Friday, November 2, 2007

The Intense World Syndrome

Browsing through the first set of articles on the new Frontiers in Neuroscience journal, I came across this paper:

"The Intense World Syndrome – an alternative hypothesis for autism" by Markram et al.

The basic idea is that autism spectrum disorders result from hyper-reactive and hyper-plastic neural circuits. This is in contrast to typical accounts that emphasize hypo-functionality. This seems like a much more interesting and potentially plausible account than the mirror neuron view. The paper describes evidence for their claims, derived from a rat model of autism.

Even if the hypothesis turns out to be incorrect, the authors at least deserve credit for coming up with an attention-grabbing name. It makes me think we should rename our Dual Stream Model to something bit more flashy. How about, The Galactic Double Parallel Pathway Model?

5 comments:

David Poeppel said...

OK, that does sound interesting. BUT. Aren't you a little tired of rat models of speech perception? Rat models of autism? Rat models of decision making?

While I certainly appreciate the circuit-level analyses possible in rat models, I am skeptical about the degree to which such "non-parochial" studies will inform us about human stuff. Autism is a human condition as far as we know, and autistic rats may have other issues....

Now, if we can DECOMPOSE autism into its constituents that might plausibly be part of biological tissue of any mammal (non-parochialism), then there might be a game in town.

Greg Hickok said...

You're so serious David. The comment on the content of the paper was just a cover so I could talk about the amusing title of their hypothesis. :-) But as long as you bring it up, yes, I think we should be very skeptical of animal models of complex human behaviors. But, hey, we should also be very skeptical of fMRI caricatures of complex human behaviors. If we can learn something from fMRI, maybe rats have something to teach us as well. ;-)

Henry said...

Found (and enjoyed) your discussion. I wonder why everyone thinks that Autism is only a human condition? Rather egocentric, I think. At the circuit level, the neocortex of a mouse or man is disturbingly similar and if there is a deficit in the circuit (where else anyway?), well then there is no reason why rats (and any mammal in fact) can't have an autistic-like disorder. Anyhow, you are right, animal models are limited, but then we just use them to find clues...then the work really starts to see if it is relevant to humans. Liked the comments on the Title! - but if you could feel what it is like if your circuits would blast away at the slightest touch and lock you into a repetitive pattern and if your memories are so intense that they merge with the present.......I'd say that would beat any stuff you can find on the street corner...Cheers, Henry

Anonymous said...

You might like to know that this theory has the adult autistic community saying things like "Well, duh", "I could have told them THAT", and "Hallelujah, the Clue Fairy has landed!"

Anonymous said...

it makes alot of sense, for me. And I'm autistic ...