Is Brain Difference in General the Cause of Autism?

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DGuru
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16 Nov 2010, 4:48 pm

Could the cause of autism be right under our nose?

People keep searching for some specific thing to be the cause of autism. What if its just difference, not a specific difference but any difference in brain function?

Not that anybody who is "different" would present with a diagnosis, it would only happen at a certain level of accumulated difference, but it makes sense that any different perception of the world will cause some trouble communicating with and understanding other people.

An implication of this would be that family life and culture would have a major impact. Since family is the first people you relate to the greater the brain difference with family the more severe autism would be. Since cultural norms influence genetics over time(the more an individual "deviates" the less chance of reproduction) a brain that works differently from the average person in a given society might work more similarly to brains in another society. This would also vary according to how much tolerance there is(not just in word but in practice) in a given culture. The more tolerant a culture the less the severity(and perhaps recorded incidence) of autism.

Another implication would be that exposing your child to a wide range of different people could reduce the severity(potentially to the point of leaving the spectrum as defined by psychology) of autism simply by increasing the chance of being exposed to someone they're able to relate to in order to develop communication skills.

Further implication is that there are likely cultures out there where we would acclimate faster than neurotypicals(and might have been neurotypical if we had grown up in them).

Another implication is you'd expect immigrants to have a higher rate of autism and for the rate to vary more based on cultural differences, both present and in recent history.

I found this with a quick google search.
http://qaranimo.com/2008/july/is_autism ... _25_08.htm

Somali immigrants in America and in Sweden have higher rates of autism than the native populations. This is unlikely to be due to a higher genetic incidence of autism in Somalis, because Somali communities in these countries call it the "American disease" and the "Swedish disease" respectively.

Thoughts?



wavefreak58
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16 Nov 2010, 5:05 pm

You are stating the obvious. It is of course a brain difference. Arguing about whether or not it is a disorder is a completely different issue.



ediself
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16 Nov 2010, 5:07 pm

j0sh wrote:
AS is caused by... Aspartame.

this is the latest known theory.



j0sh
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16 Nov 2010, 5:13 pm

ediself wrote:
j0sh wrote:
AS is caused by... Aspartame.

this is the latest known theory.


Just to be clear... I posted that in a joking thread. I'm in enough hot water already. :(



Avengilante
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16 Nov 2010, 5:37 pm

DGuru wrote:
Could the cause of autism be right under our nose?


Yep. Genetics.

DGuru wrote:
People keep searching for some specific thing to be the cause of autism. What if its just difference, not a specific difference but any difference in brain function?

Not that anybody who is "different" would present with a diagnosis, it would only happen at a certain level of accumulated difference, but it makes sense that any different perception of the world will cause some trouble communicating with and understanding other people.


That would just reclassify anyone with Schizophrenia, Bipolar or even Dyslexia as autistic. They are clearly not the same difference.


DGuru wrote:
An implication of this would be that family life and culture would have a major impact. Since family is the first people you relate to the greater the brain difference with family the more severe autism would be. Since cultural norms influence genetics over time(the more an individual "deviates" the less chance of reproduction) a brain that works differently from the average person in a given society might work more similarly to brains in another society. This would also vary according to how much tolerance there is(not just in word but in practice) in a given culture. The more tolerant a culture the less the severity(and perhaps recorded incidence) of autism.



'cultural norms influence genetics over time' ??? That's interesting evolutionary theory, but there is absolutely no evidence to back it up. As far as different societies being a better fit, there might be some truth there, but its of no real practical value, unless you're going to tear children from their birth families and adopt them out in another country. And even Asian countries, where one might think the high functioning autistic brain might be more at home, have autism. Because of course, not all autistics have identical personalities.


DGuru wrote:
Another implication would be that exposing your child to a wide range of different people could reduce the severity(potentially to the point of leaving the spectrum as defined by psychology)



Look, the neurology of autism comes hard wired. One individual's wiring may make their symptoms more severe and less manageable than another's, but it is what it is. Exposure to social situations over time does cause someone with AS to develop ways of dealing with the world, but that is not to say that their autism goes away. They just learn to work around it. You're talking like the parents who are so ashamed of having an autistic child that they beat them down with Behavioral Therapy until they stop exhibiting the most obvious of their autistic traits. But forced surface changes don't change the brain. Just because you learn not to tell mommy and daddy you're having an anxiety attack doesn't mean you stop having them.

DGuru wrote:
Further implication is that there are likely cultures out there where we would acclimate faster than neurotypicals(and might have been neurotypical if we had grown up in them).


If that were the case, there would be entire countries that had no autism at all. This is just turning over every mental rock you can find, looking for a cure.


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16 Nov 2010, 5:42 pm

Avengilante wrote:
DGuru wrote:
Could the cause of autism be right under our nose?


Yep. Genetics.


Genetics alone can't be a cause, the plasticity of the brain is evidence of that.

Quote:
cultural norms influence genetics over time' ??? That's interesting evolutionary theory, but there is absolutely no evidence to back it up

Like tribal behavior granting a genetic immunity?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8364603.stm


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KakashiYay
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16 Nov 2010, 5:59 pm

^^^Yeah, all that.

One reason Somali immigrants to the US and Sweden are dx'd with ASD more frequently than in their homeland could be that ASD isn't recognized as easily there. It's not that the exact same people wouldn't be autistic if they lived in Somalia, it's just that it wouldn't be known.

It's a lot like the whole Why Are So Many Kids Autistic Nowadays!?!?!? question- they aren't. They're behaving and living as they would have 20, 60, 120 years ago, but now we know what to call it. Same people, same symptoms, different names.



DGuru
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16 Nov 2010, 6:17 pm

Avengilante wrote:
DGuru wrote:
Could the cause of autism be right under our nose?


