New Insights into The Autistic Brain

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects one in 68 children in the United States. There has been an increase of 30% in prevalence over the last couple of years. Although this fact is limited to the United States, the rate of prevalence of ASD is quite similar across other regions as well. Studies have been conducted in an attempt to dig deep and find out why ASD is caused. While there has not been much headway in this matter, these studies have provided researchers with some much-needed insights. Here are a few new insights for your reference:

We now have a deeper understanding that ASD influences worldview – specific areas that individuals with ASD focus on and areas that they miss, when looking at an object or a scene. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) believe that their insights will help future individuals with ASD navigate their daily life better.

What previous research suggests is that ASD’s core symptoms, like impaired communication and social skills, are shaped by how an individual diagnosed with ASD perceives the world. Additionally, individuals with ASD often fail to focus on facial features, which is an important social cue.

The researchers at Caltech conducted the tests slightly differently from traditional tests. The tests involved showing participants, who were diagnosed with ASD, images of real-life scenarios featuring people and animals, rather than just faces. “Complex images were used in this approach,” says Shuo Wang, co-author of the study. “We tried to keep the test as real as possible,” he added.

Candidates from both groups - individuals diagnosed with ASD as well as neurotypical individuals - were matched for race, gender, age, and educational level. The results of the tests confirmed what previous research showed, and brought to light two new insights:

  • Participants diagnosed with ASD tended to focus on whatever was front and center.

  • Their attention was caught by objects that stood out from surroundings. This was regardless of the fact that the object was important to the scene or not.

These insights confirm that individuals diagnosed with ASD simply cannot be categorized as being “afraid” of or “uncomfortable” with looking at facial features. Another test conducted by Daphne Holt, MD, PhD, and Nouchine Hadjikhani, MD, PhD, confirmed such insight as well.

Understanding how the mind of a person affected by autism spectrum disorder is important, in order to improve diagnosis and deliver the right kind of treatment and therapy.

The ultimate goal is to identify and diagnose autism spectrum disorder as early as possible, so that appropriate intervention can take place.

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