this is blue-sky research. It may be useful and clinically significant and safe, but we're not going to know this for years
But more recently, scientists have begun to determine how oxytocin functions in the human brain — or, more specifically, how it malfunctions. Studies have shown that people with autism tend to have low levels of oxytocin, as well as hyperactivity in the amygdala, where most oxytocin receptors are located. The amygdala is also where memories are formed, and where our brains process and assign emotional meaning to sensory information — that is, where we turn perception (seeing someone smile) into "neuroception" (understanding the feeling of happiness that the smile reflects), according to Stephen Porges, a psychologist at the University of Illinois in Chicago. So, misfirings in the amygdala, in tandem with low oxytocin, may help explain why people with autism have trouble distinguishing between happy expressions and angry ones, making social interaction difficult and unpleasant.I know what it is like not to know what to do in social situations but I have no idea what it would be like not to be able to read peoples facial expressions and body language. It is one thing to learn this but a whole other thing to feel it.
Labels: 365 days
Symptoms of autism typically emerge during the first five years of life — a period when a child normally picks up language, social skills and many other new abilities. Scientists call this kind of growth "experience-dependent learning," and researchers know that it is associated with enormous changes in brain circuitry. At least 300 genes switch on and off to regulate experience-dependent learning. Defects in any number of them could conceivably result in some symptoms of autism. There may be hundreds of varieties of autism. From what researchers have seen so far, says Morrow, "It looks like almost every child with autism is different from the next — a different gene is mutated in almost every child."
This suggests that certain therapies or drugs could help normalize the activity of these genes, according to Dr. Eric Morrow of Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the lead authors of the paper. In fact, Morrow suspects that early intervention programs for children with autism involving intensive instruction in speech and social behavior may work by altering the expression of affected genes.