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Rewiring the Autistic Brain

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the neurosurgery-by-tim-allen dept.

Medicine 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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139 comments

First! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340443)

Yay

But, but... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340463)

Who will write our file systems??

Anyone else insulted by this? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340469)

Most symptoms of an ASD can be patched over with a little studying & practice & I know this from experience.

Re:Anyone else insulted by this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340857)

Maybe if u have ass burgers but just autism would not be so fun.

Re:Anyone else insulted by this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41342431)

Only the most mildest forms. But sense you probably don't relate to other people very well, maybe you don't realize that other people have it worse than you do.

Patched over is not repaired (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41343385)

Posting as AC, since I don't want my employer to read this.

I have been diagnosed with aspergers. Anyone I have encountered in over 40 years on this planet that has any form of autism, mild or not, has to use their conscious brain functions to "patch" what "neurotypicals" have woven into their subconscious brain. People that think they are "superior to neurotypicals" in general don't realize what the part is they are missing. They are mistaking a high IQ for superiority while in practice, people with lower IQs as themselves but not with autism, tend to be more successful in life; in procreation, in happiness and in fortune.

Sure, their higher IQs may make them "better citizens", but their high IQ and the decisions they make because of that, are not directly because of their autism. There are plenty of people with autism that don't have a high IQ, they get diagnosed with other forms like "classical autism" because they lack the brain power to consciously pick up the lack of social adaptation. This is a classical case of correlation is not the same as causation. I'm getting tired of those autistic people thinking they are superior just because they (once again) fail to see the point of social skills. The ones claiming this are usually not independently wealthy happy fathers, but rather single male workforce people that have individualistic jobs with no leadership requirements. Very few are female, but other than the single bit, they tend to be rather unhappy and not incredibly well off.

Regarding the OT, I am skeptical about actual repair. I do hope it is possible since it takes a lot of energy to get by in normal life, even if you are "well adapted" like I classify. However, I think that if you only look at behavioral results, you may mistake conscious learning and decision making for actual instinctive behavior. Further testing will have to be done before claims should be made.

Re:Patched over is not repaired (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41344793)

I'm basically a person like you described. I've given some thought as to the way I plan to live my life versus the "normal people" as you describe and finding niches and spaces where I can thrive. I'm well-spoken and deal with basic emotions very well but can't relate to emotions linked to social functioning for my life - trying to relate to these in another person just makes me feel nothing.

I'm thinking a big part of this is making sure I don't artificially limit myself by being bitter about it or alienating myself even more from "normal people". Feeling nothing is easier to paint over than feeling anger and paranoia after all, and those emotions waste a lot of energy.

Let's fix them all! (4, Insightful)

BenoitRen (998927) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let's fix them all! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341459)

" In any case yes, autistics are malfunctioning."

You mean like the warmongering, wage caste loving, profiteering, superstitious, corrupt, law abusing "normal people"? We could make an excellent case that normality is just popular malfunctioning.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about 2 years ago | (#41341635)

The fight between "neurotypicals" and those within the ASD spectrum will be ongoing. Don't absolve ASD members of the problem with most of the problems you mention, caused by another disorder: sociopathy, and narcissism.

Re:Let's fix them all! (-1, Troll)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 2 years ago | (#41342475)

Not all autistics are democrats.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41343093)

Nope, some see the "duality" of US politics as all right wing. Only difference is moderately right wing or way out in the fog.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341921)

Everyone has mental issues.

Being unaware of them is rarely an indication of their insignificance.

If you rewire my brain, it may leave a person who functions in the way that others find desirable, but who it does not leave is me.

Also, please don't assume that the fact that I lack social intuition means I lack intelligence, and also don't assume that I think that you having a PhD makes me presuppose your intelligence to be greater than mine or even just greater than average. I spontaneously taught myself to read college-level books and to do math. When I was in school, I would get into arguments with teachers about subjects, and I never lost. When I was three years old I could remember entire books word-for-word and repeat them. I also taught myself how to do my profession, and have been asked by several others if I have a PhD in the subject. No, autistic brains just work by learning every detail about whatever subjects they find interest in, and their knowledge thereof often exceeds all but the highest experts.

I have had to memorize social behaviors to be successful in work. I am not social. But I don't need to be "fixed".

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 2 years ago | (#41342501)

With 1/50 male children being diagnosed "on the Autisim spectrum," the category catches a wide variety of people these days, with a lot of variation in social and abstract intellectual functioning.

