January 02, 2007

From Michael Ricciardi:

Re: “Trust hormone” now tied to “mind reading” -- and in­creas­ingly, autism (Dec. 13): The article is fascinating and certainly suggests an important avenue of continued research... but I could not help from noticing a ‘discrepancy’ with data from an earlier study with autistic persons.

The article states that:

“The abil­i­ty to ‘read the mind’ of oth­er in­di­vid­u­al, that is, to in­fer their men­tal state by in­ter­pret­ing sub­tle so­cial cues, is in­dis­pen­sa­ble in hu­man so­cial in­ter­ac­tion...”

The above quote (in context) clearly implies that autistic individuals are highly impaired in their ability to read various social cues, having a deficiency of this hormone, etc. Yet this assertion stand in contrasts to a study from three years ago involving autistic persons’ abilities to discern ‘truthfulness’ in others, i.e., it was found that autistic persons were far more likely (60 + %) to accurately determine who, in a series of examples, was ‘telling the truth, and who was lying’. The researchers believed that this was due to the enhanced ability of autistic persons to focus in on minute and subtle visual cues (or ‘tells’) that others missed.

Regrettably, I am not able to quote/reference this study in more detail, as a report which I saved is on an old, failed hard drive, and currently, not recoverable.

I thus suspect strongly that the impairments of autism are not reducible to oxytocin deficiency alone, nor is the discernment of emotional states from ‘social cues’ the only means people have for ‘mind reading’ others.

Suffice it to say that autism is a complex condition, and that the autistic mind continues to mystify scientists with its altered, and sometimes enhanced, abilities.


Blogger America Jones said...

Some current autism research is focused on the behavior of "mirror neurons."

When one person observes another person performing an action, it seems that these mirror neurons produce a representation of the observer performing the observed act. This representation bypasses conscious perceptual faculties, contributing to one's intuitive understanding of other peoples' behavior. It is hypothesized that mirror neurons play an important role in interpreting the intentions of observed behaviors as well as in learning through imitation. It is furthermore hypothesized that malfunctions in the mirror neuron system contribute to the observed symptoms of autism.

January 07, 2007 8:39 PM  

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