Yep. Genetics.


I was refering to the actual physical processes that happen in the brain as a result of the genetics(or anything else for that matter). "Genetics" as a cause is about as descriptive as saying hemophilia is caused by "genetics".

However, I've heard of twins where one has AS and the other doesn't. This means that while genetics are a huge factor other things are at work here.

Quote:
DGuru wrote:
People keep searching for some specific thing to be the cause of autism. What if its just difference, not a specific difference but any difference in brain function?

Not that anybody who is "different" would present with a diagnosis, it would only happen at a certain level of accumulated difference, but it makes sense that any different perception of the world will cause some trouble communicating with and understanding other people.


Quote:
That would just reclassify anyone with Schizophrenia, Bipolar or even Dyslexia as autistic. They are clearly not the same difference.


No. Like I said it would have to be a certain level. Psychology has formed official criteria that must be met for a diagnosis and through their work created a certain "threshhold" where it gets diagnosed. That someone doesn't have autism doesn't mean their brain doesn't have a different chemistry that if exaggerated enough would have presented as autism.

Considering the sheer complexity of social interaction I can't think of a single aspect of cognition that would not play into it somehow. Also, people who are different from each other just as a rule have trouble getting to know and understand each other. If you're more different from people than average no matter what the reason you'll have more trouble socializing with them and so it makes sense this would cause social skills to be learned slower.

Quote:
'cultural norms influence genetics over time' ??? That's interesting evolutionary theory, but there is absolutely no evidence to back it up.


There is inductive evidence. It's proven that if you don't reproduce you don't pass on your DNA. It's been proven that genes influence personality and way of thinking. Culture involves shared aspects of personality and way of thinking throughout a society. People in a culture whose personality and way of thinking are more different are more likely to be alienated or outcast and that dwindles the prospects of reproduction, making them less likely to pass on DNA. So it logically follows that if a cultural norm stays consistent over time those who have DNA that increases the odds of them visibly going against the norm will have reduced reproductive success and hence the DNA responsible would decrease. Similarly, DNA leading to more behavior conforming to the cultural norm would enhance reproductive success, causing that piece of DNA to become more expressed within the population.

Quote:
As far as different societies being a better fit, there might be some truth there, but its of no real practical value, unless you're going to tear children from their birth families and adopt them out in another country.


Who said anything about children? Adults are autistic too. I've read up on foreign cultures. I think Latin America might be a good fit for me once I get to know Spanish better and have thought about moving there.

Quote:
And even Asian countries, where one might think the high functioning autistic brain might be more at home, have autism. Because of course, not all autistics have identical personalities.


That actually helps my point. We're all different. And considering the differences between our culture and Asia's, with Asian languages showing evidence of more visual thinking and in the United States and other countries with alphabetic languages more verbal thinking it makes sense that to many Americans on the spectrum Asia looks inviting. I don't know, but I bet if investigated we'd find high-functioning autistics in Asia think they would be more at home in America.

DGuru wrote:
Look, the neurology of autism comes hard wired. One individual's wiring may make their symptoms more severe and less manageable than another's, but it is what it is. Exposure to social situations over time does cause someone with AS to develop ways of dealing with the world, but that is not to say that their autism goes away. They just learn to work around it. You're talking like the parents who are so ashamed of having an autistic child that they beat them down with Behavioral Therapy until they stop exhibiting the most obvious of their autistic traits. But forced surface changes don't change the brain. Just because you learn not to tell mommy and daddy you're having an anxiety attack doesn't mean you stop having them.


As time goes on I've found "anxiety attacks" came from the feelings of alienation and are dying down as I learn to stop caring.

Just because the brain is wired differently doesn't mean every single symptom is part of the wiring. There are common factors in the world nearly every single person gets exposed to, and the wiring may dictate the person's reaction to these factors. Almost everyone in the world cares what other people think of them. When we do that it causes anxiety attacks because it's harder for us to guess what other people are thinking of us, so I've learned not to care. I still socialize, in fact it's become a lot easier, I just accept that people will love me or hate me and don't care about it. Of course there's also sensory issues that can play into this for many people.

Quote:
DGuru wrote:
Further implication is that there are likely cultures out there where we would acclimate faster than neurotypicals(and might have been neurotypical if we had grown up in them).


Quote:
If that were the case, there would be entire countries that had no autism at all.


If not everyone whose brain chemistry results in the phenotype of autism has the same brain chemistry(and whether I'm right about my general point or not it's generally recognized in psychiatry that just because the same symptoms present does not mean it must have the same exact physical cause) then this is not true.

Quote:
This is just turning over every mental rock you can find, looking for a cure.


I'm not looking for a cure. Where in the world did you get that idea? If any cognitive difference exaggerated enough or combined with enough other cognitive differences in a way that adds up causes ASDs then the curebie movement is even scarier, because the concept of ASDs could easily be expanded(as it has been in the past) to the point of even the slightest difference in brain functioning in the direction of ASDs being diagnosable. If ASDs are caused by general cumulative difference in cognitive functioning that would mean an effort to cure it would be tantamount to an effort to rewire everyone in society to function exactly the same. Sounds like the plot of a dystopian sci-fi movie.



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16 Nov 2010, 7:19 pm

It's right under our noses indeed; the cause is pancakes.



ediself
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16 Nov 2010, 8:54 pm

j0sh wrote:
ediself wrote:
j0sh wrote:
AS is caused by... Aspartame.

this is the latest known theory.


Just to be clear... I posted that in a joking thread. I'm in enough hot water already. :(

oh i'm sorry, i was also just joking, you happened to be the last poster on the random cures, i had no idea about the hot water thing!
want me to unquote?