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Autism linked with prefrontal cortex:

Autism: predicting a cure in the future?

Poll closed Oct 19, 2013.
  1. Yes, like most diseases.

    0 vote(s)
  2. Yes, because it has dormant potential like amnesiacs do.

    0 vote(s)
  3. Maybe, but not predictably, because autism is tough to cure.

    0 vote(s)
  4. No, because autism has a substantial basis, including a link to a biological component.

    1 vote(s)
  1. Oct 9, 2013 #1
    First, my sources:

    McLean hypothesis triune brain:

    Human brain regions:

    Book with cortex and neo-cortex emphasis:
    On Intelligence
    by Jeff Hawkins with Sandra Blakeslee

    Autism linked with excess neurons of the prefrontal cortex:

    If the connection to excess of neurons in the prefrontal cortex turns out to be part of the overall cause of autism, then:

    1. Could this maladaptation come to be guided and adapted for good, such as autistic-savants who are mathematically gifted or verbally gifted and able to memorize entire volumes (exempli gratia, Shakespeare)? Perhaps in the future, will there be a potentially predictable development in which medicine => neurology and Behavioralist bio-psycho-sociologists can fashion a rerouting of autistic-savants into overall-mediocre-success quasi-savants, distanced from the mentally retarded (now listed side by side in Special Education lists, Special Olympics, etcetera)?

    2. On the other hand, could the patient's behavior currently be used to force the prefrontal cortex into disuse, hence atrophy this area of the brain? And, by following McLean's hypothesis (McLean's hypothesis being categorized as a hypothesis only thus far), could the limbic and reptilian areas be strengthened simultaneously with likewise behavior (exempli gratia, sports, dancing, foreign language conversation, sign language with deaf people, charity work with physically handicapped amputees, public speaking, musical performances, theatre acting)? Would this serve to make the autistic patients more social, more balanced, and more normal overall?

    Additionally: If patients with autism watch fictional and historical autistic characters on TV and in movies, are the patients able to understand what is wrong with the autistic characters and see the resemblance to their own erroneous patterns? Would this lead to correcting the error in their autistic patterns of thought, speech, behavior, or merely an awareness of it? Taken even farther, would acting the role of autistic characters bring them to an insight of their mental disadvantage, especially if they could watch the footage afterward as many times as necessary?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 9, 2013 #2
    I believe this is the original article describing this finding in a small sample. By itself, it does not provide enough evidence to answer any of your questions. It's simply a possibly important observation.

  4. Oct 10, 2013 #3
    It's presumptive, then?
    This website posits such:
    Mod note: unacceptable link removed

    Here is a website on the earlier finding from 2003, by now more established, on head overgrowth for autistic boys:
    Mod note: unacceptable link removed

    But here's a 2013 criticism of the norms on this "established" (my quote) finding:

    Will this be an acceptable material to use to switch to?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2013
  5. Oct 10, 2013 #4
  6. Oct 10, 2013 #5
    The first two sources are not from peer reviewed journals which are required in these forums for questions of this kind. The third summarizes some issues concerning using head circumference as a proxy for "brain overgrowth". The study I linked was based on postmortem findings in the brains of 7 diagnosed children and 6 controls. Despite the very small numbers, the results were statistically significant. Only the abstract is available free online, so I can't comment on the details of the study (see edit). It would be helpful to know how these children died in order to evaluate any selection bias. While I wouldn't regard the study as definitive, it seems to be a useful contribution to the literature evaluating anatomical abnormalities in autistic children.

    Speculation on the causes of autism has become a very charged topic with quite a bit of pseudo-scientific posturing. We cannot sustain discussions of anything not originating from appropriate peer reviewed sources.

    EDIT: I rechecked and in fact the full text is available free through the link. I haven't read it detail, but the specific causes of death aren't discussed in the methods section. The authors only state that the cases were not selected based on cause of death or other factors which they list.

    EDIT: The causes of death are listed in Table 3. Drowning predominated in the autism group (5 cases) but not in the control group (2 cases). While drowning could possibly affect cell volume, it could not affect cell count.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2013
  7. Oct 11, 2013 #6
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  8. Oct 11, 2013 #7
    The link to the NIH site pointed out biases in the use of measurements of head circumference to make inferences about brain development. It's irrelevant to the study I linked or the last study you linked using brain fMRI (Just, Cherkassky et al). Regarding these two studies, it's not clear to me what your question is.
  9. Oct 11, 2013 #8
    Autism: a biological component, then... to begin...

    I can appreciate your frustration and am grateful for your patience with me. I would simply like to clarify that the studies will work as material 1st; then try to formulate a question 2nd, contingent upon the acceptance of such.

