Where behavioral science and humanism get out of the ivory tower, and into the world.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Interesting science, misleading reporting.

Science Daily just posted an article reporting on how a group have apparently developed a brain imaging technique to diagnose Autism in adults. This, however, is not really what the article published in "The Journal of Neuroscience" is saying.
I'm really annoyed at the implications that Science Daily is making. To me, their article has a flavor of "Now everyone can get tested!" To me, if you have sensory difficulties, social challenges or other features of Autism-Aspergers that are at a level to be distressing to you, then of course you should seek help. But since there's no real medical cure for ASD (besides one being developed for people with fragile X. And yes I know it's also from science daily, but there have been a few stories about it over the last year or so). So being diagnosed as an adult probably won't do tons for you, other than the relief some people find in having a label for a condition.
Personally I find the real message of the article to be much more interesting. Essentially the researchers found fairly strong evidence that a range of abnormalities in 5 different brain regions seem to be found consistently in people with Autism (sample size was only 20 though, and the control population were people with ADHD) may contribute to autism as a whole. This lends weight to pre-existing ideas that the range in variations in physical neurological abnormalities leads to the cluster of spectrum features that "make up" autism. If anything it helps further research into how these regions working in concert can be distruptive to neuro-typical functioning.

...Just remember, the brain is extremely elastic. People with hydrocephally and people who do not have this condition can have totally different looking brain scans, but have relatively the same functioning and IQ level, it all depends on if/how the brain adapts.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I'm a sucker for a good podcast

I just got around to listening to this weeks episode from “The Moth,” an event where people tell true stories on stage live without notes. Over the year or so I’ve been listening I’ve heard stories about people who think they were being haunted, doctors trying to save lives, famous actresses saying how they went psycho on ex-boyfriends. This weeks was particularly striking to me as it focused on a man talking about a Cambodian woman’s experiences during and after the Khmer Rouge. After surviving the atrocities she played a major role in helping a large number of women with PTSD who had seemingly entered a vegetative depression once they reached the relative safety of refugee camps. She spoke about a three-part method for this. Helping people speak about their experiences and letting them learn to “forget” so they could move on, having them do life skills so that they could feel some accomplishment, purpose and maintain themselves more. Lastly, she taught them to do manicures and pedicures. She did this she says so they could have physical contact with others again, and learn to trust and build a community. It’s very interesting to me how universal particular types of responses are to particular types of events, and how often the “treatments” are really focused on community building, rapport building, and allowing people the space to derive meaning from their lives. It seems like I’d be put of the job pretty quickly with some social reforms :-)