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  #1  
Old 09-17-05, 06:41 PM
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eye contact and autism

Here is an article linking eye contact to "threat" response triggers in the autistic brain.
http://www.news.wisc.edu/10772.html


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Old 09-17-05, 06:45 PM
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face blindness

here is a brief article on face blindness and autism

http://whyfiles.org/209autism/4.html

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  #3  
Old 09-17-05, 07:52 PM
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http://www.news.wisc.edu/10772.html


News

Study: Eye contact triggers threat signals in autistic children's brains

March 7, 2005

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http://www.news.wisc.edu/wisweek/09-...research05.jpgA UW-Madison study found that autistic children avoid eye contact because they may see even familiar faces as threats. The circles show where on a face the study subjects gazed, with larger circles indicating a longer gaze time. The straight lines show eye movement. The black dot in the depicted brain slice at the bottom right hand corner is the amygdala cluster, which showed greater activation in autistic individuals. (Photo: courtesy Richard Davidson)






by Paroma Basu

Brain tests at UW-Madison suggest that autistic children shy from eye contact because they perceive even the most familiar face as an uncomfortable threat. The work deepens understanding of an autistic brain's function and may one day inform new treatment approaches and augment how teachers interact with their autistic students.

Tracking the correlation between eye movements and brain activity, the researchers found that in autistic subjects, the amygdala -- an emotion center in the brain associated with negative feelings -- lights up to an abnormal extent during a direct gaze upon a non-threatening face. Writing in the March 6 issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience, the scientists also report that because autistic children avert eye contact, the brain's fusiform region, which is critical for face perception, is less active than it would be during a normally developing child's stare.

"This is the very first published study that assesses how individuals with autism look at faces while simultaneously monitoring which of their brain areas are active," says lead author Kim Dalton, an assistant scientist at UW-Madison's Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior. Dalton measured eye movements in conjunction with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a sophisticated technology that allows researchers to "see" a brain in action.

Notably, the UW-Madison study overturns the existing notion that autistic children struggle to process faces because of a malfunction in the fusiform area. Rather, in autistic children the fusiform "is fundamentally normal" and shows only stunted activity because over-aroused amygdalas make autistic children want to look away, says senior author Richard Davidson, a UW-Madison psychiatry and psychology professor who has earned international recognition for his work on the neural underpinnings of emotion.

"Imagine walking through the world and interpreting every face that looks at you as a threat, even the face of your own mother," Davidson adds. Scientists have in the past speculated that the amygdala - which has been implicated in certain anxiety and mood disorders - plays a role in autism, but the study directly supports that idea for the first time.

An increasingly publicized developmental disability, autism greatly weakens the capacity to socialize and communicate normally. The tendency to avoid eye contact is one of the most pervasive traits among autistic children, says Dalton. The characteristic is a problem because eyes, in particular, are a crucial source of "subtle cues that are critical for normal social and emotional development," Dalton says.

Dalton's work comprised two studies. In the first, researchers placed autistic children inside an MRI scanner and showed them pictures of faces with both emotional and neutral expressions. The children had to press one of two buttons to indicate whether a face showed a blank or expressive face. Throughout the process, the researchers used precise eye-tracking technology to measure exactly which parts of the face study participants were looking at and for how long. Normally developing children far outpaced the autistic study participants in identifying expressions correctly.

During the second study, the researchers again placed subjects in MRI machines and showed them photographs of both familiar and unfamiliar faces. They monitored eye movements and brain activity, and once again, autistic subjects performed considerably more poorly than normally developing participants.

In the future, the findings could help scientists "train autistic children to look at a person's eye region in a more strategic way, like when the person may not be looking directly at them," says Davidson. Researchers eventually could assess whether such approaches improve the ability to make eye contact and whether they might even induce positive developmental changes in the brain.

Because autism is more inheritable than any other psychiatric condition, researchers also could start to explore the genetic mechanisms underlying hyperactive amygdalas -- "a completely uncharted research territory," says Davidson. And if the autistic amygdala is found to be overactive from infancy, the knowledge could help doctors implement intervention approaches right from an early age.
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  #4  
Old 09-17-05, 07:53 PM
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face blindness

Quote:
Originally Posted by speedo
here is a brief article on face blindness and autism

http://whyfiles.org/209autism/4.html

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1. Is autism on the rise?

