Deborah A Pearson

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas, United States

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Publications (41)120.78 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Abstract
    Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 09/2014; 8(9):1134-1145. · 2.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Manganese is an essential element for human health and development. Previous studies have shown neurotoxic effects in children exposed to higher levels of manganese. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs social interaction and communication. Several studies have hypothesized that ASD is caused through environmental exposures during crucial stages in brain development. We investigated the possible association between blood manganese concentrations (BMC) and ASD. We also identified factors associated with BMC in typically developing (TD) Jamaican children.
    Environmental health : a global access science source. 08/2014; 13(1):69.
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives Studies have suggested a link between diet and behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Parental reports of behavioral changes upon exposure to gluten and/or casein are common in clinical practice. An association between diet type, intestinal permeability (IP) ('leaky gut'), and behavior has been long proposed but not substantiated. We explored this possible association in this trial. Methods This randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study explored the effects of gluten and milk on IP and behavior in children with ASDs over a period of 4 weeks. IP assessed by lactulose:mannitol (L/M) sugar permeability test and behavior assessed by the Aberrant Behavior Checklist and Conners Parent Rating were measured. Gastrointestinal symptoms in both groups were also monitored. Results Neither the L/M ratio nor behavioral scores were different between groups exposed to gluten/dairy or placebo. The changes observed were noted to be small and not clinically significant. Discussion Our study although underpowered to show small differences does not support an association between dietary gluten/milk, IP, and behavioral changes in subjects with ASD.
    Nutritional Neuroscience 02/2014; · 1.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Some have suggested that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may present with less recognizable autistic-like phenotypic characteristics, leading them to highly systemizing occupations. Using secondary analysis of data from two previous studies of children with ASD, we tested associations between parental occupations and ASD diagnosis and the association of parental occupational characteristics on ASD severity. We found that fathers in healthcare (P < 0.01) and finance (P = 0.03) were more likely to have children with ASD. Additionally, joint effects of parental technical occupations were associated with communication (P < 0.01) and social impairment (P = 0.04). These results support that a “broader phenotype” and possible assortative mating in adults with autistic-like characteristics might contribute to intergenerational transmission and having offspring with greater ASD severity.
    Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 01/2014; 8(9):997–1007. · 2.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors vary widely in type, frequency, and intensity among children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. They can be stigmatizing and interfere with more constructive activities. Accordingly, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors may be a target of intervention. Several standardized instruments have been developed to assess restricted interests and repetitive behaviors in the autism spectrum disorder population, but the rigor of psychometric assessment is variable. This article evaluated the readiness of available measures for use as outcome measures in clinical trials. The Autism Speaks Foundation assembled a panel of experts to examine available instruments used to measure restricted interests and repetitive behaviors in youth with autism spectrum disorder. The panel held monthly conference calls and two face-to-face meetings over 14 months to develop and apply evaluative criteria for available instruments. Twenty-four instruments were evaluated and five were considered "appropriate with conditions" for use as outcome measures in clinical trials. Ideally, primary outcome measures should be relevant to the clinical target, be reliable and valid, and cover the symptom domain without being burdensome to subjects. The goal of the report was to promote consensus across funding agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and clinical investigators about advantages and disadvantages of existing outcome measures.
