Newborn Maladjusted Foals Present With Autism


While the world is busy researching and studying the causes, effects and cures for increasing ASD symptoms among children, a very different study is being conducted by John Madigan, a professor of Veterinary in University of California and also an expert in equine neonatal health, and Isaac Pessah of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Madigan and Pessah have found remarkable similarities between the Maladjusted Foal Syndrome and Autism. The Maladjusted Foal Syndrome had confused the horse owners and veterinarians alike for years.  The foals born with this disorder seemed to be disinterested in feeding, felt detached and often fail to identify their mother.

The syndrome can be found among almost 3% to 5% of live births. However, the foals that are born with this condition, if placed under intensive care, along with tube or bottle feeding for up to ten days improves 80% of the times. Unfortunately, this is a very expensive process for horse owners.

Dr John Madigan Inspecting a Foal
Dr. John Madigan from UCLA in action while investigating possible symptoms in a maladjusted foal


swaddling and body contact techniques
Madigan’s Tactile pressure for foals uses the same concept as skin to skin contact and swaddling

Research conducted by Madigan and UC Davis’ Monice Aleman point out to neurosteroids, that can be found naturally and keeps the foal sedated during the birthing process, preventing the foal to get ‘active’ inside the womb. However, soon after the foal is born it becomes conscious and active, as the effect of natural sedation wears off.

Unfortunately, in the case of Maladjusted Foal, the effect does not seem to wear off at all. These neurosteroids have the capability to enter the nervous system, acting the same way an anesthetic does. The good news is, that the researchers have found a way to bring these foals back to active consciousness.

The remarkable part is the similarity between this syndrome and autism. The researchers agree that symptoms and causes of autism vary greatly. However, there is one commonality, all autistic people are detached to a certain extent.

The Comparative Neurology Research Group, consisting of Veterinarians, Epidemiologists and Physicians have been formed to pursue this study further. Isaac Pessah, John Madigan along with Irva Hertz-Picciotto are studying the neurosteroids among autistic children to understand the relation. The researchers are trying to find whether autism can be attributed to the abnormal levels of neurosteroids in humans during the birthing process.

However, the study so far just supports a theory – an angle in pursuit to solve the mystery behind the causes of autism. This, by no means, is an endorsed paper as a lot more needs to be done to prove any actual connection between the two disorders.

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