Re:Let's fix them all! (4, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

macraig (621737) | about 2 years ago | (#41342861)

I wish I had mod points handy right now. +1 Insightful

Re:Let's fix them all! (3, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | about 2 years ago | (#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

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 2 years ago | (#41344201)

That of course presumes that savants could be detected during the critical window (however large it may be), and that parents would rather have a savant than a child that they can readily relate to.

Re:Is that a good trade? (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#41344937)

"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?" Notice the word Basic. Let's change that to "Complex".

Maybe, and this is in a sense exactly what the Autism *spectrum* is all about. A word from the New Age lit is useful here: Esoteric. Autistic people often tend to like esoteric things. The word has connotations of "obscure but with mystique wrapped in with it". Looking at the item I re-quoted, what "Creativity" are we referring to? Nice, socially understandable Creativity like a nice song? Or living in a room where the spatial layout of everything is symbolically congruent to the XOR of observed behavior in a particular bee hive and a particular ant hill that the person studied and recorded? Isn't that "Creative" too? Sure it is. But doing XOR insect calculations in your head doesn't help you in a conversation with a budding romantic partner.

So suppose the autistic person can do seven different types of that kind of creativity. None of them help with a date. He might indeed be willing to trade those kinds of calculations for "slowing down" and "magically" seeing better social results.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

HideyoshiJP (1392619) | about 2 years ago | (#41344947)

I would say that would be entirely up to the person in question to define "improved."

Re:Let's fix them all! (2)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#41342887)

Would you be as anxious for the treatment if it was likely to alter your personality and might leave you unable to understand your own doctoral thesis?

The higher functioning autists might indeed opt-out of such a treatment. It's hard to say what the more withdrawn autists would think of it.

Re:Let's fix them all! (-1, Flamebait)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 2 years ago | (#41340651)

and the "funny" thing is you give some of these Geeklings half a small Red Bull with their cereal in the morning they will be fine.
(but then again RedBull is cheaper than Alderal so that won't fly with the doctors)

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340747)

Now see, that's offensive (to the people actually diagnosed with Autism). Even as a joke it's trivializing a real condition.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about 2 years ago | (#41342137)

Well I can't speak for others, but caffeine does help "treat" my condition. I grow more comfortable socially and it's easier.

But that's not necessarily fixing anything, just removing a bit social anxiety doesn't mean I small talk with the best of them. I still don't understand people or social nuance with caffeine, it just makes me more willing to passionately rabble on about something that fascinates me. Ask me about the weather and I'll probably start talking about cloud seeding or cosmic rays contributing to more cloud cover.

I'll probably make a great professor someday.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 2 years ago | (#41342505)

Alcohol also removes the social inhibition - regardless of neurotype.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41343099)

Or terrible, depending on the students attending.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1, Insightful)

Earl_Parvisjam (2621029) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41344079)

> Autism isn't ADD.

Correct, but approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of Aspies DO have symtoms that more or less totally overlap with the symptoms of "inattentive" ADD. So many and so completely, in fact, that there's controversy over whether "inattentive" ADD is a variant of ADHD that neutralizes some of the otherwise-debilitating conditions of AS, or a completely different condition that simply represents the mildest form of ASD and has symptoms that coincidentally overlap with ADHD.

One easy way to recognize members of this group: they can often be described as "swashbuckling introverts" -- individuals who can feign neurotypicality -- sometimes, quite well -- but get drained and fatigued by it. Especially when younger, they crave attention, fame, and admiration... then feel crushed and violated by it when it actually happens.

For many aspies, this is their first real encounter with depression... the devastating chapter in their lives when it really sinks in that their new, recent, well-rehearsed "normalcy" was all an act, and that no matter how good they might become at acting... it's always going to BE just an act. A really fatiguing act, at that.

Face-blindness is common among this group -- they have a hard time recognizing people by face, especially when they see them "out of context". A few young aspies decide to do porn on the rationale that nobody will recognize them with their clothes on in other contexts... then learn the hard way that others DO, in fact, easily recognize people's faces, including those of fully-clothed former porn stars who now teach elementary school.

Re:Let's fix them all! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41342407)

> give some of these Geeklings half a small Red Bull with their cereal in the morning they will be fine.

No they won't. A parent who gives a child caffeine in lieu of methamphetamine, dextroamphetamine, Adderall, or even Concerta should be jailed for abuse. Scientology propaganda and public hysteria aside, amphetamines are actually pretty mild drugs (at least, at the dosages normally used for ADHD and AS). In their pure dextrorotary form (desoxyphedrine, d-amphetamine), they have extremely mild PNS side effects compared to caffeine.