    Autism 11/2013; · 2.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Despite the high rate of anxiety in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), measuring anxiety in ASD is fraught with uncertainty. This is due, in part, to incomplete consensus on the manifestations of anxiety in this population. Autism Speaks assembled a panel of experts to conduct a systematic review of available measures for anxiety in youth with ASD. To complete the review, the panel held monthly conference calls and two face-to-face meetings over a fourteen-month period. Thirty eight published studies were reviewed and ten assessment measures were examined: four were deemed appropriate for use in clinical trials, although with conditions; three were judged to be potentially appropriate, while three were considered not useful for clinical trials assessing anxiety. Despite recent advances, additional relevant, reliable and valid outcome measures are needed to evaluate treatments for anxiety in ASD.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 10/2013; · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: An established neural biomarker of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has the potential to provide novel biological and pharmacological targets for treatment. Lower level of inhibition in brain circuits is a leading biomarker candidate. A physiological investigation of the functional levels of inhibition in the cortex of individuals with autism can provide a strong test of the hypothesis. The amplitude of cortical response to the stimulation of adjacent fingers is controlled by the level of cortical inhibition and provides just such a test. Using magnetoencephalography, we recorded the response of the somatosensory cortex to the passive tactile stimulation of the thumb (D1), and index finger (D2), and to the simultaneous stimulation of both fingers combined (D1,D2) of the dominant (right) hand of young subjects with and without autism. For each participant, we measured the response to the stimulation of both fingers combined (D1,D2) relative to the post hoc sum of the responses to the stimulation of each finger alone (D1+D2) in multiple different ways and linearly regressed the ASD and neurotypical (NT) groups' responses. The resulting slopes were then compared: Smaller slope values imply attenuated response to paired finger stimulation, and enhanced levels of inhibition. The short-latency M40 and mid-latency M80 response slopes of the group with autism obtained in different ways were either significantly smaller, or statistically indistinguishable from NT. The result does not support reduced inhibition in the somatosensory cortex of individuals with autism, contrary to the seminal hypothesis of reduced inhibition. Implications are discussed including refinements of current theory. Autism Res 2013, ●●: ●●-●●. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Autism Research 08/2013; · 3.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the behavioral effects of four doses of psychostimulant medication, combining extended-release methylphenidate (MPH) in the morning with immediate-release MPH in the afternoon. Method: The sample comprised 24 children (19 boys; 5 girls) who met American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (DSM-IV-TR) criteria for an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), and had significant symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This sample consisted of elementary school-age, community-based children (mean chronological age=8.8 years, SD=1.7; mean intelligence quotient [IQ]=85; SD=16.8). Effects of four dose levels of MPH on parent and teacher behavioral ratings were investigated using a within-subject, crossover, placebo-controlled design. Results: MPH treatment was associated with significant declines in hyperactive and impulsive behavior at both home and school. Parents noted significant declines in inattentive and oppositional behavior, and improvements in social skills. No exacerbation of stereotypies was noted, and side effects were similar to those seen in typically developing children with ADHD. Dose response was primarily linear in the dose range studied. Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that MPH formulations are efficacious and well-tolerated for children with ASD and significant ADHD symptoms.
    Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology 06/2013; 23(5):337-51. · 2.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Emerging evidence for differences between individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and neurotypical (NT) individuals in somatic processing and brain response to touch suggests somatosensory cortex as a promising substrate for elucidating differences in functional brain connectivity between individuals with and without autism. Signals from adjacent digits project to neighboring locations or representations in somatosensory cortex. When a digit is stimulated, i.e. touched, its representation in cortex is directly activated; local intracortical connections indirectly activate nonprimary cortical representations corresponding to adjacent digits. The response of the nonprimary cortical representations is thus a proxy for connection strength. Local overconnectivity in autism implies that the nonprimary/primary response ratios of the ASD group will be higher than those of the NT group. D1 and D2 of the dominant hand of the participant were individually stimulated while we recorded neural responses using magnetoencephalography. The cortical representations of D1 and D2 (somatosensory-evoked fields) were computed from the ensemble-averaged data using (a) dipole model fits and (b) singular value decomposition. Individual adjacent/primary response ratios were measured, and group response ratio data were fitted with straight lines. Local overconnectivity in autism implies steeper ASD vs. NT group slopes. Our findings did not support local overconnectivity. Slopes were found to be significantly shallower for the ASD group than the NT group. Our findings support the idea of local underconnectivity in the somatosensory cortex of the brains of individuals with ASD. Autism Res 2013, ●●: ●●-●●. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Autism Research 02/2013; · 3.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Parent and teacher ratings of core attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, as well as behavioral and emotional problems commonly comorbid with ADHD, were compared in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Participants were 86 children (66 boys; mean: age=9.3 years, intelligence quotient [IQ]=84) who met American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (DSM-IV) criteria for an ASD on the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Parent and teacher behavioral ratings were compared on the Conners' Parent and Teacher Rating Scales (CPRS-R; CTRS-R). The degree to which age, ASD subtype, severity of autistic symptomatology, and medication status mediated this relationship was also examined. Significant positive correlations between parent and teacher ratings suggest that a child's core ADHD symptoms-as well as closely related externalizing symptoms-are perceived similarly by parents and teachers. With the exception of oppositional behavior, there was no significant effect of age, gender, ASD subtype, or autism severity on the relationship between parent and teacher ratings. In general, parents rated children as having more severe symptomatology than did teachers. Patterns of parent and teacher ratings were highly correlated, both for children who were receiving medication, and for children who were not. Parents and teachers perceived core symptoms of ADHD and closely-related externalizing problems in a similar manner, but there is less agreement on ratings of internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety). The clinical implication of these findings is that both parents and teachers provide important behavioral information about children with ASD. However, when a clinician is unable to access teacher ratings (e.g., during school vacations), parent ratings can provide a reasonable estimate of the child's functioning in these domains in school. As such, parent ratings can be reliably used to make initial diagnostic and treatment decisions (e.g., medication treatment) regarding ADHD symptoms in children with ASDs.
    Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology 07/2012; 22(4):284-91. · 2.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Arsenic is a toxic metal with harmful effects on human health, particularly on cognitive function. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are lifelong neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders manifesting in infancy or early childhood. We used data from 130 children between 2 and 8 years (65 pairs of ASD cases with age- and sex-matched control), to compare the mean total blood arsenic concentrations in children with and without ASDs in Kingston, Jamaica. Based on univariable analysis, we observed a significant difference between ASD cases and controls (4.03 μg/L for cases vs. 4.48 μg/L for controls, P<0.01). In the final multivariable General Linear Model (GLM), after controlling for car ownership, maternal age, parental education levels, source of drinking water, consumption of "yam, sweet potato, or dasheen", "carrot or pumpkin", "callaloo, broccoli, or pak choi", cabbage, avocado, and the frequency of seafood consumption per week, we did not find a significant association between blood arsenic concentrations and ASD status (4.36 μg/L for cases vs. 4.65 μg/L for controls, P=0.23). Likewise, in a separate final multivariable GLM, we found that source of drinking water, eating avocado, and eating "callaloo, broccoli, or pak choi" was significantly associated with higher blood arsenic concentrations (all three P<0.05). Based on our findings, we recommend assessment of arsenic levels in water, fruits, and vegetables, as well as increased awareness among the Jamaican population regarding potential risks for various exposures to arsenic.
    Science of The Total Environment 07/2012; 433:362-70. · 3.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mercury is a toxic metal shown to have harmful effects on human health. Several studies have reported high blood mercury concentrations as a risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), while other studies have reported no such association. The goal of this study was to investigate the association between blood mercury concentrations in children and ASDs. Moreover, we investigated the role of seafood consumption in relation to blood mercury concentrations in Jamaican children. Based on data for 65 sex- and age-matched pairs (2-8 years), we used a General Linear Model to test whether there is an association between blood mercury concentrations and ASDs. After controlling for the child's frequency of seafood consumption, maternal age, and parental education, we did not find a significant difference (P = 0.61) between blood mercury concentrations and ASDs. However, in both cases and control groups, children who ate certain types of seafood (i.e., salt water fish, sardine, or mackerel fish) had significantly higher (all P < 0.05) geometric means blood mercury concentration which were about 3.5 times that of children living in the US or Canada. Our findings also indicate that Jamaican children with parents who both had education up to high school are at a higher risk of exposure to mercury compared to children with at least one parent who had education beyond high school. Based on our findings, we recommend additional education to Jamaican parents regarding potential hazards of elevated blood mercury concentrations, and its association with seafood consumption and type of seafood.
    Neurotoxicity Research 04/2012; · 2.87 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Several studies have reported maternal and paternal age as risk factors for having a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), yet the results remain inconsistent. We used data for 68 age- and sex-matched case-control pairs collected from Jamaica. Using Multivariate General Linear Models (MGLM) and controlling for parity, gestational age, and parental education, we found a significant (p < 0.0001) joint effect of parental ages on having children with ASD indicating an adjusted mean paternal age difference between cases and controls of [5.9 years; 95% CI (2.6, 9.1)] and a difference for maternal age of [6.5 years; 95% CI (4.0, 8.9)]. To avoid multicollinearity in logistic regression, we recommend joint modeling of parental ages as a vector of outcome variables using MGLM.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 01/2012; 42(9):1928-38. · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We probed differences in the ability to detect and interpret social cues in adults and in children and young adolescents with and without autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by investigating the effect of various social and non-social contexts on the visual exploration of pictures of natural scenes. Children and adolescents relied more on social referencing cues in the scene as compared to adults, and in the presence of such cues, were less able to use other kinds of cues. Typically developing children and adolescents were no better than those with ASD at detecting changes within the various social contexts. Results suggest children and adolescents with ASD use relevant social cues while searching a scene just as typical children do.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 04/2011; 41(4):434-46. · 3.06 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Vision - J VISION. 01/2010; 10(7):1299-1299.
