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Hans de Vries

autism brain connectivity

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Autism is characterized by increased short range connectivity in the brain but impaired long term connections.

 

What would happen if one had increased short term connectivity but at the same time normal long range connections?

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1 hour ago, Hans de Vries said:

Autism is characterized by increased short range connectivity in the brain but impaired long term connections.

Do you have any evidence of this?  I couldn't find this listed as a possible cause.

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2 hours ago, Hans de Vries said:

I read a little bit of this article and have no opinion just yet on its validity; however, many years ago, I recall an online Q & A session with an autistic fellow who was particularly eloquent when allowed to type his responses.  I recall someone asking why eye contact is so generally difficult among autistic individuals.  He said, as I recall his reply, that he could not look at a person and listen to that person at the same time.  What I understood from his reply was that he could not process visual and auditory stimuli concurrently without a type of sensory overload.  If one is positing autism brain theories, those theories should provide a cogent sensory-to-response basis in brain function or structure for atypical behaviors such as a inability to concurrently process divergent stimuli.      

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6 hours ago, DrmDoc said:

He said, as I recall his reply, that he could not look at a person and listen to that person at the same time.  What I understood from his reply was that he could not process visual and auditory stimuli concurrently without a type of sensory overload. 

I’m on the autism spectrum myself.

The problem here is that we can’t isolate a specific sensory stimulus at the exclusion of everything else. So in this particular example, the stimuli coming from eye contact and his spoken words are both present, and both equally prominent simultaneously, which makes it difficult to focus on the actual content of either one of them. Averting eye contact simply makes it easier to focus on the person’s speech, so a lot of autistics will do this unconsciously and automatically. A better example would be a room full of people all talking to each other; it is very hard for me to just focus on what the person in front of me is saying, since I am forced to equally register all the other conversations in the room at the same time. There is no functioning filter there to limit and focus sensory stimuli - which is why we get sensory overload in certain stimuli-rich environments.

Note that this is a matter of degree - different environments affect different autistic people in different ways and degrees.

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4 hours ago, Markus Hanke said:

I’m on the autism spectrum myself.

The problem here is that we can’t isolate a specific sensory stimulus at the exclusion of everything else. So in this particular example, the stimuli coming from eye contact and his spoken words are both present, and both equally prominent simultaneously, which makes it difficult to focus on the actual content of either one of them. Averting eye contact simply makes it easier to focus on the person’s speech, so a lot of autistics will do this unconsciously and automatically. A better example would be a room full of people all talking to each other; it is very hard for me to just focus on what the person in front of me is saying, since I am forced to equally register all the other conversations in the room at the same time. There is no functioning filter there to limit and focus sensory stimuli - which is why we get sensory overload in certain stimuli-rich environments.

Note that this is a matter of degree - different environments affect different autistic people in different ways and degrees.

Thank you for sharing that.  I feel like I have a much clearer grasp of autism with your short post.  

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4 hours ago, Markus Hanke said:

I’m on the autism spectrum myself.

The problem here is that we can’t isolate a specific sensory stimulus at the exclusion of everything else. So in this particular example, the stimuli coming from eye contact and his spoken words are both present, and both equally prominent simultaneously, which makes it difficult to focus on the actual content of either one of them. Averting eye contact simply makes it easier to focus on the person’s speech, so a lot of autistics will do this unconsciously and automatically. A better example would be a room full of people all talking to each other; it is very hard for me to just focus on what the person in front of me is saying, since I am forced to equally register all the other conversations in the room at the same time. There is no functioning filter there to limit and focus sensory stimuli - which is why we get sensory overload in certain stimuli-rich environments.

Note that this is a matter of degree - different environments affect different autistic people in different ways and degrees.

Although debilitating, it must be a remarkable experience.  I've tried imagining the complexity of your sensory experience as a way to better understand what may be happening in the brain with this type of sensory experience.  As I now understand through your insight, this may not be a connectivity issue as the OP and article link appear to suggest.  The issue, as it appears to me, primarily involves the afferent aspect of sensory processing in the brain.  Given this incoming sensory circumstance, the efferent functional responses to stimuli appears to be quite normal.  The matter seems to be how incoming sensory data arrives in brain function and the dysfunctional effects that crush of data causes.  As you've explained, "There is no functioning filter there to limit and focus sensory stimuli..", which points to an issue with a singular brain structure (thalamus) where all incoming sensory data (excluding olfactory) initially arrives before reaching higher brain functions.  From my perspective of brain evolution, the thalamus--with its right and left hemisphere--is the proto-brain around which our neocortex later evolved.  If my interests were not particularly challenged elsewhere, I might consider further structural investigation of the thalamus relative this issue rather than cortical connectivity as the OP suggests. 