20mg of desoxyphedrine (at the high end of the dose scale) will barely have any effect on heart rate or blood pressure. The amount of caffeine (100-250mg) necessary for comparable psychostimulant benefits will give you heart palpitations, and might send your blood pressure high enough to put you at serious risk of a major stroke. In fact, that's the main reason why there's so much hysteria over meth, and none over caffeine -- the former's lack of PNS side effects is what makes it possible for someone to consume recreational dosages and live to tell about it. A 20 year old who takes a gram of methamphetamine is risking major addiction, but the dose itself is unlikely to singularly cause any lasting harm. In contrast, if that same 20 year old consumed a gram of caffeine (a fraction of the amount he'd need to experience euphoria) he'd probably die from cardiac arrest -- and he wouldn't have a smile on his face when it happened.

Re:Let's fix them all! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340661)

Yes, let's all join the donkey burger pride movement and pretend that people aren't diagnosed with autism because they're impaired. They're just the next step in evolution, amirite?

Re:Let's fix them all! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340899)

FTFY Ass burgers

Re:Let's fix them all! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341249)

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.

Wouldn't I?

This is the internet; you have no idea how big an asshole I am IRL.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341335)

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.

Wouldn't I?

This is the internet; you have no idea how big an asshole I am IRL.

I've a pretty good idea. [goatse.ru]

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#41342927)

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 the same token, you wouldn't insist that they give up their prosthetic in favor of a more normal looking but potentially less useful transplanted leg. You might offer that choice.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 2 years ago | (#41343315)

By the same token, you wouldn't insist that they give up their prosthetic in favor of a more normal looking but potentially less useful transplanted leg.

Are you referring to the monkey brain prosthetics [slashdot.org] two stories up from this one, or is this yet another example of Just World Fallacy (you couldn't possibly just be shafted, so every problem you got saddled with must have some kind of at-least-equal payback)?

You might offer that choice.

This, actually, rises a question: as our knowledge of brain increases, at what point do we stop needing consent from misworking circuits to apply repairs? Probably not at autistics, but should we listen to the protests of a sociopath who insists that he doesn't want to feel empathy (but will almost certainly go on to harm lots of people if not cured)? How about a crazy religious fanatic? Or even anyone with any kind of religious beliefs at all - they're enemies of reason, after all? Or shall we go another route and cure atheists of their childish need to rebel against clear and obvious gospel truth, whatever that might be? A republican (or anyone you disagree with politically)? A drug addict? A delusional paranoid? An anti-vaccination activist?

This whole thing is opening a huge can of worms, and since people still sometimes publicly defend eugenics (of the forced sterilization of people they consider inferior variety) even on Slashdot, I'm not at all certain humanity can handle it in a way that won't turn into a horror movie very fast.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#41343789)

What part of LEG sounds like monkey brain prosthetic? :-)

But no, it's not a just world fallacy, it's just a matter that disruptive changes to a person in adulthood can be devastating even if it seems 'obvious' that it should be a good thing. People blind from early childhood or birth who have their vision 'fixed' as adults rarely get much use from their new vision but have been known to commit suicide. I can't imagine that having such a thing forced upon them would be a good idea.

Likewise it may seem to us like a transplanted leg would be superior to a prosthetic. It may BE superior for someone who has just lost their leg. In practice, it might be a liability for someone who is already well adapted to their prosthetic. It's not as if they'll hop off the surgical table and go for a jog.They may even go from Olympic contender to barely managing to limp with a cane.

As for the rest, that is a big part of why I say it may be offered but not insisted upon. It is a huge can of worms. Lets just say I have zero confidence in our legislators or judges to make the right call there if we allow for ANY compulsory treatments.

In the case of the sociopath, they don't have to be cured if they don't want to be, but at the same time society is not obligated to allow a sociopath to harm others.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340729)

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.

They are. Just as much as a diabetic, hypoglycemic, or any other individual with a disease. They're body is not performing within acceptable levels of "normal," and if there is something that can be done to return them to baseline, then it's probably a good thing.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41342339)

Ah, and you are the one who gets to define "normal" I take it?