    I want to try to remember the original post's intended theme, which I did not get across yet in its entirety, as I awaited your responses first:

    1. a biological mechanism in the brain connected to Autism;
    i. human brain regions, including the alleged "frontal lobe" "connected to Autism"
    ii. McLean hypothesis of triune human brain
    ii. cortex / neocortex emphasis as provided by Jeff Hawkins' book

    2. a possible alleviation for Autistic-savants in the future, known to be mathematically or verbally erudite, which might come along predictably;
    i. comparing Autistic-savants to other patients with dormant potential, such as amnesiacs, or amputee-bodybuilders; trying to see a possible improvement in the future prospects for Autistic-savants with 2030s medicine;
    ii. contrasting Autistic savants to low-IQ students, who might do well to mate with Autistic-savants to produce quasi-higher-IQ offspring, granted with the contribution of the Autism in the Autistic-savant-parent's genotype;
    iii. predicting continued developments in the biological causes of Autistic-savantism without trying to specifically determine in advance the causes themselves, using past track record of other, similar(?), disorders;

    3. realistic ideas for mainstreaming Autistic-savants, such as:
    i. discouraging Autistic behaviors, to allow the malleable brain to adapt to the feedback;
    ii. diminishing savantism, to reign in high-IQ intellectualism as a compensatory maladaptation, and replace it with:
    iii. encouraging social functioning, especially with peers, by participating in activities such as those I listed in my post #1;

    4. emphasizing a biological basis for point #3 (mainstreaming)

    Now, I'm sorry I have this all in a big lump of ideas. I want to narrow it down as you have stated. I will think about it and look at the articles and try to find one that is like what you have asked from me.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  10. Oct 11, 2013 #9
    In my opinion, it appears the two studies in question would be acceptable for inclusion in a review summarizing the current status of the peer reviewed literature on autism. I would suggest you try to find recent published reviews to get a sense of the current thinking in the autism research community. This would be an interesting project, but we can't do that for you here. We do try to answer specific focused questions.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  11. Oct 12, 2013 #10
    I apologize for the delay. I prefer to take my time before my next, carefully crafted post.
  12. Oct 12, 2013 #11
    Be sure to keep within the scope of the title of this thread referring only to peer reviewed sources such as pubmed links.
  13. Oct 14, 2013 #12
    I will do so; otherwise, I will start a new thread (in regards to the scope of the title of the thread).
  14. Oct 21, 2013 #13
    Thank you for the 1 vote. I'm sorry that I'm taking so long to post again.
  15. Oct 27, 2013 #14
    I've been busy, so here's a quick post for now:

    The article at this URL had the 12 links to PubMed journal articles:

    The article's " 'under-connectivity theory' attributes the disorder [of Autism] to reduced anatomical connectivity and functional connectivity between the frontal cortex and more posterior areas of the brain" .

    The first 2 PubMed articles might lend some support to this 'theory':


    The rest of the PubMed articles support other aspects of the theory in the article.

    I was intrigued by the theory; and by the detection of a diminished size (cross-sectional area) for corpus callosum (bilateral connectivity); and by the correlation in Autistic brains between frontal-parietal interconnectivity and corpus callosum size of genu.

    Based on confidence in this premise, could it be ventured that the under-connectivity between the frontal and more anterior regions of the brain is the major biological mechanism for Autism?

    If so, would it follow that behaviors and therapies to grow connections to and from the frontal regions of the Autistic brain, such as those I posted earlier -- or others that you might suggest, such as specific body movements or cognitive training -- help to alleviate Autistic symptoms by treating the biological cause?
  16. Oct 28, 2013 #15
    This seems to be important research which is consistent with and builds on previous studies of anatomical/functional correlates of autism and does suggest such correlates are real. The fMRI has proven to be a powerful tool in brain related research.

    This line of research, so far, has not addressed potential treatments of autism based on the findings as far as I know, so I think it's premature to discuss how the findings might relate to future therapeutic interventions.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  17. Oct 29, 2013 #16
    Great response! Of course, we must be tediously cautious in believing the evidence prematurely, as has happened many times in the history of Autism (now called Autism Spectrum in DSM 5), and in the history of cognitive and developmental disorders, and more broadly, brain disorders.

    The topic of therapies is included in the article, in the 2nd to last (penultimate) paragraph:
    However, there is the minor case of developing the corpus callosum. It would not be premature to develop bilateral brain connectivity, would it?

    I understood it was already known how to strengthen the corpus callosum: train for ambi-dexterity. Use non-dominant (in the majority of cases, left) hand and foot. I was under the impression that this has been observed to grow the connections between left and right hemispheres.

    This paragraph is 4th before the heading Constellation of effects:
  18. Nov 9, 2013 #17
    Alright, I apologize if I have deviated from the topic of the thread - Autism linked with prefrontal cortex - in referring to one of the other elements of Autism, videlicet, the correlation of Autism to the size of the corpus callosum of an Autistic patient.

    I knew that I should try to stay apropos. Yet my posting on corpus callosum and ambidexterity seemed like an easy sub-topic to confirm: already well-known, heavily documented, etcetera. I suppose that I am already sure of its validity.

    Thank you for your patience with me.
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