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AnnaM's picture

Neuron Patterns and Autism

Learning about how specialized all of our neurons are and how that may alter perceptions of the world got me thinking...

One symptom often associated with autism is hypersensitivity to sensory input; an autistic person may react strongly to stimuli like high-pitched noises or fluorescent lights. In other words, their sensory neurons may function differently than those of non-autistic people. Maybe they can pick up certain stimuli that non-autistic people can't perceive, or fail to notice. Already an interesting possibility.

But the more interesting qusetion here is whether symptoms like this sensory sensitivity are detrimental and should be "undone" with behavioral modification, or if they're simply a different way of seeing the world. Within the autism community, there's tremendous controversy about this topic. Some organizations, like Cure Autism Now, would say that these differences can lead to autistic people being stigmatized or unable to function in the world; they support research into funding a "cure" for the condition. But other groups claim that autism is just a difference in brain functioning, that autistic people shouldn't be faulted for perceiving the world in entirely different ways and don't need to be "cured." They sometimes use the word "neurotypical" for describing people who do not have autism.


I'm torn as to what to think about this controversy. On one hand, I entirely support the idea that everyone's brain works differently, and that autistic people may be able to offer a lot of insight. (Really, when you come down to it, who can "cure" a difference in neuron functioning?) On the other hand though, I really don't like the term "neurotypical." Since everyone has 10^12 neurons and counting, no one's neurons are "typical;" autistic neurons are just different in specific ways.


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