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9 minutes ago, DrmDoc said:

Although debilitating, it must be a remarkable experience.

Much like starving before one eats...

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11 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Much like starving before one eats...

If true, then that would suggest some extraordinary craving for stimuli...unless it is more like trying to consume everything at the same time rather in smaller, manageable portions. 

Edited by DrmDoc

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IIRC sensory issues are not even considered core aspect of autism. Core symptoms are restricted, repetitive behaviors and problems with social communication due to lack of cognitive empathy. 

 

There are many other symptoms of autism: sensory issues, executive/cognitive dysfunction, unusual abilities in subjects involving logic etc.

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2 minutes ago, DrmDoc said:

If true, then that would suggest some extraordinary craving for stimuli...

Maybe, we're just hungry...

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45 minutes ago, Hans de Vries said:

IIRC sensory issues are not even considered core aspect of autism. Core symptoms are restricted, repetitive behaviors and problems with social communication due to lack of cognitive empathy. 

 

There are many other symptoms of autism: sensory issues, executive/cognitive dysfunction, unusual abilities in subjects involving logic etc.

Where discussing "core symptoms," I believe we're discussing the response systems of brain function that likely emerge from some other causative affect on those systems.  By ascribing autism to its symptoms, we are suggesting that the dysfunction of autism involves the output systems of the brain in behavioral expression.  According to Markus Hanke, as I understood his comments, the problem seems to involve the input systems where sensory information enters the brain without filters or focus.  If his experiences are atypical of autism, then sensory processing in the brain is likely a primary issue that should be thoroughly investigated as I have suggested--IMO.

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Do sensory issues occur in all individuals with  autism? IIRC there is a small % of individuals on the spectrum (approx. 10%) who are free of them. 

 

IIRC restricted repetitve behaviors have something to do with the brain having less flexibility than NT brain although sensory issues do aparently play a role.

Edited by Hans de Vries

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1 minute ago, Hans de Vries said:

Do sensory issues occur in all individuals with  autism? IIRC there is a small % of individuals on the spectrum (approx. 10%) who are free of them. 

IDK; but if there's truly a large percentage with sensory issues, then I think any associated neural research involving those issues seems appropriate.

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I think the core of autism is lack of flexibility of the brain. The brain simply does not switch between brain networks as efficiently as NT brain and I thought it may something to do with weaker white matter connectivity since long range brain connectivity is mediated by white matter. At the same time I thought increased number of synapses in the cortex is what causes unusually strong abilities in logical subjects and tendency to put things into categories that is common to most individuals with autism.

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For the moment, if you will consider, what if the way our brain develops and the way our behaviors are expressed consequently is predicated on the way it is prompted or influenced to develop?  I don't claim to completely understand what may be happening in brain function with autism.  However, what I do understand of average brain structure and function is that there's a neural distinction between what we experience sensorial and what we express behaviorally.  I also understand that our experiences affects our cortical growth and neural development and, if deprived of experience, a type of neural atrophy can occur.  If this generally accepted perspective of brain development is valid, it suggests that all aspects of cortical structure and synaptic development is influenced by our sensory (afferent) experiences.    

If you will consider just a bit further, what if the gatekeeper to our sensory experiences was somehow defective or faulty?  Wouldn't that create some succeeding fault in the neural developments those sensory experiences are meant to create?  It's my opinion that the unique synaptic formations in autistic brains is primarily a result of how those brains were forced to receive and process sensory information.  Their neural gatekeeper--likely the thalamus--indiscriminately lets everything in forging atypical neural pathways and developments.

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16 minutes ago, Hans de Vries said:

Is there (on this forum) someone more knowledgeable about this topic? It would be good to have such person.

That person appears to be Marcus Hanke, didn't you read his post?

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18 hours ago, DrmDoc said:

Although debilitating, it must be a remarkable experience.

