***** 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. > _____________________________________________________________________ SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social network researchers (http://www.sfu.ca/~insna/). 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