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    ABSTRACT: One of the key ideas regarding atypical connectivity in autistic brains is the hypothesis of noisier networks. The systems level version of this hypothesis predicts reduced reliability or increased variability in the evoked responses of individuals with autism. Using magnetoencephalography, we examined the response of individuals with autism spectrum disorder versus matched typically developing persons to passive tactile stimulation of the thumb and index finger of the dominant (right) hand. A number of different analyses failed to show higher variability in the evoked response to the thumb or to the index finger in the autism group as compared with typicals. Our results argue against the hypothesis that the brain networks in autism are noisier than normal.
    Neuroreport 10/2009; 20(17):1543-8. · 1.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The comorbidity of 'core characteristics' and sensorimotor abnormalities in autism implies abnormalities in brain development of a general and pervasive nature and atypical organization of sensory cortex. By using magnetoencephalography, we examined the cortical response to passive tactile stimulation of the thumb and index finger of the dominant hand and lip of the individuals with autism spectrum disorder and typically developing persons. The distance between the cortical representations of thumb and the lip was significantly larger in the autism group than in typicals. Moreover, in cortex, the thumb is typically closer to the lip than the index finger. This was not observed in persons with autism. Our findings are arguably the first demonstration of abnormality in sensory organization in the brains of persons with autism.
    Neuroreport 01/2009; 20(2):175-179. · 1.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: One of the most widely reported developmental deficits associated with autism is difficulty perceiving and expressing emotion appropriately. Brain activation associated with performance on a new task, the Emotional Congruence Task, requires judging affective congruence of facial expression and voice, compared with their sex congruence. Participants in this pilot study were adolescents with normal IQ (n = 5) and autism or without (n = 4) autism. In the emotional congruence condition, as compared to the sex congruence of voice and face, controls had significantly more activation than the Autism group in the orbitofrontal cortex, the superior temporal, parahippocampal, and posterior cingulate gyri and occipital regions. Unlike controls, the Autism group did not have significantly greater prefrontal activation during the emotional congruence condition, but did during the sex congruence condition. Results indicate the Emotional Congruence Task can be used successfully to assess brain activation and behavior associated with integration of auditory and visual information for emotion. While the numbers in the groups are small, the results suggest that brain activity while performing the Emotional Congruence Task differed between adolescents with and without autism in fronto-limbic areas and in the superior temporal region. These findings must be confirmed using larger samples of participants.
    Perceptual and Motor Skills 11/2008; 107(2):557-75. · 0.49 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We used neuropsychological tasks to investigate integrity of brain circuits linking orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala (orbitofrontal-amygdala), and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and hippocampus (dorsolateral prefrontal-hippocampus), in 138 individuals aged 7-18 years, with and without autism. We predicted that performance on orbitofrontal-amygdala tasks would be poorer in the Autism group compared to the Non-Autism group regardless of intellectual level (verbal mental age, VMA) and that performance on dorsolateral prefrontal-hippocampus tasks would be associated primarily with intellectual level. Predicted differences between Autism and Non-Autism groups on orbitofrontal-amygdala tasks were present but greater in individuals with higher VMA. On dorsolateral prefrontal-hippocampus tasks, poorer performance by the Autism compared to the Non-Autism group was found at all VMA levels. Group differences suggest both brain circuits are impaired in autism, but performance on all tasks is also associated with intellectual level.
    Neuropsychologia 02/2008; 46(1):49-62. · 3.48 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

553 Citations
120.78 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2008–2014
    • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
      • • Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
      • • School of Public Health
      Houston, Texas, United States
  • 1995–2014
    • University of Texas Medical School
      • Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
      Houston, Texas, United States
  • 2001–2013
    • University of Houston
      • Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
      Houston, TX, United States