Re:Let's fix them all! (5, Insightful)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341005)

I get the analogy but it doesn't stop there... My nephew who has autism /asperges will only eat white bread, mc Donaldson chicken nugget meals n popcorn chicken nugget meals n saos needless to say that's a terrible diet and as he gets older it will take its toll n probably lead to a lower life expectancy. So Yeh any improvement in treating autism even if he lost his amazing artistic ability. Although obviously it's a spectrum n some autistic people will eat more normally

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341255)

I get the analogy but it doesn't stop there... My nephew who has autism /asperges will only eat white bread, mc Donaldson chicken nugget meals n popcorn chicken nugget meals n saos needless to say that's a terrible diet and as he gets older it will take its toll n probably lead to a lower life expectancy. So Yeh any improvement in treating autism even if he lost his amazing artistic ability. Although obviously it's a spectrum n some autistic people will eat more normally

Yeah... I'm autistic and I used to have exactly the same diet when I was about 4 (I think?). My parents put their foot down, and now I'll eat just about anything. Even if it is caused by an obsession (which it doesn't sound like it is, in my uninformed opinion), you can still un-learn bad habits. People aren't defined solely by their mental disorders.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

CODiNE (27417) | about 2 years ago | (#41342537)

I've spent years slowly learning how to eat brussel sprouts, mushrooms, mayo, mustard, cooked carrots, shrimp, calimari... those aren't really big deals but damn if I'll ever like eggs! Working on that for the last 3 years and I just hate em. It's the texture... like chewing on snot or something. At least I can tolerate them once in a while and won't starve if I'm stuck somewhere with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#41342949)

A lot of kids are like that at 4, autistic or not.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41343035)

I was pretty hardcore as a child about eating only specific things, but my mom made it a hundred times worse than it had to be by trying to force me to eat things (and worse, eat large quantities of things that were forced upon me). My willingness to try other foods didn't really thaw until I was in college & could try food in the cafeteria with zero risk of having to eat something I didn't like. There are still certain foods that the mere sight of is enough to put me at risk of throwing up, in no small part thanks to my mom force-feeding them to me as a child.

Neurotypicals rarely understand, but to an Aspie child, force-feeding is basically rape. Maybe worse. At least rapists don't feel entitled to beat you afterwards for crying or throwing up after they force disgusting objects into your body.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#41342879)

and it frees up their hands so that monkeys can clobber other monkeys with sticks and stones

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

macraig (621737) | about 2 years ago | (#41342903)

You know what you're describing, don't you? It's the beginning of a speciation event, one based not on physical incompatibilities but behavioral and cognitive ones. It's happened to primates before.

I'd have settled for a +1 Insightful, but my modpoints wallet is empty.

Re:Let's fix them all! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41344769)

The tone is offensive yes, but I can entirely understand the motivation to help those with low-function autism live more normal lives.

Drugging, segregating or genetically altering a child to make it fit a standardized configuration is not an acceptable solution when it entails fundamentally changing who they are. Autism isn't like schizophrenia - we are born with it, it can't be removed without destroying us as it is at the core of how we perceive the world and choose to interact with it. This is the reason that even after learning to socialize, most of us do not choose to do so beyond what is required to survive in society. The aspects of the trait perceived as negative can be negated with parenting that focuses on nurturing what a child is good at and teaching them they can attain what they want through interactions with society. The benefits after a proper upbringing far outweigh any perceived negatives, even as outsiders perceive them to exist.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341603)

You might not want to be able to interact with other people better, but I would. It's not offensive.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41342205)

My autistic son is aggressive, self injurious, and nonverbal. Nice that _you_ are offended by the possibility his life could be improved.

Re:Let's fix them all! (1)

memnock (466995) | about 2 years ago | (#41343011)

I just found out about an alternative hypothesis to the cause of autism: inflammation in the pregnant mother. Apparently an immune disorder in a mother will affect the unborn child.

https://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opinion/sunday/immune-disorders-and-autism.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all [nytimes.com]

I didn't read any further on the topic, but the article does reference at least one researcher, so one could see what kind of study has been performed to support this idea.

Re:Let's fix them all! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41343765)

If they can fix the semi-aggressive autistic guy who volunteers at work, bring it on. When he comes in, I get fuck all done.

He'll sit there, pick at his eczema and then drop the scabs on the floor. If there's something nearby, he'll pick it up and fondle it and then put it down. You tell him to get something done (I'm 2IC) and he'll respond in the affirmative, and then not do it. He wanders into my office, and then sits down for 90 minutes, bothering me with constant interruptions, demanding constant attention and conversation.

Please, fix this guy. Get him a paying job somewhere, and keep him the hell out of my office. He won't listen to me.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41344951)

Stop blaming Bill, Steve.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

ahabswhale (1189519) | about 2 years ago | (#41344081)

They are.

Re:Let's fix them all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41344723)

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.

As someone born with autism I agree - this is incredibly offensive. Anyone that seriously considers this an option deserves to be shot - whether something survives or not, rewiring a brain is murder.

I thought... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340609)

autism was caused by a distant father and a dominering mother. That's what I heard.

