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Medicine Science

Rewiring the Autistic Brain 139

sciencehabit writes "Signs of autism — such as impaired social skills and repetitive, ritualistic movements — usually begin to appear when a child is about 18 months old. Autism is thought to result from miswired connections in the developing brain, and many experts believe that therapies must begin during a 'critical window,' before the faulty circuits become fixed in place. But a new study (abstract) shows that at least one malfunctioning circuit can be repaired after that window closes, holding out hope that in some forms of autism, abnormal circuits in the brain can be corrected even after their development is complete."
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Rewiring the Autistic Brain

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  • by BenoitRen ( 998927 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:44PM (#41340491)

    Great, now we'll be able to fix all of them! We really need that! /sarcasm

    I for one find this very offensive. It's like telling all autistics they're malfunctioning.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:57PM (#41340635)

    I'm unhappy with my intellectual abilities and I have a PhD and no mental issues. If someone could fix me to make me smarter, that sounds great. So I'm not sure what you are getting at. Why wouldn't many autistics like to have improved mental functioning, when many normal people do too? In any case yes, autistics are malfunctioning. You may find that offensive in the same way that I find it offensive that my body is set to malfunction within 100 years. Unfortunately facts don't become false just because they are offensive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14, 2012 @06:00PM (#41340681)

    Preface: I'm diagnosed with asperger's, a form of high-functioning autism, and I do a lot of work relating to autism advocacy.

    That being said, the language might need a little work, but we don't try to pretend a person with a deformed arm doesn't have a deformed arm. People on the autism spectrum tend to have a variety of physical issues relating to gut bacteria, mitochondrial function, nutritional levels and other things. Many of these issues can also be seen in their mothers, and there's some strong correlation between certain nutritional levels in the mother and the incidence of autism. There's really no question that autism has a physical element. It's somewhat disingenuous to try to talk as if autism isn't a "malfunction" in the human body.

    If someone is missing a leg, and goes on to lead a normal life anyway, you don't pretend like it never happened, you stand proud of them for overcoming it. If you want to support those on the spectrum, be proud of those who accept that there's something malfunctioning in their body and find a way to make life work despite that. Don't try to pretend like there's nothing malfunctioning, because the first message that sends is "if you can't do it, it's all your fault" and you'd never tell that to a person who couldn't walk because they had a deformed leg.

  • by Earl_Parvisjam ( 2621029 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @06:04PM (#41340753)
    WTF are you talking about? Do you have any idea what autism is or are you just making crap up? Here's a hint, Autism isn't ADD. Cripes, it's bad enough some people think it's caused by vaccinations without this sort of uninformed blather.
  • by TemperedAlchemist ( 2045966 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @06:05PM (#41340765)

    We are, in a way. But you know what's to be said about judging a fish on its ability to climb a tree. Only we're like monkeys that have difficulty learning how to climb trees, and perhaps more importantly, don't like climbing trees even if we do learn.

    Should we learn how to climb trees? Definitely, you don't know when you might need to climb a tree as a monkey. But perhaps not all monkeys have to climb trees to be monkeys. Maybe they're perfectly happy on the ground using sticks to eat bugs. Not liking climbing trees (and being absolutely terrible at it) shouldn't mean there's something wrong that needs to be corrected.

    And think of all the things the ground monkey can explore. On the ground there are rivers to play in and lots more space than up in the trees. And maybe that's what the monkey community needs, monkeys that can find nice fresh sources of water on the ground or somewhere to bathe as well as monkeys that enjoy living their whole lives in trees eating fruit and swinging around.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14, 2012 @06:06PM (#41340791)

    The tone is offensive yes, but I can entirely understand the motivation to help those with low-function autism live more normal lives. However, being HFA myself, I'm not certain I'd want to be "fixed" at this point. I wouldn't be myself, and I've grown to accept who I am.

    However, growing up without some of the social and emotional problems I have faced would have been much more pleasant, and it makes perfect sense why a parent might want to help keep a child from going through it. And for LFA things can be much, much worse.

  • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:58PM (#41342459)

    Define improved.

    If you gain social intelligence at the cost of creativity, have you been improved?

    If you can suddenly understand the opposite sex and get them to sleep with you quickly, but no longer do basic math in your head, is that a good trade?

    Problem with brain re-wiring is that you won't often "unlock a secret room full of new abilities", more often you'll open a new processing section that needs training and demands resources from other functions.

  • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @11:36PM (#41343435)

    Correlation is not causation. A fraction of autistic people (10%) are naturally gifted at math or creativity, but that doesn't mean that autism causes that talent. It is quite possible that the genetic causes for autism ALSO cause savant syndrome, and that we could cure the former without touching the latter. Even if not, we could cure the 90+% that don't get any benefit from their autism, and leave the savants untouched

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?