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Research Spotlight: The Autism Fever Effect is actually a heat effect



For decades, parents of certain Autistic children have noted a particular effect of fevers on their children's behaviors and moods. Multiple studies over the past 25 years have looked for an answer. They are closer after a recent study discussed but not yet published at the 2022 conference Neuroscience.


I'm interested in this topic because I have observed the fever effect in my own child. When she was recently sick, days two and three of her illness included a fever though the illness continued, the fever did not. On days two and three, her fever was about 100 when not controlled with fever-reducing medication. And during those times, she didn't seem lethargic or uncomfortable, she was just calm, more emotionally controlled, and stimmed less. She appeared to be more regulated. I recalled reading about the fever effect in the past, but the recent research is more interesting.


Building upon research over time, we know that, indeed, this effect is measurable and is present in about 17% of Autistics--those with mutations on the SCN2A or IQSEC2 genes. The effect appeared to lessen some traits and increase socialabilty. The recent and yet to be published work out of UCLA, finds that previous assumptions about this being an immune response are mistaken.


Researchers were able replicate the effects by raising the body temperature of mice with the gene mutations. There are also other recent studies using elevated temperatures to test the responses of mice and at least one case study of a person where improvements in seizure activity and cognitive ability were observed.


Researchers hypothesize that the increased body heat may be reducing the excitability of a protein (Arf6-GTP), and note that some antibiotics can can the same effect.


This research may be a building block towards helping provide some relief in the future for Autistics with significant behavior issues due to dysregulation that may also erect barriers to connection building in relationships. Look for the published journal in the near future.


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