Re:I thought... (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about 2 years ago | (#41340961)

Totally wrong. The condition is most likely genetic or metabolic. I have two grandkids who are autistic and i've never been tested but hey I'm on slashdot!

Re:I thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41342331)

Actually, it may be caused not by a distant father, but an old father in some cases.

If bad thriller movies have taught us anything... (5, Informative)

StefanJ (88986) | about 2 years ago | (#41340693)

...any experiments along these lines will lead to the subjects developing terrifying mental powers, leading to a series of events ending with the callous lead scientist having his head explode.

Re:If bad thriller movies have taught us anything. (1)

Coppit (2441) | about 2 years ago | (#41341705)

Where do I sign up?

Re:If bad thriller movies have taught us anything. (2)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 2 years ago | (#41342057)

Or... as the previous attempts at rewiring the brain did.... lobotomies.

Re:If bad thriller movies have taught us anything. (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 2 years ago | (#41342543)

Oh you pretty things (oh you pretty things)
Don't you know you're driving your
Mamas and papas insane
Oh you pretty things (oh you pretty things)
Don't you know you're driving your
Mamas and papas insane
Let me make it plain
You gotta make way for the homo superior

David Bowie 1971

No surprise here (3, Informative)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 2 years ago | (#41340725)

For decades it was thought that no new nerve cells could grow in the brain. In the last few years we have discovered that the nervous system is more plastic than we thought.
That said, it is obviously more flexible the younger you are, so if you can spot signs of neurological problems early and devise treatment regimens to offset, balance, or repair those problems it makes sense to do it as early as possible, even if it can be done to some degree later.

Re:No surprise here (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 2 years ago | (#41342579)

Judging by the article, any human trials of this are 20+ years out.

Re:No surprise here (1)

jcaplan (56979) | about 2 years ago | (#41343445)

Creation of new nerve cells (neurons) in the adult human brain has only been only confirmed in a couple areas. (Granule cells of the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, an area involved in forming new memories and cells which migrate to the olfactory bulb.) Much searching in other places including studies looking at uptake of radioactive particles from atmospheric nuclear bomb testing has shown that if new neurons are created in other areas, the rate must be extremely low. The plasticity of the adult nervous system comes from forming new connections between neurons, pruning existing connections, changing the strength of those connections and changing the sensitivity of a neuron to inputs. This forming of new connections and changing of connection strengths between neurons is lifelong and robust and is key to adult learning. Research that showed "critical periods" for certain kinds of brain development, such as binocular vision, led some to assume that this meant that new learning was more limited than it is and this idea sometimes got mixed in with the rarity of new neuron growth as a limit to plasticity. All that said, early intervention can be hugely helpful as the young brain is much more plastic than the adult brain.

The treatment regimen for the mice was to stop suppressing the gene that they had attached a chemically activated genetic switch to, so this particular treatment would not be applicable to humans who haven't been genetically engineered from birth to have this switch in the first place. If it were possible to insert a copy of this gene into humans with the proper regulation that might be a route for treatment, but the regulation bit is critical and difficult and I believe beyond what we can do with current technology. Perhaps someone who actually knows genetics might be able to comment on this question better than I.

They do suggest that there could be treatments for this genetic defect. They mention that drugs that block the (metabotropic) glutamate receptor "might hold promise for designing treatment strategies for non-syndromic autism," since the gene in question regulates this glutamate receptor.

The cool thing about the paper is that is showed that they could "rescue" the mice by turning on the gene switch and they were able to see that the mice recovered typical function at a cellular level and at a behavioral level, suggesting that if it were possible to re-enable this gene in humans that you might see some similar effects.

PS If you want to read the original paper, post here and I'll send you the pdf.

other conditions may benefit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340855)

This might have beneficial repercussions for conditions that range inside the encephalopatic epilepsies continuum. The resulting disabilities are considered in a large part to emanate from interferences in brain development during the aforementionned critical windows.

There is no such thing as autism or "aspbergers". (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340869)

They are curse words used by idiots to describe what used to be called "nerds" or "geeks" or "Poindexters". These fake diseases need to stop. Seriously. Stop hiding between made-up bullshit diseases. I'm probably going to be called an "ass-pie" or "assburger" now, but... no. I suck at attracting females and a bunch of other social things, but there is no need to label that with a disease. I am fully aware of it and don't try to hide it. I don't need a fictional "condition" to hide behind.

The worst, however, are people who proudly announce themselves to have these fake "diseases". They are even worse than the dumb people who use them as insults.

Asperger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340891)

Asperger is a form of high functioning autism. If someone is socially awkward, but good at logic due to this, I wonder if this rewiring would have any effect, and if so if itd remove the social awkwardness but at the cost of the logic skills.

