On Research Relevant to the Brain Disorder in Autism:

Where is the brain impaired, and how does it happen?
Working papers Viewpoint on the brain disorder(2003) (View in 2000)
and notes: The auditory system The inferior colliculus Hemoglobin & the brain
Concepts of autism Autism spectrum Social responsibility

 Links (2007) Neurology (2000)

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Conrad Simon Memorial Research Initiative
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© Copyright 1999-2003
Eileen Nicole Simon

Conrad Simon

(Conrad and his brothers)

Infantile autism is a serious disorder clearly recognizable by age three, but it is defined (or diagnosed) in terms of a set of behaviors, not yet by any known impairment of brain function. Failure to learn language is the most serious aspect of the disorder, at least for parents who must cope day by day with a non-communicative child.

The prevailing opinion is that autism is caused by an obscure and mysterious combination of bad genes. Currently there is more research on chromosome loci associated with autism than on which systems of the brain might be affected.

Many genetic disorders have been found among children with autism, including phenylketonuria, tuberous sclerosis, and fragile X syndrome. But children with autism are also found among those with prenatal rubella infection, and autistic behaviors have been observed in children with prenatal exposure to alcohol, thalidomide, the anti-seizure medication valproic acid, and drugs of abuse.                   

I will argue here that asphyxia at birth can sometimes be another cause of autism - a most disagreeable notion for the medical establishment. I would like to solicit discussion pro and con on this subject. Send me email at: Eileen_Simon@alum.barnard.edu.

The focus of research should be to look for areas of the developing brain vulnerable to any and all factors that can impair function whether these might be genetic, infectious, or due to toxic substances, or asphyxia. The auditory system has been found to have the greatest blood flow and metabolism in the brain, and to be vulnerable to many factors such as alcohol, lead, mercury, infections and asphyxia at birth. Impairment of auditory function deserves greater emphasis in research on failure of language development.

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