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SOCNET  August 2004

SOCNET August 2004

Subject:

underconnectivity theory

From:

Valdis <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Valdis <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 2 Aug 2004 18:58:38 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (114 lines)

***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.sfu.ca/~insna/ *****

This is fascinating... I have seen similar patterns in organizations
and other complex human systems. They also discuss this
underconnectivity pattern in sport teams along the lines we discussed a
few months back [interconnectivity of soccer teams].

Complexity science tells us we will find similar patterns in diverse
areas of study...

Enjoy!

Valdis


> "Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh Scientists Discover
> Biological Basis for Autism"
> http://www.cmu.edu/PR/releases04/040727_autism.html
>
> PITTSBURGH—A team of brain scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and
> the University of Pittsburgh have made a groundbreaking discovery into
> the biological basis for autism, a mysterious brain disorder that
> impairs verbal and non-verbal communications and social interactions.
>
> Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, the
> researchers have found numerous abnormalities in the activity of brains
> of people with normal IQs who have autism. The new findings indicate a
> deficiency in the coordination among brain areas. The results converge
> with previous findings of white matter abnormalities in autism. (White
> matter consists of the "cables" that connect the various parts of the
> brain to each other). The new findings led the researchers to propose a
> new theory of the basis of autism, called underconnectivity theory,
> which holds that autism is a system-wide brain disorder that limits the
> coordination and integration among brain areas. This theory helps
> explain a paradox of autism: Some people with autism have normal or
> even
> superior skills in some areas, while many other types of thinking are
> disordered. The team's study will be published in the August edition of
> the British journal Brain and is available online at
> www.brain.oupjournals.org.
>
> In explaining the theory, Marcel Just, one of the study's lead authors
> and director of Carnegie Mellon's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging,
> compared the brain of a normal person to a sports team in which the
> members cooperate and coordinate their efforts. In an autistic person,
> though some "players" may be highly skilled, they do not work
> effectively as a team, thus impairing an autistic's ability to complete
> broad intellectual tasks. Because this type of coordination is critical
> to complex thinking and social interaction, a wide range of behaviors
> are affected in autism.
>
> The research team believes these are the first findings in autism of
> differences in the brain activation patterns in a cognitive
> (non-social)
> task. The study produced two important new findings that help make
> sense
> of previous mysteries: The autistic participants had an opposite
> distribution of activation (compared to the control group) in the
> brain's two main language areas, known as Broca's and Wernicke's areas.
> There was also less synchronization of activation among key brain areas
> in the autistic participants compared to the control group.
>
> To obtain technically acceptable fMRI data from high-functioning
> autistic participants, the researchers flew in people with autism from
> all over the eastern United States. High-functioning participants with
> autism (with IQ scores in the normal range) are rare, accounting for
> about 10 percent of all people with autism. Using non-invasive fMRIs,
> the team looked at the brains of 17 people with autism and 17 control
> subjects as they read and indicated their comprehension of English
> sentences. In both the healthy brains and in the brains with autism,
> language functions were carried out by a similar network of brain
> areas,
> but in the autism brains the network was less synchronized, and an
> integrating center in the network, Broca's area, was much less active.
> However, another center, Wernicke's area, which does the processing of
> individual words, was more active in the autism brains.
>
> The brain likely adapts to the diminished inter-area communication in
> autism by developing more independent, free-standing abilities in each
> brain center. That is, abnormalities in the brain's white matter
> communication cables could lead to adaptations in the gray matter
> computing centers. This sometimes translates into enhanced
> free-standing
> abilities or superior ability in a localized skill.
>
> These findings provide a new way for scientists and medical researchers
> to think about the neurological basis of autism, treating it as a
> distributed system-wide disorder rather than trying to find a localized
> region or particular place in the brain where autism lives. The theory
> suggests new research to determine the causes of the underconnectivity
> and ways to treat it. If underconnectivity is the problem, then a
> cognitive behavioral therapy might be developed to stimulate the
> development of connections in these higher order systems, focusing on
> the emergence of conceptual connections, interpretive language and so
> on. Eventually, pharmacological or genetic interventions will be
> developed to stimulate the growth of this circuitry once the
> developmental neurobiology and genetics of these brain connections are
> clearly defined by research studies such as these.
>
> The research team is jointly headed by Just, the D.O. Hebb Professor of
> Psychology at Carnegie Mellon, and Dr. Nancy Minshew, professor of
> psychiatry and neurology at the University of Pittsburgh School of
> Medicine and director of its Center for Autism Research. Individuals
> with High Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome between 10 and 55
> years of age who are interested in participating in similar studies can
> send email to [log in to unmask] or call Nikole Jones at
> 412-246-5481.
>

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