According to researchers from the University of London, the cause of autism may now be explained due t the poor communication between brain areas. And the reason for them not interacting well with other people. Weak links between brain areas may mean that people with Autism do not benefit from social situations as well as other people.
The study compared brain scans of 32 people. 16 of the people had an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) while the other 16 did not. The 16 people with ASD had above-average IQs. The 32 people were asked to look at images on a screen. Two were images of houses, the other two were images of faces. They were then asked to think hard and decide whether the houses were identical and whether the faces were identical.
The researchers found that a clear difference in brain activity between the two groups. When the group without ASD looked at faces, their brain activity increased significantly as compared to when they were looking at the houses. For the group with ASD, however, there was no difference in brain activity when they were looking at houses or faces.
Dr. Geoff Bird, at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, who led the research says that The standard view of social problems in autism is that there is a problem in the part of the brain that processes faces, but their research suggests that, is not the real problem as it seems to be that paying attention to faces doesn't lead to the normal increase in brain activity. This is because the face processing areas of the brain are not well connected to those parts of the brain that control attention such as the frontal and parietal regions, he said.
He further stated that, it is very hard to pick a face out in a busy crowd, but when the right face is found and paid attention to it, then all the other distractions can be removed and focus kept on that one face. But he said that, for people with autism, paying attention to a face is much harder to do and doesn't have the same effect.
Autism is characterised by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills, social interaction and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour. It is generally thought that the lack of social skills people with autism have was due to abnormalities in particular brain areas.