Researcher Says He Has "Found the Pathology of Autism"Dr. Manuel Casanova holds an endowed chair at the University of Kentucky. He's written dozens of peer-reviewed papers, and receives funding from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Casanova is conducting research on the autistic brain -- and, according to him: "I think we have found the pathology of autism. ...It explains so much, it all makes sense."
Not only does Dr. Casanova believe he has found the pathology of autism, but he is also working on a treatment which may have the ability to lessen autistic symptoms of hypersensitivity without compromising the creativity and savant abilities that make autistic people so extraordinary.
Minicolumns in the Autistic Brain: Good News and Bad NewsThe outer part of the brain is called the neocortex. Within the neocortex are groups of cells called minicolumns. These minicolumns are the smallest unit of cells capable of processing information. Ordinarily, minicolumns include relatively large cells, called neurons, which allow communication not only within an individual minicolumn but also among different parts of the brain.
Minicolumns in people with autism are smaller and more numerous than normal. In addition, neurons within each minicolumn are reduced in size. This may be both good and bad, says Casanova: "Since the efficiency of connections among neurons is a function of cell size, the presence of smaller neurons in the brains of autistic patients has a dramatic effect on the way that different parts of the brain interact with each other. Brain activities that require longer projections (e.g., language) may be impaired while those that depend on shorter connections (e.g., mathematical manipulations) may be preserved or reinforced."
In other words, people with autism are exceptionally good at anything that can be processed in one area of the brain -- such as math and visual discrimination. They are, however, exceptionally bad at anything that requires coordination among various parts of the brain -- such as social skills, language and face discrimination.[MORE ...]
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