How this neurodivergence is experienced is, I think, a very individual thing. All the other people on the spectrum I know (I’m active in various support groups for neurodivergents) have sensory issues to some degree, but only a few of them would call those challenges ‘debilitating’. It depends very much on your personal circumstances, too - if you are (e.g.) very sensitive to noise, then being a parent of very active and noisy kids will put you in an extremely difficult position, just to name a (sadly) very common example. But the reverse is also true, which is something a lot of people forget - many neurotypicals find the absence of sensory stimuli very challenging, which is why so many people cannot bear to be in silence and solitude for very long; most autistics on the other hand have no problem with silence and solitude (within reason of course), and the meaning they attribute to their lives tends to be intrinsic, as opposed to extrinsic (i.e. in terms of social relations to other people). Perhaps I am overgeneralising now, but that’s how it is for me personally, and it is what I observe in other autistics too.

18 hours ago, DrmDoc said:

The issue, as it appears to me, primarily involves the afferent aspect of sensory processing in the brain.

Yes, but do remember that there is more to being on the autism spectrum than just differences in sensory processing. The way our thought processes are structured also appears to be different from that of neurotypical people - which is why autistics often come up with unusual and creative solutions to problems posed to them.

18 hours ago, Hans de Vries said:

Core symptoms are restricted, repetitive behaviors and problems with social communication due to lack of cognitive empathy. 

This does not correspond at all to my own experience as being on the spectrum. I have never had the urge to perform any restricted and repetitive behaviours, and only a relatively small number of people on the spectrum whom I know (and as mentioned above, I am heavily involved in the community, and know a lot of autistics) do. So in terms of actual felt experience, this is most certainly not a core characteristic of everyone on the spectrum. Of course, this being a spectrum, there will be individuals who experience this (I do know a couple of them), but I think it is relatively rare. So if this is actually part of the official diagnostic criteria (which I doubt btw, because I don’t have it at all, and am still diagnosed, as are many others), then the medical community got this badly wrong.

Problems with social communication on the other hand is definitely a core part, and I couldn’t even name a single person on the spectrum who doesn’t experience this at least to some degree, myself included. However, it is not due to a lack of cognitive empathy! That’s an urban myth, and a pretty bad one at that. If anything, us neurodivergents we feel empathy (and emotions in general) much more strongly and deeply than people who aren’t on the spectrum. Our problem is, rather, that we cannot “read” other people who are in front of us - when I am interacting with another person, they are like a blank canvas to me, I cannot tell what their emotional state is, or what their intentions towards me are, until a point is reached when it becomes so obvious that even I “get it”. Presumably this is because I cannot read all these little verbal and nonverbal social cues that neurotypicals pick up on straight away without even having to think about it. This is sometimes called “mind-blindness”, though I’m not sure how adequate this term really is. Because I do not know the mental state of the person I am addressing, my reaction to them and how I behave towards them often comes across as uncaring, inappropriate, unconventional, rude, or just whacky - even though there was no intention for any of these on my part, I just can’t meet their immediate social and emotional needs, because I can’t see them and thus don’t know what they are! However, if I do know their mental state (e.g. if someone tells me their close relative has just passed) then I feel as much empathy and compassion as anyone, and will express it as such. So we are perfectly capable of being empathic, we just need help recognising what a social situation is really about; don’t expect us to figure it out from nonverbal cues, because we can’t.

16 hours ago, Hans de Vries said:

I think the core of autism is lack of flexibility of the brain.

I think nothing could be further from the truth, at least in my own felt experience of actually being autistic. Generally speaking, I can quite easily grasp highly abstract and complex relationships, make connections that most neurotypicals would struggle ever grasping, and find approaches to solve problems that (so I’m being told again and again) are highly unusual and creative - both in the academic realm as well as in daily life. Also, we see conventions as just being conventions, so we aren’t stuck in social templates like neurotypicals are. If that is not flexibility of the brain, then I don’t know what is. If we are ever to come face to face with an alien intelligence, I hope the person representing humanity will be autistic, because they will have the ability to relate to this completely unprecedented situation without being attached to restrictive human social conventions, which could be a recipe for disaster here! After all, for us people on the spectrum, every time we meet another person it is much like facing an alien being, for all we can tell about their mental state. So we are well practiced!

