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US Autism & Asperger Association
January 21, 2011

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

Headlines:

Social Animal: How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life.

STOP Cyberbullying

Mitochondrial dysfunction in autism

The Impact of Touch

Social Animal
How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life.

by David Brooks, The New Yorker

social animal articleAfter the boom and bust, the mania and the meltdown, the Composure Class rose once again. Its members didn’t make their money through hedge-fund wizardry or by some big financial score. Theirs was a statelier ascent. They got good grades in school, established solid social connections, joined fine companies, medical practices, and law firms. Wealth settled down upon them gradually, like a gentle snow.

...the ability to distinguish between a “P” and a “B” sound involves as many as twenty-two sites across the brain; even something as simple as seeing a color in a painting involves a mind-bogglingly complex set of mental constructions. Our perceptions, the scientist said, are fantasies we construct that correlate with reality.

More excerpts from the article:
Scientists used to think that we understand each other by observing each other and building hypotheses from the accumulated data. Now it seems more likely that we are, essentially, method actors who understand others by simulating the responses we see in them.

One of Harold’s key skills in school was his ability to bond with teachers. We’ve spent a generation trying to reorganize schools to make them better, but the truth is that people learn from the people they love....What mattered most was not the substance of the course so much as the way she thought, the style of learning she fostered.

Most emotional communication is nonverbal.

Erica thought that dishes should be rinsed and put in the dishwasher right after they were used. Harold left them in the sink for the day and then put all of them in the dishwasher in the evening.

Harold considered himself a neat man, but neatness consisted of taking things that were cluttering the countertops and shoving them into the nearest available drawers. He was apparently smarter than every football coach he had ever watched, but he lacked the foresight to see why you might not want to leave your shoes in the path that leads from the bed to the bathroom.

Harold had the sense that he had been trained to react in all sorts of stupid ways. He had been trained, as a guy, to be self-contained and smart and rational, and to avoid sentimentality. Yet maybe sentiments were at the core of everything. He’d been taught to think vertically, moving ever upward, whereas maybe the most productive connections were horizontal, with peers.

Click here for entire story, "Social Animal".


STOP Cyberbullying

cyberbullying

"Cyberbullying" is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is NEVER called cyberbullying.

Click here to learn more about "Cyberbullying".

Parry Aftab is one of the leading experts, worldwide, on cybercrime, internet privacy and cyber-abuse issues.


Mitochondrial dysfunction in autism

JAMA. 2010 Dec 1;304(21):2389-96.
Giulivi C, Zhang YF, Omanska-Klusek A, Ross-Inta C, Wong S, Hertz-Picciotto I, Tassone F, Pessah IN.
University of California, School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Molecular Biosciences, One Shields Avenue, 1120 Haring Hall, Davis, CA 95616, USA. cgiulivi@ucdavis.edu

mitochondiaCONTEXT: Impaired mitochondrial function may influence processes highly dependent on energy, such as neurodevelopment, and contribute to autism. No studies have evaluated mitochondrial dysfunction and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) abnormalities in a well-defined population of children with autism.

CONCLUSION: In this exploratory study, children with autism were more likely to have mitochondrial dysfunction, mtDNA overreplication, and mtDNA deletions than typically developing children.

Click here to learn more about the Mitochondial study.


The Impact of Touch

brooksI recently read an article that appeared in The New York Times titled “Evidence that Little Touches Do Mean So Much.” The article, written by Benedict Carey, noted that in recent years psychologists have turned increasing attention to studying physical contact as a powerful form of communication. Carey writes, “Momentary touches, psychologists say—whether an exuberant high five, a warm hand on the shoulder, or a creepy touch to the arm—can communicate an even wider range of emotion than gestures or expressions, and sometimes do so more quickly and accurately than words.”

A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust, and to reduce levels of stress hormone cortisol.

Carey continues, “The evidence that such messages can lead to clear, almost immediate changes in how people think and behave is accumulating fast. Students who received a supportive touch on the back or arm from a teacher were nearly twice as likely to volunteer in class than those who did not, studies have found. A sympathetic touch from a doctor leaves people with the impression that the visit lasted twice as long, compared with estimates from people who were untouched.”

Click here for entire story"The Impact of Touch".

Dr. Brooks is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and has served as Director of the Department of Psychology at McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital. He is the author of a book titled The Self-Esteem Teacher and has co-authored over twelve books.


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