Bracelets 4 Autism


Scientific Link To Autism Identified

Article Date: 19 Nov 2009 – 3:00 PST

During its research into the application of neuroscience in business, a New Jersey based think tank, The Center for Modeling Optimal Outcomes®, LLC (The Center) made an inadvertent and amazing discovery.

The Center examined the neuroscientific dynamics of logic and emotion in decision making while researching neuroscience in business. They found unique corollary relationships between various brain chemicals (neurohormones, neurotransmitters, etc.). This apparent pattern led to a new path of research for the team outside of business. By looking at extensive scientific literature they discovered a cascade of hormones that emanate from the brain (hypothalamus). This same pattern of correlations was again apparent throughout the cascade. The group added a research biologist and started to test the pattern on genes (proteins). It remained consistent. The Center then called upon advisors from chemistry and physics to see if the pattern would apply in physical sciences.

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Big Brain Responses Triggered By Sights And Sounds Of Emotion

Article Date: 03 Nov 2009 – 6:00 PST

Researchers at the University of York have identified a part of the brain that responds to both facial and vocal expressions of emotion.

They used the MagnetoEncephaloGraphic (MEG) scanner at the York Neuroimaging Centre to test responses in a region of the brain known as the posterior superior temporal sulcus.

The research team from the University’s Department of Psychology and York Neuroimaging Centre found that the posterior superior temporal sulcus responds so strongly to a face plus a voice that it clearly has a ‘multimodal’ rather than an exclusively visual function. The research is published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Test participants were shown photographs of people with fearful and neutral facial expressions, and were played fearful and neutral vocal sounds, separately and together. Responses in the posterior superior temporal sulcus were substantially heightened when subjects could both see and hear the emotional faces and voices, but not when subjects could both see and hear the neutral faces and voices.

Researchers believe that the finding could help in the study of autism and other neuro-developmental disorders which exhibit face perception deficits.

Lead researcher Dr Cindy Hagan said: “Previous models of face perception suggested that this region of the brain responds to the face alone, but we demonstrated a supra-additive response to emotional faces and voices presented together – the response was greater than the sum of the parts.”

Professor Andy Young added: “This is important because emotions in everyday life are often intrinsically multimodal – expressed through face, posture and voice at the same time.”

The research involved tests on 19 people using York Neuroimaging Centre’s £1.1 million MEG scanner which provides a non-invasive way of mapping the magnetic fields created by electrical activity in the brain.

Source: David Garner
University of York

link: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/169659.php



Visual Processing ‘Hinders Ability’ To Read Body Language: Autism Study

Article Date: 05 Aug 2009 – 3:00 PDT

The way people with autism see and process the body language of others could be preventing them from gauging people’s feelings, according to new research.

With around half a million people in the UK affected by autism, the Durham University study suggests visual processing problems could be contributing to their day-to-day difficulties with social interaction.

The research showed that adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) found it difficult to identify emotions, such as anger or happiness, from short video clips of body movements without seeing faces or hearing sound.

Those adults who struggled most with this task also performed poorly when asked to detect the direction in which a group of dots moved coherently on a screen, thought to be due to visual processing problems.

People with autism often have difficulty in attributing mental states to others and this is thought to be one of the main causes of their struggle to know how other people feel. The Durham study, published in the academic journal Neuropsychologia, suggests visual processing problems may also be a contributing factor.

The findings of the study indicate that one of these visual processing problems is a difficulty in perceiving certain sorts of motion, particularly the movement of spatially separate elements spread over a relatively wide area that nevertheless move in the same direction, which is consistent with most previous findings.

The strong link between performances on the tests within the study suggests people with autism have trouble reading body movements because they process some basic visual information differently, according to Dr Anthony Atkinson from Durham University’s Psychology Department.

The typically developing adults – those without autism – in the study generally performed well in both tests.

Dr Atkinson, who led the study, says his findings help to further understand the underlying causes of social interaction problems experienced by people with autism.

Dr Atkinson said: “The way people move their bodies tells us a lot about their feelings or intentions, and we use this information on a daily basis to communicate with each other. We use others’ body movements and postures, as well as people’s faces and voices, to gauge their feelings. People with autism are less able to use these cues to make accurate judgements about how others are feeling. Our research attempts to find out why.

“Our findings point to a difficulty in perceiving or attending to motion as a contributor to the problem of gauging people’s emotions. We now need to look further to see how exactly this happens and how this may combine with potential difficulties in attention.”

Thirteen adults with ASD and 16 typically developing adults with the same age and IQ were studied. For the motion coherence test, participants were shown a number of dots on a computer screen with a certain number moving either left or right. The test had various difficulty levels depending on the percentage of dots moving coherently in one direction. This task taps one’s ability to see the moving wood as distinct from the individual moving trees, says the author.

For the second test, the study participants were shown two sets of short video clips of people’s body movements and had to identify the emotion expressed by those movements. In one set of video clips the whole body and head but not the face could be seen. The other set contained identical sequences of body movements but all that could be seen was reflective patches attached to the major joints.

Based on gestures and movements acted out in the videos, such as waving fists, stamping feet, and skipping, the study participants were asked to assign one of the basic human emotions to it: anger, disgust, sadness, fear or happiness. The individuals with autism were less accurate than the typically developing individuals in judging the emotions in both sets of video clips.

Dr Gina Gómez De La Cuesta, Action Research Leader at the National Autistic Society said: “This is an interesting study which supports the suggestion that people with autism may well process visual information differently to their peers.

“We warmly welcome all research which helps us further our understanding of autism, and how best to help and support those with the condition. Autism is a complex and lifelong disability, affecting an estimated half a million people in the UK, and the right support at the right time can make a huge difference to people’s lives.”

Some facts and figures (source: The National Autistic Society)

  • Autism is thought to affect around half a million people in the UK today – that means 1 out of every 100 people has autism.
  • Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways.
  • Boys are four times more likely to develop autism than girls.
  • People with autism often want to make friends but due to their disability find it difficult.
  • 40% of all children with autism wait more than three years for a clear diagnosis.

Source:
Alex Thomas
Durham University

link: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/159878.php