Sunday, April 09, 2006

Autism: a deeper understanding of the "face" problem

It's not a surprising breakthrough, but it's an interesting study that is consistent with an emerging picture. They studied ASD persons with above average IQ. I know someone like that.
BBC NEWS | Health | Weak brain links 'explain autism'

...Dr Geoff Bird, at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, who led the research, said: 'The standard view of social problems in ASD is that there is a problem in the part of the brain that processes faces.

'Our research suggests that this is not the real problem - it seems to be that paying attention to faces doesn't lead to the normal increase in brain activity.

'This is because the face-processing areas of the brain are not well connected to those parts of the brain that control attention - such as the frontal and parietal regions.
So persons with autism can indeed process facial data well, but the data doesn't connect up with anything. It gets handled like any other visual input, it doesn't benefit from special networks that facilitate social interaction. Presumably those networks involve "mirror neurons". My personal wild guess is that the motor neuron network is sacrificed during early development to compensate for other brain injuries.

In time we may understand how to create electronic aides, "cognitive prostheses", to compensate for some of this ...

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