA stands for As Low As Reasonably Achievable. It is clear in the messaging and massaging of the situation which includes the muzzling of whistleblowers who know what is going on, that ALARA principles are ethics to which the whole paradigm may now drastically improve with the advent of titer-checked protocols reducing unneeded boosters in the individual patient. Backed by titer decay calculations in individual children, we have the most ethical vaccinomics approach available for implementation, but this has only been delayed by the distraction of misguided research.
The CDC and the AAP have sacrificed the ALARA ethical principle long ago on the altar of the ‘greater good’ for populations rather than the best Hippocratic ethical good for an individual. This is a most egregious situation in the current age with regards to the continued mindless use of Hepatitis B on day #1 of life. We now have a well vaccinated population of mothers in this country who have prenatal labs showing hepatitis B surface antigen antibodies from prior vaccination. This maternal-derived hepatitis B surface antigen antibody coverage gives us little current need of HepB day #1 of life. It is a fraudulent waste of money and an unneeded molecular mimicry risk as well as aluminum exposure at a defining moment in life. Maternal immuno-interference in the vaccinations of this series also actually risk multiple ineffective vaccination doses by which aluminum still does harm yet the immune system of the child derives no good leaving the child at future risk of hepatitis B infection as no one is ethically duty bound to check efficacy because of the misguided politics preventing the change in approach we need for truly individualized hippocratic care. There are other nation states that do not have our intense schedule and a lower incidence/prevalence of autism. As plausibility goes, French courts have recognized adults injured by hepatitis B vaccination for its induction of multiple sclerosis on the molecular mimicry of myelin basic protein to hepatitis B surface antigen. As plausibility and ethics are concerned here, would you advocate for your family’s next generation of neonates to have this risk applied with no reward as described here? I am guessing the answer is no, and you had no idea that this is quite plausible. I will be directing imaging research to prove the hazards of this intervention, sadly so few in academia have the real integrity to withstand the political assault that this safety research will produce.
Recalling the first ethical principle of radiology-ALARA-which is cited in the federal Nuclear Regulatory Code, one can derive an understanding of how problematic aluminum, mercury, organics such as squalene and even a complex of 3 LAVs might be for the progressively overburdened naive immune systems of children. The most dangerous day of life from a genetic standpoint for the dosing of radiation is day #1. The most dangerous day of life to inject a child with aluminum is day #1-by simple ALARA ethical principles. As alluded to above, the VAST majority of children now being born in our society no longer need a prophylactic Hep B vaccine on day one of life when the maternal antibody load to the hep B surface antigen from mom’s vaccines is the highest of all on day #1 of life. It is a possible trigger for head size increasing in the subsequent months of life. Cranial vault expansion may have its roots in many autism cases with that very important day #1 neurodevelopmental epigenetic timing event. Reading between the lines, your work is impressive but its interpretation is concerning in a way that leads one to believe someone such as yourself in the establishment of science isn’t trying to solve a problem here but rather distract from the solution. This is likely not by conspiracy but by fear of the politics of medicine and loss of research funding. The medical profession and scientific communities have seen repeated economic and professional destruction unleashed upon those who might find the inputs of autism running through the mis-timed delivery of chemicals or viral neurodevelopmental disruptors by the needle of a vaccine.
From the above simple search, one can imagine a hit to the hippocampus from aluminum in vaccines on day #1 of life in some of those kids who had hours of preceding head compression and a small bleed from a vaginal delivery (mild transient traumatic encephalopathy). On day #1 of life, this might give a combination of toxic aluminum and degradation products of iron at some of the wrong spots in the stem cell lineage nests that starts the sequence of deranged brain development. The hippocampus is too important to place at risk of molecular injuries like this on day #1.
Your work is hinting at my last paragraph, your research is a actually a sign the development of autism is well underway as a repetitive subacute on chronic metabolic encephalopathy syndrome precipitated in part by vaccine delivered toxins in a genetic population with poor cellular astrocyte and hepatic detoxification kinetics encoded in the genes. The later cognitive expression of autism is probably happening in many by repeated micro-architecture derailments occurring during the development years of the pediatric vaccination schedule timing devised by the CDC for political population based agendas. These delayed cognitive findings against cranial vault expansion that you have found are likely because it takes time for the interrupted orderly development of brain microstructure to create the distorted/disorganized connectomes of autism. Radial glial cells being the being the confused choreographers in these brains.
Great learning from the pathology crowd here: http://molecularautism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2040-2392-5-3 which suggests ideas expressed here may be quite valid.
As you know, the brain’s detoxification system is the collective of the astrocytes and microglia. As toxic insults occur with an epigenetic index favoring accumulation in the poorly detoxifying, the molecular autism piece above would suggest this toxic encephalopathy syndrome is associated with the increase of the astrocyte/neuron ratio. This creates the head size increase in advance of the developmental delay. As the astrocyte population up-regulation and interdigitated tissue expansion peaks in response to the toxin load, it is ultimately diverting reparative and restorative function to neurons and likely impairing radial glia from chaperoning neurons into the appropriate mini-columnar architecture. The Glutathione system is intimately involved here. Sadly, it seems politics are the root source of misdirected research from the MIND institute and other academic institutions that continue in the mismanagement of research dollars for information that is not helping solve this neurological detoxification crisis. This would have been figured out years ago if not for the frauds at the CDC that Dr. William Thompson has outed and this political climate. You might have already produced these answers in your work at MIND if not for the spineless lack of integrity of so many in public health and science who are afraid to focus on the real problems here. Please take these ideas and study them, they are part of the answer. The world’s leading molecular psychiatrists are pointing out an extremely important pathway of understanding for you, http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12035-014-8705-x and the diligence of others will continue to move policy towards a much better construct through ethical vaccinomics. Please help that cause in your new editorial position, for to hinder it will put you on the wrong side of history.