Re:Asperger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341109)

Maybe, but at what point to you start fixing people who aren't really broke.

Re:Asperger (1)

mrbester (200927) | about 2 years ago | (#41341253)

Time for a car analogy!

My car has shitty gas mileage but is fast and powerful. Should I fuck around with the engine so it performs more like the societally accepted "norm" of a Jetta?

Re:Asperger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341367)

Why the assumption that your car would be any less powerful? If something in it is genuinely wrong, it'll probably be *more* fast and powerful after you fix it. It's a terrible analogy.

Meany recent nutritional treatments for autism addressing mitochondrial misfunction and deficiencies of things like folinic acid result in children scoring higher on cognitive function assessments as well as decreasing symptoms of autism. Basically, they fucked around with the engine and the gas mileage got better, but so did the top end and 0-60.

The assumption that "fixing" autism is all about making them normal is somewhat narrow minded. It's not unbelievable that one day we'll be able to get rid of the deficits without harming any blessings someone on the spectrum might have.

Re:Asperger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41343243)

Yeah, but you have to admit that there's a difference between giving someone suppliments that the body should have, and using drugs or other methods to block symptoms and otherwise screw with things.
The first method is probably OK, the second will probably cause them to lose some advantages and such.

Going back to the car analogy, improving the timing and fuel quality/additives to get better emissions is one thing, as it would also improve performance. Doing stuff like recirculating exhaust gas on the other hand... worsens performance instead.

-RobbieThe1st

Re:Asperger (1)

mrbester (200927) | about 2 years ago | (#41344905)

But isn't putting additives in fuel the same as prescribing supplements / drugs to correct a perceived flaw? My engine is fine, does what it was designed to do and does it well. It wasn't designed for urban pootling in low gear, unless I give it drugs to "correct" this "problem" (quoted because it isn't a problem that needs correcting in my opinion; it's my car, not some focus group's)

Re:Asperger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41343257)

It depends. We really don't know enough about cause & effect when it comes to autism spectrum disorders. One theory says that kids with AS develop better logic as a coping mechanism, or as an alternative to social empathy, and wouldn't have developed those abilities without it. Another theory is that brute-force intelligence is basically what determines where a kid wired for ASD ends up on the spectrum... supra-genius? Aspie. Normal intelligence? Classic textbook autism.

I tend to think it's more of the former than the latter, but not entirely one or the other. Pithy motivational posters aside, the potential of the human brain is NOT infinite. It's more like a big, soggy FPGA with a chunk of rewritable flash, and a lot of write-once memory.

In computer terms, here's how I see the difference between neurotypical and aspie brains:

Neurotypical: 8-core Intel Atom running at 1GHz with 256mb of primary cache, 512mb of ram and a terrabyte hard drive. Effortless multitasking and social interaction, which depends upon nonstop parallel processing to work effectively.

Aspie: dual-core AMD64 overclocked to 4GHz with a gig of primary cache & petabyte SSD RAID array for long-term storage, but only enough ram to back up a single set of register data, and a bug that causes all cache to get flushed whenever an IRQ fires while another is being serviced. The net result is that the obsession of the moment has blisteringly-fast execution speed, but any interruption that comes along and demands the Aspie's full undivided attention is going to cause a stack overflow and total loss of everything in working memory that wasn't backed up to the hard drive before it happened.

trying to fix everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340903)

desperate parents trying to fix everything that don't suit how they want things.
this is completely unethical, it's good we research it but we should never give parents the power to make their world perfectly flawless...
the perfect world syndrome is also a disease...

No such thing as 'autism' (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41340921)

'Autism' is simply the natural reaction of a child to a traumatic experience (or experiences) in their early childhood - 99% of the time, committed by their parents.
Hence the refusal to look their parents in the eye, refusal to accept affection, etc. from their parents, tantrums if anything is changed in their environment.

This laughable bullshit about 'rewiring circuits in the brain' is unbelievable. What we have is a bunch of sociopaths who are incapable of feeling the feelings of others (hey, that sounds just like the Slashdot fucktards who are reading these very words) who will do ANYTHING to deny the suffering of others. So they try to turn it into a 'computer game'. What idiots.

Read 'The Siege' by Clara Claiborne Park (I think that's her name), where she rather stupidly reveals how she beat the crap out of her daughter, and then lo and behold - her daughter stopped talking to her! This whole 'autism' bullshit is just sickening.

Just like the modern myth of 'dyslexia' - blaming the child and telling them there is something wrong with their brain, rather than with the dumbass teaching methods which taught them to learn to read the wrong way. Read 'Why children can't read' by Dianne McGuinness.

