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      Autism as a disorder of prediction

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          Abstract

          A rich collection of empirical findings accumulated over the past three decades attests to the diversity of traits that constitute the autism phenotypes. It is unclear whether subsets of these traits share any underlying causality. This lack of a cohesive conceptualization of the disorder has complicated the search for broadly effective therapies, diagnostic markers, and neural/genetic correlates. In this paper, we describe how theoretical considerations and a review of empirical data lead to the hypothesis that some salient aspects of the autism phenotype may be manifestations of an underlying impairment in predictive abilities. With compromised prediction skills, an individual with autism inhabits a seemingly "magical" world wherein events occur unexpectedly and without cause. Immersion in such a capricious environment can prove overwhelming and compromise one's ability to effectively interact with it. If validated, this hypothesis has the potential of providing unifying insights into multiple aspects of autism, with attendant benefits for improving diagnosis and therapy.

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          Most cited references 64

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          Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading.

           V Gallese (1998)
          A new class of visuomotor neuron has been recently discovered in the monkey's premotor cortex: mirror neurons. These neurons respond both when a particular action is performed by the recorded monkey and when the same action, performed by another individual, is observed. Mirror neurons appear to form a cortical system matching observation and execution of goal-related motor actions. Experimental evidence suggests that a similar matching system also exists in humans. What might be the functional role of this matching system? One possible function is to enable an organism to detect certain mental states of observed conspecifics. This function might be part of, or a precursor to, a more general mind-reading ability. Two different accounts of mind-reading have been suggested. According to `theory theory', mental states are represented as inferred posits of a naive theory. According to `simulation theory', other people's mental states are represented by adopting their perspective: by tracking or matching their states with resonant states of one's own. The activity of mirror neurons, and the fact that observers undergo motor facilitation in the same muscular groups as those utilized by target agents, are findings that accord well with simulation theory but would not be predicted by theory theory.
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            Shank3 mutant mice display autistic-like behaviours and striatal dysfunction

            Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) comprise a range of disorders that share a core of neurobehavioural deficits characterized by widespread abnormalities in social interactions, deficits in communication as well as restricted interests and repetitive behaviours. The neurological basis and circuitry mechanisms underlying these abnormal behaviours are poorly understood. Shank3 is a postsynaptic protein, whose disruption at the genetic level is thought to be responsible for development of 22q13 deletion syndrome (Phelan-McDermid Syndrome) and other non-syndromic ASDs. Here we show that mice with Shank3 gene deletions exhibit self-injurious repetitive grooming and deficits in social interaction. Cellular, electrophysiological and biochemical analyses uncovered defects at striatal synapses and cortico-striatal circuits in Shank3 mutant mice. Our findings demonstrate a critical role for Shank3 in the normal development of neuronal connectivity and establish causality between a disruption in the Shank3 gene and the genesis of autistic like-behaviours in mice.
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              Mapping autism risk loci using genetic linkage and chromosomal rearrangements.

              Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are common, heritable neurodevelopmental conditions. The genetic architecture of ASDs is complex, requiring large samples to overcome heterogeneity. Here we broaden coverage and sample size relative to other studies of ASDs by using Affymetrix 10K SNP arrays and 1,181 [corrected] families with at least two affected individuals, performing the largest linkage scan to date while also analyzing copy number variation in these families. Linkage and copy number variation analyses implicate chromosome 11p12-p13 and neurexins, respectively, among other candidate loci. Neurexins team with previously implicated neuroligins for glutamatergic synaptogenesis, highlighting glutamate-related genes as promising candidates for contributing to ASDs.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                October 21 2014
                October 21 2014
                October 21 2014
                October 06 2014
                : 111
                : 42
                : 15220-15225
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1416797111
                25288765
                © 2014

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