We present an efficient approach to discriminate between typical and atypical brains from macroscopic neural dynamics recorded as magnetoencephalograms (MEG). Our approach is based on the fact that spontaneous brain activity can be accurately described with stochastic dynamics, as a multivariate Ornstein-Uhlenbeck process (mOUP). By fitting the data to a mOUP we obtain: 1) the functional connectivity matrix, corresponding to the drift operator, and 2) the traces of background stochastic activity (noise) driving the brain. We applied this method to investigate functional connectivity and background noise in juvenile patients (n = 9) with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and compared them to age-matched juvenile control subjects (n = 10). Our analysis reveals significant alterations in both functional brain connectivity and background noise in ASD patients. The dominant connectivity change in ASD relative to control shows enhanced functional excitation from occipital to frontal areas along a parasagittal axis. Background noise in ASD patients is spatially correlated over wide areas, as opposed to control, where areas driven by correlated noise form smaller patches. An analysis of the spatial complexity reveals that it is significantly lower in ASD subjects. Although the detailed physiological mechanisms underlying these alterations cannot be determined from macroscopic brain recordings, we speculate that enhanced occipital-frontal excitation may result from changes in white matter density in ASD, as suggested in previous studies. We also venture that long-range spatial correlations in the background noise may result from less specificity (or more promiscuity) of thalamo-cortical projections. All the calculations involved in our analysis are highly efficient and outperform other algorithms to discriminate typical and atypical brains with a comparable level of accuracy. Altogether our results demonstrate a promising potential of our approach as an efficient biomarker for altered brain dynamics associated with a cognitive phenotype.
This post is some personal observations I have made about people’s perceptions of The Autism Spectrum. When I refer to “people”, I don’t mean “all people”, I just mean the people I’ve encountered personally, whether in real life or talking to online.
When people first learn about autism, it’s because their new friend [be it a real person or a fictional character] has been described as “having autism”. These people, not really understanding what autism is yet, look at their friend’s characteristics and decide that all the traits they have are autism - that’s what autism is, it’s being like Sherlock, Abed Nadir, Einstein, that quiet kid in class, your friend’s nonverbal son. The stereotypes can be nice (look at all the aspergers characters in film, books and television, which paint most of them as eccentric, bad with people, but nevertheless geniuses) or they can be bad (like “Autism moms” complaining how difficult it is for THEM to raise their child… or Louis Theroux’ documentaries painting a bleak portrait of autism “sufferers”).
At this stage, the person learning about autism usually seems to think of it as a binary state… like a lightswitch. They’ll tell you you either HAVE AUTISM and are therefore exactly like the stereotype they’ve created (lights on) or you DON’T HAVE AUTISM because you’re not exactly like that stereotype (lights off).
If they’ve read up a little more, they might have seen the word “spectrum”. Now they have a more generalized view of autism. But they get the idea of “spectrum” wrong - they see it as a linear thing: a number-line, a scale, a dimmer switch or volume control, from Zero to Autistic — or from “low-functioning” to “high-functioning”. At that point they say silly things like “You’re very high-functioning!” or “No, but I mean like, the really really autistic kids, who, like, can’t do anything because they can’t talk”. They invent this linear relationship between a person’s verboseness and “how autistic they are”.
A lot of people seem to get stuck at this point, so I think the word “spectrum” requires some explanation.
When I see the word “spectrum” I immediately imagine a rainbow, or light being split from a prism. I’m sure most people do. And sure, the spectrum of colours is derived from the electromagnetic spectrum - we get different colours at different wavelengths - it’s a continuous range.
BUT- where does white light come from? White light is a combination of all those different wavelengths. You can create new colours by mixing different colours together. You can make colours brighter by adding a little bit of the other colours. You can mix the wavelengths together at different intensities. There’s a lot of ways of combining colours.