Cue Slashdot tossers ignoring the FACTS I've posted above and doing ANYTHING to avoid questioning the 'party line' - you fucking retards.

Re:No such thing as 'autism' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341139)

Enjoy the wall of hate and despair you've built around yourself.

Re:No such thing as 'autism' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341827)

What a brilliant, scientific rebuttal! Do you plan to get your 'rebuttal' published by a scientific journal?

See Clara Claiborne Park's own 'confession' below, of how she made her own daughter 'autistic'.

Let me see... mother beats the crap out of her daughter, and from then on, her daughter doesn't respond to her. Could they possibly be linked? No - it can't be! It must be 'genetic'! All nice and 'sciencey', none of those 'scary' emotions for you Slashdotters, right? What a joke.

And I'M the one with a "wall of hate and despair" around myself? I can FEEL, unlike the Slashdot sociopaths, you sad, pathetic tossers.

Re:No such thing as 'autism' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41344447)

That's not valid scientific reasoning. That A anecdotally caused B in one case doesn''t prove that B* is generally caused by A. A=parental abuse, B=mutism, B*=autism.

Re:No such thing as 'autism' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341299)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/12/us-australia-autism-genetic-idUSBRE88B0DH20120912

I'm surprised they found a genetic test to predict parental abuse in advance.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerator_mother_theory may give more info. Basically, the idea that there's no such thing as autism is absolute bunk. There are plenty of physical comorbid conditions to the mental conditions of autism spectrum disorders.

Talk to some of the people who actually do the studies, and you might learn something.

Re:No such thing as 'autism' (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41341359)

And your medical qualifications are... what, exactly? I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark at "non-existent."

'Autism' is simply

Wow, three words in and you've already got it wrong ;)

Re:No such thing as 'autism' (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41341363)

PS Should have said this in the post above, but if anyone mods the GP down, feel free to mod my posts down too so even less people see this.

Re:No such thing as 'autism' (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341381)

Seriously, and with all due respect, fuck you very much.

Re:No such thing as 'autism' (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341721)

Another in a long line of laughable 'responses' from the usual idiots, who can't think for themselves.

Wikipedia as a reliable source?

Appeal to authority fallacies? What a joke.

Like I said - you're sociopaths who can't feel the suffering of others, god help your children (presuming any of you ever leave your moms' basements).

"I'm surprised they found a genetic test to predict parental abuse in advance."

Another idiot - you're telling me you can't recognise bad parents just by looking at them? Then you're an emotionally blind idiot - just the sort of person who can't face the feelings of others, and thinks that 'autism' is a BIOLOGICAL condition. Funny how all of its 'symptoms' are psychological, isn't it.

You idiot.

From 'The Siege' by Clara Claiborne Park, p.108:
"I need not explain to modern readers that for our generation of
parents force was not the method of choice. To impose one's will on a
normal child by force is distasteful enough (though at times, as our
generation of parents at length found out, quick force is less
damaging to all concerned than indulgence or elaborate moral suasion).
To use force on an abrnomal child seems too brutal to contemplate. I
do not know whether I could have contemplated it, and I'm not sure I
could have done it. By good luck I did not have to. It happened that
the major work of disciplining Elly was done before we knew there was
anything the matter.
Until she was twenty-two months old, after all, we thought Elly a
normal, though increasingly obtuse and stubborn child. She responded
to no prohibitions or commands; when she was doing something
anti-social it was almost impossible to get her to stop. She simply
paid no attention to what we did or said. Amused at first, I would
become irritated, then infuriated at behavior which looked in every
way like wilful disobedience. Why would she go on drenching the floor
with bathwater when again and again I asked her not to? The other
children hadn't been like that, even when they were smaller. Why
wouldn't this one listen to her mother?
I grew more angry than I have ever been with a child- so angry that I
cannot recall it without shame. In my anger, I slapped my little
girl's naked flesh again and again, until I could see the redness on
her skin and she was screaming with pain and shock. I screamed myself.
"No, no, no, NO!" I don't know how often I did this- three or four
occasions, perhaps, no more. Then it was no longer necessary. Elly
understood nothing else, but she understood "no, no". I rarely had
even to slap her hand, never to hit her hard. I did not have to
scream. The words were enough."

THAT is why Elly withdrew into herself and refused to talk to her mother.

But then, the Slashdot crowd can't even feel their own feelings - how can you be expected to feel the suffering of others?

What a joke - you try to argue with 'facts', in order to cover up the fact that you can't FEEL.

