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US Autism & Asperger Association, Inc. September 1, 2009

Welcome to USAAA Weekly News, an email newsletter that addresses a range of topics on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Asperger's Syndrome.


Special: Science Report

Headlines:
The woman with no sense of personal space

A young adult with autism talks about 'the brain memo'

How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders?

Gambling, sex, Asperger’s and my twin con-man brother

Binocular adaptive optics simulator: the future of vision assessment now! (or the end of phoropters?)

Shop Online and Support USAAA


The woman with no sense of personal space

The British Psychological Society

spaceIf I step aboard a crowded train and see that the only free space is a cramped mid-seat gap, sandwiched between two tired-looking commuters, and faced directly opposite by three further passengers squashed close under a detritus of newspapers and laptops, then I will invariably choose to stand. By seizing the free spot, the unavoidable encroachment into my personal space would soon spoil any comfort that might be derived from resting my legs.

A new study suggests my amygdala could be responsible for this aversion. This is the walnut-shaped brain structure, housed deep in the temporal lobe of each hemisphere, that's previously been associated with emotional processing, especially fear. In a new case report, Daniel Kennedy and colleagues have documented a woman, known in the clinical literature as S.M., who has damage to the amygdala on both sides of her brain, and who appears to have no sense of personal space.

"...their finding suggests the amygdala may be involved in the strong emotional reaction that underlies personal space violations.

When asked to indicate the interpersonal distance at which she felt most comfortable as a female experimenter walked towards her, S.M. chose a gap of 34cm - smaller than any of twenty control participants, whose average preferred distance was 64cm. Moreover, when asked to rate her comfort (from one, "perfectly comfortable", to ten, "extremely uncomfortable") when an experimenter stood in her face, nose-to-nose with direct eye contact, she scored the situation a "one". It was a similar story when an accomplice of the researchers stood unnaturally close to S.M. in a situation that she couldn't have known was part of the experiment. By contrast, the accomplice himself told researchers that he found his proximity to S.M. uncomfortable. S.M. does, however, understand the concept of personal space, and is aware that other people prefer more space than she needs.

 

Click here for entire article on The woman with no sense of personal space.


 

A young adult with autism talks about 'the brain memo'

brainI was driving to the market today, lost in thought, half listening to my son who has autism. I try to forgive my transgression, as sometimes I tend to multi-task and ponder how the entire population views his disability. Consequently, my digression is a self fulfilling prophecy.

Back to Paul. He began to talk about "the brain memo". That caught my attention tout suite. "It types reports on the computer in my head." he said. "Remember when that girl at the high school was mean to me?" "What girl?" I asked. He began to recall a passing event from years ago. " I wanted to say hello to her friend, and she put her hands over the friend's eyes, like this" (he covered his face like a child pretending to hide). "Then she said....."She's not here." "She was trying to hide her friend from me".

"Who does this sfuff!" I shout silently. I wonder just how many other instances has he buried in his protective wall.

"Who does this sfuff!" I shout silently. I wonder just how many other instances has he buried in his protective wall. What are his strategies to survive? I need to put a positive spin on this; my own survival strategy. Paul, in fact, established theory of mind in action. The Indiana Resource Center for Autism published a paper detailing the effects of theory of mind. It states that "young children with autism spectrum disorder usually do not see the gaze of another to guide their behavior.

Click here for entire article on A young adult with autism talks about 'the brain memo'




 

How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders?

Sharyl Attkisson Investigates Vaccine Advocates Taking Funding From The Companies Whose Vaccines They Endorse

By Sharyl Attkisson, CBS News

vaccines(CBS) For years some parents and scientists have raised concerns about vaccine safety, including a possible link to autism and ADD. Many independent experts have sided with government officials and other scientists who say there's no possible connection. But how "independent" are they? CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson shares here's what she found.

They're some of the most trusted voices in the defense of vaccine safety: the American Academy of Pediatrics, Every Child By Two, and pediatrician Dr. Paul Offit.

But CBS News has found these three have something more in common - strong financial ties to the industry whose products they promote and defend.

The vaccine industry gives millions to the Academy of Pediatrics for conferences, grants, medical education classes and even helped build their headquarters. The totals are kept secret, but public documents reveal bits and pieces.

"But CBS News has found these three have something more in common - strong financial ties to the industry whose products they promote and defend.
  • A $342,000 payment from Wyeth, maker of the pneumococcal vaccine - which makes $2 billion a year in sales.
  • A $433,000 contribution from Merck, the same year the academy endorsed Merck's HPV vaccine - which made $1.5 billion a year in sales.
  • Another top donor: Sanofi Aventis, maker of 17 vaccines and a new five-in-one combo shot just added to the childhood vaccine schedule last month.

Every Child By Two, a group that promotes early immunization for all children, admits the group takes money from the vaccine industry, too - but wouldn't tell us how much.

Click here for entire article on How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders?


 

Gambling, sex, Asperger’s and my twin con-man brother

Josh Wingrove
Toronto — The Globe and Mail


gamblerStephen Reid was sitting at the bar in Castro’s Lounge, a Beaches watering hole where he’s a regular, when he noticed the new guy a few seats down.

The stranger was wearing jeans, a Chelsea soccer jersey, and a thick woollen coat – a bit much for the April weather. The two solo bar-sitters started talking. The stranger said he’d earned his doctorate at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Mr. Reid, a well-spoken 41-year-old with a doctorate in sciences himself, was intrigued.

"A homeless, about-to-be-deported gambler who says he has Asperger’s Syndrome, Mr. Gann now sits in a Toronto jail...

Introducing himself as Giancarlo Dinatale, the acquaintance apparently worked for Goldman Sachs, where he had developed a differential calculus model for stock markets. He also told Mr. Reid he planned on buying a $750,000 home in the Beaches (with cash) and flying in a designer from New York. But there was a glitch.

“He told me this story about how he’d been in Starbucks a few days earlier and his wallet and passport had been stolen, along with his laptop,” Mr. Reid remembered him saying as they went outside for a smoke that night, around four months ago. “He asked if I could help him out a bit. I thought he sounded pretty legitimate.”

Mr. Reid lent the man $300.

Click here for entire article on Gambling, sex, Asperger’s and my twin con-man brother



Binocular adaptive optics simulator: the future of vision assessment now! (or the end of phoropters?)

by Pablo Artal, Professor of Optics at the University of Murcia, Spain.

opticsDear Prof. Artal, I have a question I would like you to discuss. How you see the future of visual testing? As an optometrist, I always think is surprising to see old-fashion instruments in our offices to prescribe glasses or contact lenses and to evaluate vision. Are you or other scientists developing improved systems for testing vision? Anthony, Baltimore, USA.

"The apparatus is capable of measuring and manipulating the aberrations from the two eyes simultaneously for the first time.

As Anthony clearly pointed out, the standard way of prescribing spectacles or other forms of visual corrections is an instrument called phoropter (and I agree it is quite old fashioned!). This is an instrument from the XIX century that uses wheels with lenses placed in front of the eye. Subjects looked through these lenses that are changed by the doctor until they can read letters projected at a screen. And this is the standard today well into the XXI century.

While other technologies have evolved quite rapidly in the last decades (you can just think in telephone technologies), phoropters are basically as they were more than one hundred years ago.

Click here for entire article on Binocular adaptive optics simulator: the future of vision assessment now! (or the end of phoropters?).



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