Which essentially what the autism spectrum REALLY is. Which is why labels like “high functioning” and “severely autistic” are dumb labels. Just because one autie excels at public speaking doesn’t make them unanimously “high functioning”. Conversely, I know of nonverbal auties who are masters of writing. To tell someone with a vibrant imagination, intense emotions, passionate interests and brilliant intellect that they’re “low-functioning” because they don’t vocalize their thoughts out loud is a massive insult. To refuse someone’s pleas of help because they’re “too high functioning” is also a shitty thing to do (I’m looking at you, ATOS).
There’s lots of ways in which we function, some of which are interdependent, others independent, and the levels vary wildly between autistic people, and they also vary wildly in non-autistic people too:
- Long-term memory
- Short-term memory
- Physical awareness
- Spatial awareness
- Vocal ability
- Verbal reasoning / ability to understand instructions
- Linguistic skills
- Mathematical and logical skills
- Executive function / Planning
- Ability to filter information
- Processing speed of sensory input
- Ability to focus / attention span
- Emotional self-awareness
[These might not be the exact distinct cognitive ‘functions’ as according to all the sciencey literature, this was verbatim]
I see my functions as a bar chart. In the version I drew it’s a prism splitting white light into the whole spectrum, but the different colours fade out at different places (and it’s a homage to Pink Floyd :p). That bar chart can vary throughout the day, be markedly different on different days, and is always changing over time.
In times of anxiety all the functionality unanimously drains out of me. In a nice chilled out environment it all comes trickling back.
When I’m in the zone doing something I enjoy, some of those rays of colour will be shooting off the image :D
(Note how there’s no lines on the image denoting the “average person“‘s ability towards a particular function, because this shit is nigh on impossible to quantify person-to-person. All you can do is compare yourself to yourself)
I think that’s more accurate than “low functioning” vs “high functioning” ??????????
How to end your novel
The Dos and Don’ts By James V. Smith Jr.
- Don’t introduce any new characters or subplots. Any appearances within the last 50 pages should have been foreshadowed earlier, even if mysteriously.
- Don’t describe, muse, explain or philosophize. Keep description to a minimum, but maximize action and conflict. You have placed all your charges. Now, light the fuse and run.
- Don’t change voice, tone or attitude. An ending will feel tacked on if the voice of the narrator suddenly sounds alien to the voice that’s been consistent for the previous 80,000 words.
- Don’t resort to gimmicks. No quirky twists or trick endings. The final impression you want to create is a positive one. Don’t leave your reader feeling tricked or cheated.
- Do create that sense of Oh, wow! Your best novelties and biggest surprises should go here. Readers love it when some early, trivial detail plays a part in the finale.
- Do enmesh your reader deeply in the outcome. Get her so involved that she cannot put down your novel to go to bed, to work or even to the bathroom until she sees how it turns out.
- Do resolve the central conflict. You don’t have to provide a happily-ever-after ending, but do try to uplift. Readers want to be uplifted, and editors try to give readers what they want.
- Do afford redemption to your heroic character. No matter how many mistakes she has made along the way, allow the reader—and the character—to realize that, in the end, she has done the right thing.
- Do tie up loose ends of significance. Every question you planted in a reader’s mind should be addressed, even if the answer is to say that a character will address that issue later, after the book ends.
- Do mirror your final words to events in your opener. When you reach the ending, go back to ensure some element in each of your complications will point to the beginning. It’s the tie-back tactic. Merely create a feeling that the final words hearken to an earlier moment in the story.
By James V. Smith Jr.
Hi everyone, so I made a post a few days ago about putting together a list of links for my lab partner, who wants to work with autistic children. This is what I’ve come up with. Admittedly it’s more of an “introduction to neurodiversity advocacy” primer, but I think that should come with the job, really. If you’ve got any suggestions, do let me know!
(And sorry for the odd formatting- I can’t for the life of me figure out how to make nesting bullets, even when I enter the html)
TW: mentions (but no discussion in this post) of ableism, neglect, assault, murder, abuse, ABA. All links come with their own warnings unless otherwise noted. If you find one that doesn’t, or is broken, please tell me.