I must also question why, when autism is spoken about by neurotypical people, it nearly always seems to be defined in terms of something lacking, of something being wrong, of their being a problem, of it being some kind of condition or deficiency. I think this totally misses the point, and many other autistic people find it offensive, because it stereotypes as us “disabled” and somehow not fully functional or normal. But one needs to remember that “normal” is just a social convention, it isn’t an objective criterium, and essentially meaningless.
Yes, as autistics we face challenges that neurotypicals don’t, but we also have abilities that many neurotypicals lack. As such, it is better to think of autism as neurodivergence - we aren’t disabled, we are just differently abled. And that’s exactly how we think of ourselves - not as people with a disability (i.e. lacking something we should have by someone else’s subjective standards), but as neurodivergent people who have abilities that differ from the norm. The true difference between these is a sense of self-esteem and self-worth, so it matters to us.

 

Edited by Markus Hanke

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Note: While writing this, and putting my thoughts on paper, I changed my mind, I am keeping my reasoning because the questions I want to ask still follow from them. 

55 minutes ago, Markus Hanke said:

Me, Dagl1 has summarised Markus his words into (as to not misquote Markus):
Really great post

I think nothing could be further from the truth, at least in my own felt experience of actually being autistic. Generally speaking, I can quite easily grasp highly abstract and complex relationships, make connections that most neurotypicals would struggle ever grasping, and find approaches to solve problems that (so I’m being told again and again) are highly unusual and creative - both in the academic realm as well as in daily life. Also, we see conventions as just being conventions, so we aren’t stuck in social templates like neurotypicals are. If that is not flexibility of the brain, then I don’t know what is. If we are ever to come face to face with an alien intelligence, I hope the person representing humanity will be autistic, because they will have the ability to relate to this completely unprecedented situation without being attached to restrictive human social conventions, which could be a recipe for disaster here! After all, for us people on the spectrum, every time we meet another person it is much like facing an alien being, for all we can tell about their mental state. So we are well practiced!

Well I do personally hope that we may have a bunch of people there at that point 😛, because what if these aliens try really hard to use microexpressions or are mimicking the general human expressions in order to convey meaning. Anyway that is kind of off topic and more a joke than anything else.
Thank you Markus for sharing this, whenever you explain things about how your brain and that of other people on the autistic spectrum works, I feel I get a lot of insight, and your posts are always very well structured!

59 minutes ago, Markus Hanke said:

Yes, as autistics we face challenges that neurotypicals don’t, but we also have abilities that many neurotypicals lack. As such, it is better to think of autism as neurodivergence - we aren’t disabled, we are just differently abled. And that’s exactly how we think of ourselves - not as people with a disability (i.e. lacking something we should have by someone else’s subjective standards), but as neurodivergent people who have abilities that differ from the norm. The true difference between these is a sense of self-esteem and self-worth, so it matters to us.

I really like this type of thinking, but I do catch myself not always thinking in this way, although I know I should rationally (this is what I changed my mind on after finishing writing). I have known two people (in high-school) whose thinking and way of doing things was so different from that of others that it seemed to hurt and hamper them a lot. It feels to me that at least the current environment and culture (especially during school years) makes life (seem) miserable for these people. Of course these feelings are not exclusive to any group of people, but it is hard to not think of their neurodivergent thinking as at least a partial cause of these problems.

You mention that there are also strong points, which I don't doubt, but I suppose I haven't been around those two long enough to see the strong points come to light: I didn't know them that well, so I might just be only seeing what I saw in school, but from the few talks I did have about how they experienced these things, I didn't get the feeling that they felt their way of thinking was beneficial, it seemed they at the time viewed it as something net negative (Two people do not represent the whole of the spectrum, but because of these cases I find it difficult to not see it is a disability, at least in those people that themselves view it that way (again, we are talking 15-17 year old kids here.))

@Markus Hanke, in your opinion/experience, is this common, and  if it is, people later in their lives come to see their neurodivergence as a benefit?
I suppose now that I am thinking about these things and analysing my thoughts, it could also be that the kids were bullied and the reason 'given' was their autism, and that this made them feel that 'without autism these people wouldn't bully me" or "if I wasn't autistic, I could be friends with them". 
I am still interested in what you think, but I see now that these two examples can't or shouldn't be the only thing that I think of, especially with the fact that we were teenagers at the time.

