Sunday, April 30, 2006

Autism Fact of the Day

Autism fact of the day


Autism Linked To Poor Communication Between Brain Areas
10 Apr 2006


Poor communication between brain areas may explain why people with autism do not interact well with other people, say researchers from the University of London.

Weak links between brain areas could mean that people with Autism do not benefit from social situations as well as other people.

You can read about this study in the journal NEUROIMAGE.

The study compared brain scans of 32 people. 16 of the people had an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) while the other 16 did not. The 16 people with ASD had above-average IQs.

The 32 people had to look at images on a screen. Two were images of houses, the other two were images of faces. They then had to think hard and decide whether the houses were identical and whether the faces were identical.

The researchers found that there was a clear difference in brain activity between the two groups. When the group without ASD looked at faces, their brain activity increased significantly (compared to when they were looking at houses). For the group with ASD, however, there was no difference in brain activity when they were looking at houses or faces.

In other words:
Both groups' brains reacted to houses in the same way. Not the case when presented with faces.

Dr. G Bird, study leader, 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. We all know that it is harder to pick a face out of a busy crowd, for instance, but when we do find the right face and pay attention to it, we are easily able to tune-out all the other distractions and focus on that one face. It seems that, for people with ASD, paying attention to a face is much harder to do and doesn't have the same effect."

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today

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