Edward F. Fogarty, MD
Response from Dr. Stephanie Seneff:
It's easily the case that macrocephaly is a risk factor for increased
susceptibility to encephalopathy, which is the second listed "reportable
event" in the VAERS database following an MMR vaccine. (see
https://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/help/vaers/reportable.htm). A paper by C.
Dionisi-Vici et al. ("New familial mitochondrial encephalopathy with
macrocephaly, cardiomyopathy, and complex I deficiency," Ann Neurol.
1997 Oct;42(4):661-5.) describes a syndrome consisting of a fatal
progressive macrocephaly beginning at one month of age, associated with
a deficiency in Complex I of the mitochondrial respiratory chain and
with encephalopathy. Complex I deficiency is also a common factor in
autism. To deny that the vaccine might precipitate an acute response
leading to autism that might not otherwise happen is not scientifically
Furthermore, only 15% of the autism cases in the study published by Dr.
David Amaral actually were diagnosed with macrocephaly. You can't say
that autism can be completely explained by something that only affects
15% of the autistic population.
Stephanie Seneff, PhD
Senior Research Scientist
MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Response from Dr. David Brownstein:
Surely you are aware of the epidemic increase in autism rates over the last 60 years. From the mid 1960s to the mid 1980’s, the autism rate was stable at one in 2,500 children. However, in 1995, one in five hundred children had autism. In 2014, one in sixty-eight was diagnosed as autistic. Surely you know that a rapid rise in the diagnosis of autism rules out a genetic cause for this illness?
Your article concluded that rapid head growth may be a risk factor for autism. But, the central question is what is causing the rapid head growth? Could it be an insult to the brain that causes an overload of oxidative activity in the brain?
We simply do not know the answer. One of the main reasons we do not have the answer to what is causing the autism epidemic is because the CDC has not done the proper studies looking at vaccine safety and comparing vaccinated with unvaccinated children.
Your comments perpetuate the myth that we do not need to study vaccines as a cause of autism. Where in your research do you answer the question about what is causing an increase in head circumference? And, perhaps the enlarged head circumference association you found in autistic children is the result of early vaccines such as the hepatitis B vaccine given at birth.
Dr. Amaral, you must be aware that association does not equal causation?
How can you rule out vaccines as a cause of early brain enlargement? You did not study this, you only erroneously concluded this.
Your own research did NOT argue against the view that vaccination may cause autism. In fact, your research lends one to ask further questions about what is causing the enlarged head circumference. Vaccines causing inflammation of the brain should be investigated as the cause of early brain enlargement.
David Brownstein, M.D.
Response from John Gilmore:
It is unfortunate that the director of an organization like the MIND Institute hides behind claims of following the evidence when we all know that researchers are doing everything they can not to look at the role of vaccines in causing brain damage, autism and other neurologic injuries.
Executive Director, Autism Action network.
Response from Dr. Ken Stoller:
The MIND Institute works under the auspices of University of California – Davis. You are not allowed to say anything to jeopardize funding sources—BIG PHARMA.
So it is your job to promote their disinformation.
KP Stoller, MD
Author of Incurable Me https://www.amazon.com/Incurable-Me-Research-Clinical-Practice-ebook/dp/B01HDVC84Y
I would ask readers to look at what the MIND Institute has done about autism. In 2016, the Sacramento Bee announced that there were more than 97,000 public school students in that state
http://www.sacbee.com/site-services/databases/article90300877.html with autism, and the biggest increase was in kindergarteners. The article had no explanation, except that experts were sure IT WASN’T BECAUSE OF VACCINES.
So what is being done about autism?
In 2012, AP reporter Mike Stobbe wrote the story, After $1 billion, experts see progress on autism's causes.
ATLANTA – More than $1 billion has been spent over the past decade searching for the causes of autism. In some ways, the research looks like a long-running fishing expedition, with a focus on everything from genetics to the age of the father, the weight of the mother, and how close a child lives to a freeway.
That perception may soon change. Some in the field say it's the beginning of a wave of scientific reports that should strengthen some theories, jettison others and perhaps even herald new drugs.
The effort has been infused with new urgency by a recent federal report that found autism disorders are far more common than was previously understood, affecting 1 in 88 U.S. children. Better diagnosis is largely responsible for the new estimate, but health officials said there may actually be more cases of autism, too.
Stobbe went on to explain that most of the research money was going into genetic factors in autism. So far they’ve found “dozens of risk genes” and “drug companies are said to be working on developing new treatments.” He also noted that there are “environmental influences,” mostly related to the mother. Stobbe was also adamant that Wakefield’s theory about vaccines and autism wasn’t being considered because it “has been thoroughly discredited” and that there were “dozens of later studies that have found no link between vaccines and autism.”
Instead of vaccines, MIND Institute researchers were looking at the mother’s obesity and how close the family lives to a freeway. Other scientists were studying illnesses, medications, nutritional deficiencies or other problems during pregnancy.
At the end of his article Stobbe quoted Dr. Coleen Boyle at the CDC who said, ‘We’re at the infancy of just understanding how these factors relate to autism.’
That was five years ago, and it seems we continue to be in the nursery stage of autism science since experts at the MIND Institute are still scratching their collective heads over all the kids with autism everywhere. Despite this, according to MIND’s top doctor , David Amaral, after studying brain size in autistic children, he’s convinced there is no link between injecting known neurotoxins into babies and their development of autism.
Most of all, David Amaral doesn’t want a separate commission looking into vaccine safety and scientific integrity at the CDC.