News: Autistic brains "organised differently" say scientists
Robert Karl Stonjek
Autistic brains organised differently say scientists By Jane Hughes Health correspondent, BBC News People with autism use their brains differently from other
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, Apr 7, 2013
Autistic brains "organised differently" say
By Jane HughesHealth correspondent, BBC News
People with autism use their brains differently from
other people, which may explain why some have extraordinary abilities to
remember and draw objects in detail, according to new research.
University of Montreal scientists say in autistic people, the brain areas
that deal with visual information are highly developed.
Other brain areas are less active.
The National Autistic Society says the findings significantly increase
understanding of the condition.
The research, published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, pulls together 15
years of data on the way the autistic brain works.
Better at visual tasks
It suggests that the brains of autistic people are organised differently from
those of other people; the area at the back of the brain, which processes visual
information, is more highly developed.
That leaves less brain capacity in areas which deal with decision-making and
Areas where autistic brains are more
That may be why people with autism can be better than others at carrying out
some types of visual tasks.
For example, some are able to draw highly accurate and detailed images from
However, they can find it difficult to interpret things like facial
The condition varies in severity, with some people functioning well, but
others completely unable to take part in normal society.
The researchers believe their findings may lead towards new ways of helping
people to live with the condition.
"For example, this may show a means to help people to literacy in a much more
natural way than the usual methods of helping autistic people," said Dr Laurent
Mottron from the University of Montreal.
"The natural tendency is to think that autism is a form of disorganisation.
Here, what we see is that it is a reorganisation of the brain," he said.
Autism experts regard the research findings as significant.
"This review highlights that autism should not only be seen as a condition
with behavioural difficulties, but should also be associated with particular
skill," said Dr Christine Ecker from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings
"It offers us unique insights into the way people with autism perceive their
environment and helps us to understand some of their behaviour."
She said it added to the understanding of autism. "Knowing the strengths and
difficulties of someone with autism may help to better understand their needs
and help them maximize their potential."
Carol Povey of the National Autistic Society said: "This study is interesting
as it begins to demonstrate why people with autism often show a strong single
channel for focus and attention.
"Some adults with autism develop their own ways of coping with this
experience, some seek out calm and quiet places, whilst others find creative
outlets, like art, can help them both process the information as well as give
others an insight into how they see the world.
"The more insight we have into the way autism affects sensory processing, the
more people with autism, their families and professionals can develop strategies
to make daily life easier."