June 20, 2013

Recent finding about autistic brains

I'm not linking to the science story on which this post is based -- because you guys never read the science links I litter this web site with. C'mon, admit it: you don't. So here it is in understandable English.

The reason why autistic kids don't respond verbally to, for instance, questions from family members is that their brains are wired differently. We want to respond; they don't. This is because the area of the brain that would respond to a spoken question isn't hooked into the reward center of the brain.

We literally want to respond to people. It's what our brains do. And we do this because there are rewards built in. It gives us pleasure to respond appropriately to a question, to engage in conversation, to join in social activities. That's because our response centers are hooked into the brain's reward center.

For instance, responding appropriately to a police officer's questions about an accident makes us feel that we're good citizens. That's a reward. Autistic people don't have that connection so there is no reward.

I think this can help us to grasp why we see no affect in these children (and adults) when we speak to them. And that's why I'm passing this information along: to help everyone understand the situation and not just walk away and say, "What's wrong with that kid?"

PS: Here's the LA Times version of this story. It's not complex.


cm said...

For some reason I find myself unable to control my impulse to respond.. So here goes. I have to admit I don't read every word of all the science links you post, but I try. Sometimes they get to complicated. I like the way you simplified it for me. Keep that up.
That was a very interesting story and explanation by you. I have a friend with an autistic son and this explains a lot. Thanks. I guess the next logical step would be to try to connect the parts of the brain responsible for willing response. That would be amazing.

writenow said...

It helps to understand. Then you see the sense in what's going on. If anyone wants to learn more about autism, I suggest reading a novel. It's called, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time" by Mark Haddon. It's one of the best books I ever read. The author writes the story as if he's a 15-year-old autistic boy. (Haddon worked with autistic kids for quite a while.) The portrait he paints of this boy is so painful to grasp. And yet, you're seeing it from the inside, so you come to understand his situation. Highly recommended. I'll bet your friend would enjoy it. Not difficult to read.