-Dagl
 

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33 minutes ago, Dagl1 said:

It feels to me that at least the current environment and culture (especially during school years) makes life (seem) miserable for these people.

Yes, spot on. There is a huge social pressure to be “normal”, i.e. conform to what is current consensus and convention. Even academically in school, you are often expected to solve problems in certain very specific ways, and if you don’t, you risk being marked down for it, even if the final answer is correct. That has happened to me on countless occasions, as I do remember.

In Japan they have a saying: “The nail that stands out gets hammered down”

36 minutes ago, Dagl1 said:

but I suppose I haven't been around those two long enough to see the strong points come to light

That’s most likely because the environment was not conducive. And asserting our own strengths in a neurotypical environment is notoriously hard for us.

38 minutes ago, Dagl1 said:

but from the few talks I did have about how they experienced these things, I didn't get the feeling that they felt their way of thinking was beneficial, it seemed they at the time viewed it as something net negative

If you were being told all your life that there is something not right with you because you don’t do things and see things the same way as everyone else, you would be seeing yourself in a negative light too. Perhaps they were on the spectrum, but didn’t know it themselves.
For me personally, I was diagnosed late in life (only a few years ago), and before that I didn’t have a clue about being autistic. I always knew I was different, and the rest of the world wasn’t shy in letting me know that I didn’t fit in, but I didn’t know why. I felt like a failure and an outcast everywhere I went. Being able to actually put a label to it and say “Yes, I am autistic, I am neurodivergent” was a huge turning point - it was only then that I began to see my own strengths too, and not just my social failings. There’s a huge and fundamental difference between being a “normal people” (neurotypical) failure, and being a normal neurodivergent. Does that make sense?

45 minutes ago, Dagl1 said:

because of these cases I find it difficult to not see it is a disability

This is all a matter of perspective and context. Someone once said that, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb trees, it will never amount to anything; but see it in its natural element, and it reigns supreme. Of course “normal” people will tend to see neurodivergents as being disabled, because they are different and not good at being normal. But by the same token I might judge neurotypicals as “disabled”, because they can’t do certain things that come natural to me. So it’s all relative and contextual.

49 minutes ago, Dagl1 said:

in your opinion/experience, is this common, and  if it is, people later in their lives come to see their neurodivergence as a benefit?

In my experience there are many people out there who have autistic traits, but don’t know themselves that they might be on the spectrum; things usually go badly for such people, because when you are neurodivergent yet try to follow neurotypical life templates, you will inevitably suffer. People like that nearly always feel they are failures in life, because they just don’t fit in anywhere, and can’t do things that seem to come natural to everyone else. Even their own strengths, interests and abilities may be perceived negatively by them, because those are often not considered “normal” by everyone else. I saw this in myself - what do you think happens when, as a teenager, you don’t want to go to house parties with everyone else in your year, and instead choose to sit at home teaching yourself differential equations from a university textbook, because you want to understand Einstein’s General Relativity better? Your peers won’t be shy at letting you know you’re a weirdo.

Quite often though things change when people find out the reason for their being different - I am hearing it time and again from other autistic people that finding out that they are on the spectrum was a life changer, because your brain being wired differently is quite something else compared to being a weirdo and a social failure. For me this was the point when I simply stopped trying to be like everyone else, following the conventional template, and began to live a life that is actually conducive to my strengths and interests. But without the knowledge that I am on the spectrum, I’d still be busy failing miserably at being neurotypical. 

And yes, it is very common for people to only be diagnosed later in life.

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@Markus Hanke

What do you think are interesting avenues of research in terms of treating/curing autism? What do you think if thinks like FMT and other stuff (if you know any)? FMT alone has shown almost 50% decrease in symptoms of autism and it's a very simple inxpensive thing. Would you try it if you could just for fun?

 

Do NTs also have special interests or interest that approach SIs in intensity? I see in particular people like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan who seem to be extremely involved in their interests yet are mostly NT in the rest of their behavior.

Edited by Hans de Vries

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3 minutes ago, Hans de Vries said:

What do you think are interesting avenues of research in terms of treating/curing autism?

"Curing" autism? I don't think that's the approach.

It's like trying to cure Van Gogh, or Ramanujan, or one who has the potential to become like them.

They don't need a cure. It's us who need an intensive wisdom-acquiring treatment. The sooner and the more widespread, the better.

 

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