The starting point of the scientific process is to come up with a decent question that just begs to be answered. Sometimes it takes someone with a different perspective on the problem to generate new research questions. Such hypotheses can sometimes make people who are up close with the problem feel a bit uncomfortable. It can feel like the wrong questions are being asked. But history makes clear that left of field ideas can be the starting point of major revolutions in scientific knowledge.
Caroline Rodgers is a left of field thinker. She has been puzzling over autism since the 1960s and as a non-medical thinker brings fresh ideas to the table. Caroline recently published a piece which poses a new hypothesis for testing (Rodgers, 2020). The hypothesis questions whether the rapid increase in incidence of autism spectrum disorders seen over the past fifty years might be due to the increasing use of, and increased duration of exposure to, Doppler ultrasound during labour in the form of intrapartum CTG monitoring.
The paper makes for interesting reading, and suggests a number of options for how the hypothesis might be tested. Caroline recently spoke with Neurologist Dr Manuel Casanova, and the interview has been published on his blog Cortical Chauvinism. If you aren’t able to access the paper in Medical Hypothesis, you can read what Caroline has to say on the blog. The arguments she presents for why this is a reasonable question to ask are sound. I hope that someone picks up on this and takes it further, as the information gained might help to make sense of autism and other neuro-atypical conditions.
Rodgers, C. C. (2020, Dec). Continuous electronic fetal monitoring during prolonged labor may be a risk factor for having a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Medical Hypotheses, 145, 110339. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2020.110339