Psych News Roundup: Autism, Web Addiction, Obesity
> 2/7/2010 10:37:59 AM

The famed British medical journal Lancet officially retracted what may be the most contentious study in its recent history.

The 1998 report that initially linked the development of autism to heavy metals in childhood vaccines has been thoroughly debunked in the years since it was initially published, and the journal finally acted in accordance with an overwhelming scientific consensus in erasing the study from its database and effectively dismissing its conclusions. This is good news for those who advocate the sensible treatment of autism and its related disorders. The doctor involved in the study will undoubtedly still inspire devotion among some parents, but his credibility in the eyes of the international medical community is now nil.


Internet addiction has been firmly linked to a greater likelihood of clinical depression.

Individuals who spend inordinate amounts of time online may be displaying symptoms of a chronic mental health disorder. The researchers behind a newly published British study could not say whether web addiction prompted depression or simply served as evidence of a pre-existing disorder, noting that the relationship between the two conditions will almost certainly vary from case to case. One thing is certain: individuals who compulsively go online and replace real-life communication with social networking are considerably more likely to be diagnosed with depression. Those who most frequently visited sites related to pornography, online gaming and internet communities displayed much higher rates of moderate to severe depression. This study may lend credence to the long-held belief that there's no effective replacement for face-to-face contact with other people.


A missing gene may be responsible for some cases of extreme obesity.

British researchers found that a statistically significant minority of severely overweight individuals also had an unusual genetic variation in which certain sections of their  DNA profiles were missing. This isn't to say that all or even a notable minority of obesity cases are genetic in nature (experts believe the total to be approximately 1 in 20 cases), The DNA variation in question was only observed in 7 of every 1,000 severely obese subjects. Still, researchers noted that none of the subjects with healthy BMIs had the same genetic irregularities. The changes were first observed among subjects with learning disabilities or developmental disorders; such individuals are also more likely to have weight problems.

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