2. Nature and nurture, but not vaccines

3. The system-making mind

4. Lighting up the brain
http://whyfiles.org/images/clear_dot.gif
This boy is part of an experiment that measures how his brain processes light and motion. The experiment is part of a major new effort to understand exactly what goes wrong inside the brains of children with autism.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
http://whyfiles.org/images/clear_dot.gif
Researchers at Yale University have shown what happens in the brain as an autistic person considers a series of facial expressions. The brain area, called the fusiform face area, which lights up in an MRI of healthy people doing this task is not as active in autistic people. Courtesy Robert Schultz, Yale Developmental Neuroimaging Laboratory

Windows to the brain
http://whyfiles.org/209autism/images/head4.gifPerhaps the biggest mystery in autism research is how, and why, the autistic brain produces autistic behaviors. One way to get at this question is by watching the brain in action with medical imaging tools like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). Functional MRI pictures can show which brain regions are active when people make decisions, look at pictures, are asked to solve a puzzle, and so on. Researchers at Yale University are using MRI to reveal what structures of the brain are involved in autism as well as what circuits light up when an autistic person performs some task.

http://whyfiles.org/209autism/images/mri.jpg

Sneak previews
The human brain is itself an incredibly complex system -- it must be studied slowly, carefully, and with painful attention to detail. Lucky for those of us who lack the patience for that sort of thing, entire teams of researchers are willing to spend their days doing it for us, piece by tiny piece.

"Neuroimaging is a very promising area," says Robert Schultz, director of the Yale Developmental Neuroimaging Laboratory. "We will have a pretty well worked out model of the neural systems most affected by the disorder in the next five to ten years. Treatment will probably lag behind, but effective biological treatments, such as medications, and perhaps even gene therapies may follow on from the successes we should have."

http://whyfiles.org/209autism/images/slide3.gif

We thought you might like to know some the early successes:
http://whyfiles.org/209autism/images/bullet2.gif Schultz and his colleagues at Yale have studied a brain region called the fusiform face area, which they believe is involved in "storing social knowledge." MRI studies show that this area, which normally lights up when a person processes faces, is impaired in autistic individuals.

http://whyfiles.org/209autism/images/bullet3.gif The amygdala, known as the emotional center of the brain, appears to be less active in autistic people than in others. When an autistic person views images of emotional faces, for instance, the pathways that normally light up remain dark.

http://whyfiles.org/209autism/images/bullet1.gif In a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex, certain areas are known to play a role in empathizing behaviors. These areas become more active when a person is figuring out what people are thinking or feeling. MRI studies have shown that in autistic people, the prefrontal cortex is less active in these tasks.

http://whyfiles.org/209autism/images/bullet2.gif The autistic brain is, on average, larger and heavier than a normal brain.

http://whyfiles.org/209autism/images/bullet3.gif In 1999, Baron-Cohen and his colleagues found that autistic individuals reading facial expressions had less activation in the front part of the brain -- and no activation in the amygdala -- compared to others, who showed a lot of activity in both regions.

http://whyfiles.org/209autism/images/bullet1.gif Nerve cells in one region of the brain, the superior temporal sulcus (STS), light up when another person (or animal) looks at you. Ordinarily, connections from the STS to the amygdala are activated when a person tries to understand what's going on in the mind of another. In autistic people, this pathway may be missing or incomplete.

The science of autism is a mammoth endeavor. And despite the research that increasingly fills library shelves and fattens science journals, much remains to be learned.

"Autism presents an interesting neuro-developmental puzzle," says Schultz, "because it is not like mental retardation, where you see deficits across the board. Persons with autism can have preserved intellectual functions... .In this way, autism promises to teach us something about the inherent organization of the brain itself. It is one of the reasons that I enjoy this area of study so much."

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ADHD.... It's not just for kids anymore...
It all seems impressive when you don't know what it means. (H. Rickey, 1987)
"Aye yam what aye yam." (Popeye)
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The computer lets you make more mistakes faster, with the exception of tequila and a handgun. (M. Radcliffe)
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Old 09-03-06, 11:39 PM
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Thanks Speedo...one year later. Eye contact is an interesting topic and I'd difficulty with this social/communication skill goes beyond Autism.
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Old 09-04-06, 11:34 AM
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Yes, it is an interesting topic. I think ADDers probably have eye contact issues for different reasons, but nonetheless, ADDers have issues with eye contact very often.

The curious thging about eye contact and autism is that it is not always a problem.

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It all seems impressive when you don't know what it means. (H. Rickey, 1987)
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The computer lets you make more mistakes faster, with the exception of tequila and a handgun. (M. Radcliffe)
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