A new methodology for analyzing MRI scans had helped to uncover two key differences between those with autism and neurotypicals.
“We identified in the autistic model a key system in the temporal lobe visual cortex with reduced cortical functional connectivity. This region is involved with the face expression processing involved in social behaviour. This key system has reduced functional connectivity with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is implicated in emotion and social communication”.
The researchers also identified in autism a second key system relating to reduced cortical functional connectivity, a part of the parietal lobe implicated in spatial functions.
They propose that these two types of functionality, face expression-related, and of one’s self and the environment, are important components of the computations involved in theory of mind, whether of oneself or of others, and that reduced connectivity within and between these regions may make a major contribution to the symptoms of autism.
If one has difficulty interpreting face expressions, one has difficulty properly interacting with people. One is even likely to engage in socially inappropriate behaviors and conversations.
Indeed, I have recently discovered I have not just difficulty interpreting facial expressions, but I have difficulty with faces themselves. I recently ran into someone I saw about once a month or so, who used to have a beard. I didn’t recognize him at all. But since he recognized me and was talking to me in a very familiar way, I knew I had to know him. He invited Daniel to his step-son’s and daughter’s birthday party and told me where to be. It was only when I saw the two kids that I figured out who he was. Shaving his beard made him unrecognizable to me.
The article also mentions those areas with weak connections, but one wishes they also mentioned those areas with stronger connections. I am certain those areas provide as much information about the symptoms of autism as do the weak ones. This oversight is a product of the attitude that autism is a deficiency only. These attitudes have an effect on what scientists will look for or even see. This is why it’s so important to change attitudes about autism.