March 07, 2005

Face Perception in Autism

Avoidance of eye contact has long been a primary marker for autism, and studies have indicated that a region of the brain associated with face recognition tends to be underdeveloped. But new research indicates that the region is underdeveloped because it doesn't get the sort of exercise that a typical development pattern would give it.

In autistic children, an overactive amygdala causes them to perceive all faces as somewhat threatening, leading them to want to look away. The March issue of National Geographic is out, and research cited in its leading article on the mind indicates that even in adults, brain regions can shrink or grow their active connections within weeks of uncharacteristic use or disuse. Persistent disuse of the region responsible for face recognition seems to cause it to atrophy, but the lack of a fundamental problem with this area is a great source of hope for future therapy for autistics of all ages.

Posted by natasha at March 7, 2005 09:34 AM | Health/Medicine/Health Care | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

I have heard/read several times that the lack of eye contact had to do with being able to focus - if they weren't looking at you, they could concentrate on what you were ssaying. Because evidently watching the face, or the eyes, is very distracting. Not threatening....I don't think too much of this study...because they assume that the problem is a "threat" and not just a distraction or disturbance. Distraction can be negative, too.

Posted by: Moi at March 9, 2005 03:39 PM

I think that if you live the majority of your life in a state of anxiety and don't know what to make of it, you could probably consider that distracting.

Posted by: natasha at March 9, 2005 11:00 PM