Read the last paragraph again - idiots. You aren't interested in truth, just in maintaining the status quo, whatever the cost.

Re:No such thing as 'autism' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341775)

So you're saying that scientists who've found those genetic correlations are lying?
That the studies that showed mitochondrial malfunction (a biological disorder) correlates strongly with the presence of autism symptoms, and when treated, patients quickly improve (it's not a cure, but it can help a lot with lower functioning autistics who happen to have that as one of the root causes) are also lying?

Is this one of those "there's thousands of studies, but I refuse to believe any of them" things?

Just because abuse can create autism-like symptoms doesn't mean autism doesn't exist. A pebble in the sock can create sprained ankle like symptoms (a limp, favoring one foot, etc) but it doesn't mean sprained ankles don't exist.

Re:No such thing as 'autism' (1)

Earl_Parvisjam (2621029) | about 2 years ago | (#41341891)

Wow, you sir or madam are a piece of work. Your entire stance is based on prejudicial opinion and a book from 1967. Your concept of the terms "fact" and "truth" is intriguing and your use of a character attack right after mentioning logical fallacies is brilliantly timed; assuming you are trolling.

At least you have the temerity to post as anonymous. It helps clarify how much we should care about your opinion, while illustrating just how serious you are about a subject you have no idea about. I thought the vaccine blaming crowd was bad...

Re:No such thing as 'autism' (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 years ago | (#41343941)

I feel your suffering, now if you would just let those who know what they are talking about rearrange some of your brain wiring, we would all be in a lot less pain.

those dang dirty trolls trying to rewire my brain (1)

cforrester (2474734) | about 2 years ago | (#41341283)

julaaaaaaaaaaay

MDMA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341339)

MDMA seems to do this to me if the strong and clean enough(Tested MDMA)
However its a mix bag as lower quality and speedier chems tend to disrupt my thought process, where my brain will end up fighting the forced socialization.. and changes to thought processes.

Nope. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341595)

Douchebag neurotypicals yet again. I'm just fine, thank you. Better than neurotypicals, certainly. Therefore, I propose that neurotypicals are "rewired" or eliminated because their mental skills are lacking.

At first glance... (1)

lewoot (1636471) | about 2 years ago | (#41341657)

I read the title as 'rewiring the artistic brain' and I was like 'awesome, I can explain science to my hipster friends now' and then I was thoroughly disappointed

Why fucking bother? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341727)

Why fucking bother with the fucktarded autistitards and asspies? Why not let natural selection take its course instead?

GO AHEAD FUCKING FLAME AWAY
OR WASTE YOUR GODDAMNED
MODPOINTS FUCKTARDED
SHITDOT SHEEPLE!!!!!!!!

Re:Why fucking bother? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341987)

Wow your poor monitor, smartphone, whatever you posted this on. How do you get the mouth spittle off it in order to see what your typing? You know it is actually better if you breath through your nose at it has the function of being a filter for the air you breath. Thats right teath together, lips closed, and in through the nose out through the nose. Good neandrethal.

Re:Why fucking bother? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41343061)

Simple,, I have a fucktarded asspie like you do it for me every time I laugh at the stupid comments by the fucktarded shitdot sheeple. Asspies and autistitards, not NTs like me, are the ones that have outdated neanderthal genes. Which is why asspies and autistitards like you are lower than even gamma males. That alone makes you unsuitable partners and why the fucktards like you and the rest of shitdot can't ever get laid. Well that as well as your shrinking dicks.

GO AHEAD FUCKING FLAME AWAY
OR WASTE YOUR GODDAMNED
MOD POINTS FUCKTARDED SHITDOT SHEEPLE OR BETTER
YET GO SLIT YOUR FUCKING WRISTS
FUCKTARDED SHITDOT SHEEPLE

Autistic brains aren't made of wires (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 2 years ago | (#41341809)

They're made of neurons. There's no wiring involved.

There is no such thing as autism or "aspbergers" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41341825)

They are curse words used by idiots to describe what used to be called "nerds" or "geeks" or "Poindexters". These fake diseases need to stop. Seriously. Stop hiding between made-up bullshit diseases. I'm probably going to be called an "ass-pie" or "assburger" now, but... no. I suck at attracting females and a bunch of other social things, but there is no need to label that with a disease. I am fully aware of it and don't try to hide it. I don't need a fictional "condition" to hide behind.

The worst, however, are people who proudly announce themselves to have these fake "diseases". They are even worse than the dumb people who use them as insults.

+5, Insightful

Re:There is no such thing as autism or "aspbergers (0)

WhitePanther5000 (766529) | about 2 years ago | (#41343135)

You're retarded.
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