Rewiring the autistic brain – a new study (neuroligin-3)

Scientists have found out that a special gene, neuroligin-3 (Nlgn3, is connected with the formation of synapses between the neurons in the brain. We know that these synapses are vital for the transmitting of signals and hormones throughout the brain. Mutations in this gene are the cause of some forms of the fragile X syndrome while 25% of these patients are also autistic. The study shows the connection between the activity of the Nlgn3 and the “rewiring”of the brain and formation of new synapses in the right place (the peripheral parts of the brain which are less wired in autists). When this gene is disabled, misplaced synapse occur (as in autism) but when enabled the brain recovers. It is still the beginning of research of this specific gene and studies are not carried out on people but this gives us hope about the future.

 

The article is accessible at:

 

Norton, E. (09.13.2012). Rewiring the autistic brain. Retrieved from http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/09/rewiring-the-autistic-brain.html

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Encounters with blinds (part 1)

In my communication with blinds from all over the world I have been able to see some common views and behaviours among them and in this article I am going to address this important question, regarding that perceiving such people as detached from the world would strongly affect our attitude to them and would lead us view them as “social outcasts”.

A research was carried out in Bulgaria recently (by Angel Sotirov) on how the others view the blinds and although many people pitied them, some came out with the statement that these people live in their own unreal world. Each of the participants stated in some way the idea that they lose track of 75-80 % of the environment (with different expressions according to their professions) and there were these only a few people demanding their world is unreal. Is this right? Can we accept such a radical view?

Firstly, I will try to give a possible answer to the questions whether the blinds accept their physical state. As we all know, if a particular problem cannot be solved, the only way out of it is to accept it. If we refer this to the blinds, we should divide them into two main groups – blinds from birth and recently blinded. Another distinct group are the one with low vision who cannot be joined to any of these groups but also have specific problems related to their condition. Those who are blind by birth almost always accept their state, that’s why they don’t feel any tension when being asked about their diagnosis or related topics. However, the second group is more likely to be struggling with this issue all their life. Because of their acquired blindness they lose their job, social status, salary, even some of their friends. This is the point where they may need psychological help or support from their genuine social group in order to feel confident enough in themselves. However, some of them after finishing school have already managed to become independent and to maintain good social contacts and when they do it, others may be sure that these people are strong enough to achieve success in their career and personal life in the future even better than those who don’t struggle with such problems. I will describe the third group as well, as they often have problems with their education, at this age, as they aren’t accepted in specialized schools (where a vision of 20/100 is needed (including correction) and also in public schools where their vision is considered too low). These people along with their low self-esteem receive a large disapproval and incomprehension among their peers. They are definitely unlikely to accept their condition without suitable help from the outside.

Referring to their needs, all of these people at the beginning have to face the reality of being different, as well as the difficulties in taking care of themselves. If their siblings don’t pay attention to developing a basis for a healthy self-esteem in them from early childhood, these children may not be able to stand on the usual insults and mockeries from their classmates. And without being convinced in their own value and abilities, it will be harder for them to attain the necessary results in school and in their chores which will make them even weaker and inept in the eyes of others (and we know this is a sensitive period of children’s development). Most of those who are blind are unable to find job and this makes them feel incompetent and inefficient and decreases their motivation to live and defend their right of having an adequate life. More than others they need to be accepted, cared for, loved and have a family, as their inner necessities have been unsatisfied from the beginning of their life.

Reality… From a psychological standpoint we are unable to sense the world around as completely objectively and only our inner perception is “real” in terms of direct access to knowledge. This is what the German psychologist Franz Brentano points out in his book “Psychology from an empirical standpoint”: “The so-called external perception cannot be proved true and real even by means of indirect demonstration” (Brentano, F. (1874). Psychology from an empirical standpoint. Routledge, p. 70). So people cannot judge others for sensing something (or not), as it is not real for anyone more than for anyone else. And even if we have some disabilities, we cannot be accused of being “different” in a negative meaning. The world wouldn’t be the same without some people as Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci who were dyslexic and Beethoven who was deaf and many other kinds of “different” (and often more skillful) people.

To sum up, it is true that 75% of the information (which is visual) is inaccessible for them but they do have many other ways to gain it. And reality is as known to us, as to them and any other person.

 

(Photo taken from http://www.jonathanbyoung.com/15-million-blind/)

Encounters with an asperger

Life is very colorful and it can sometimes meet us with… geniuses! So, the story begins. A story through mind and human abilities. A study of boundaries and the space beyond them.
… he was always different. And nobody understood him. So his destiny was an endless solitude. But his own little world could take us all inside. I’ve heard him ask me why he didn’t see my poems in the newspaper lately. This was years after the last one was published. But he was living with this memory of me, painting me in such bright colors that they flashed me and I couldn’t see anything, not only myself. And the most amazing is that he didn’t say anything more than a brief sentence. And still meant so much.
I still remember his handwriting – large round letters, filling up all the space, even going out of the line. And his drawings – ha used to draw 2 yellow circles and 100 red ones, calling them two peaches and 100 cherries, and he would do this over and over again, day after day (it has been part of a song and he sometimes sang it). He wasn’t an artist, nor a writer, but still had the ability to add meaning to everything.
This was his personality – an open, a little bit childish and naïve, but pure and honest person. And if somebody occasionally stopped and talked to him, he was happy, in his own way, and it was an eternity of joy. He would start asking questions, even not waiting for me to answer them. He was so fascinated that he couldn’t focus his attention on a topic and talked about everything that passed his head – his insights, his wonderings, his questions, his fears. He was able to engage in such an intimate relationship with one’s soul that he couldn’t ever imagine, because he was pure – with no pretention, no concealment, no shame.
And… he was a genius. He could do complex calculations in his mind, within a second he could multiply whatever sums I asked him to. And also with dates – he could tell me what day of the week it has been on 23 march 563 BC! What could I say about his memory – he could read a book and memorize it at once. Once I gave him my phone number and just from one saying he remembered, for ever, all of it.
But, as I said, nobody could ever realize what kind of person stood before them. His classmates would make a mock of him, they would insult him, treat him in the worst way possible. He didn’t realize they shouldn’t do some things on him, but he still suffered. He had no friends, nobody to share his wonderful inner world with. Even his parents may have been tempted to feel ashamed of him as through all those years nobody dared tell them how precious this boy was. And while nobody could accept him, he could accept every person who listens to him even for a single minute in his life. And he would keep this memory and praise this person all his little lonely life.
It’s a sad story but still worth thinking. For all those who feel challenged to accept, for all of us who struggle to open their minds for somebody who is not alike. For all of our normal but lonely in their own way souls.

Best wishes to all of you.

Anxiety, can I cope with it?

When was the last time you caught yourself hesitating about whether to do something or now? When did you last think over staying at home rather than going to work or school? What was your last thought about the future of you and your family? Everyone of us has had his moments of an insuperable feeling of anxiety, the question is whether they occure more often than we want them to and are we able to control them.

Anxiety is mainly characterized as an unpleasant and painful feeling of fear, often without a particular reason. Its physical and psychological manifestations may have a wide range – from concentration problems to muscle tension. Either worrying about what will happen in the near future or thinking over and over about what has already happened and what its impact on your life will be, we may often find ourselves in the state of fear – an inexplicable and incomprehensible worrying about the unknown.

However, is there anything positive in anxiety? Maybe Nietzsche was right, saying that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Anxiety is often referred to as a way of reacting to a stressor, i.e. a way of overcoming a harmful influence an aspect of the environment can have. In this sense working on our worries can help us accustom to facing the stress and raise our potential to overcome the crises which may come. And it is always assuring when you encounter a problem to know that you have already dealt with a more difficult situation, isn’t it?