About Autism Speaks:
1. About autism
2. What it really means when someone says they’re autistic
3. Diagnostic criteria suggested by autistic people (more on what it’s like to be autistic)
4. Yes, That Too’s tips for parents
5. What I Wish I’d Been Made Aware of When My Daughter Was Diagnosed With Autism
6. Meltdowns and shutdowns
7. Not an epidemic
8. Functioning labels
9. Person-first language
“Classics” and others widely circulated among autistic self-advocates:
1. The Obsessive Joy of Autism
2. Don’t Mourn For Us
3. Quiet Hands and Grabbers (TW: ableism, abuse, R-slur in Grabbers)
4. The Cost of Compliance is Unreasonable (TW for teachers forcing a child to do something they don’t want to do, huge TW for link within post)
- Similar, but not so widely spread, is The Influence of Others, a parent’s reaction to “Grabbers” (TW: ableism, abuse)
1. An Analogy (TW: trying to force someone out of autistic behavior)
2. On forcing eye contact
3. Doing “Nothing”
4. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: my Assessment of Our Experience with ABA
5. More of Rose’s thoughts
- The post linked in the above (she changed her blog title, so “caffeinatedaspie” URL links don’t work)
6. An Open Letter to Parents Considering Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Their Child With Autism (TW: detailed descriptions of ABA methods, child’s PTSD)
- And Part Two (the link kind of gets lost at the bottom, so I put it here too)
- As disgusting as it is, a lot of people dismiss autistic voices on the topic of harmful therapy in favor of parents’ and child development professionals’ voices. The writers of this are both, so it may be useful to convince people with that attitude
Ableism (important to understand the prejudice autistic people face): (TW for ableism, neglect, assault, murder on this entire section)
1. Murders by parents and caregivers
2. Commentary on other people’s dismissal of murders
3. Transplant discrimination
4. Medical discrimination
5. The Pillow Angel (not autism, cerebral palsy, but important to recognize what people will do out of “concern” to a non-speaking person)
- And the video for it
Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN):
1. The Caffeinated Autistic (also goldenheartedrose on tumblr)
2. Yes, That Too (also yesthattoo on tumblr)
3. Autistic Hoya
4. Just Stimming
5. Radical Neurodivergence Speaking
6. Tiny Grace Notes (AKA Ask an Autistic)
8. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism
Things recommended by people I follow (but that I haven’t really looked at personally):
1. The ‘askanautistic’ tag on tumblr- tag your post with this and autistic people who are willing to educate others will see your question
Oh, I’m so happy someone made this because I wanted to make a list like this. This is great!
I would add, for those who work in ABA:
“The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists”
“The Case Against B F Skinner”
“A Review of BF Skinner’s Verbal Behavior”
and “Loving Lampposts” to films
More ABA resources.
It turns out procrastination is not typically a function of laziness, apathy or work ethic as it is often regarded to be. It’s a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth.
You see, procrastinators tend to be people who have, for whatever reason, developed to perceive an unusually strong association between their performance and their value as a person. This makes failure or criticism disproportionately painful, which leads naturally to hesitancy when it comes to the prospect of doing anything that reflects their ability — which is pretty much everything.
But in real life, you can’t avoid doing things. We have to earn a living, do our taxes, have difficult conversations sometimes. Human life requires confronting uncertainty and risk, so pressure mounts. Procrastination gives a person a temporary hit of relief from this pressure of “having to do” things, which is a self-rewarding behavior. So it continues and becomes the normal way to respond to these pressures.
Particularly prone to serious procrastination problems are children who grew up with unusually high expectations placed on them. Their older siblings may have been high achievers, leaving big shoes to fill, or their parents may have had neurotic and inhuman expectations of their own, or else they exhibited exceptional talents early on, and thereafter “average” performances were met with concern and suspicion from parents and teachers.
This totally justifies every excuse I’ve been giving myself from not doing that thing I’m supposed to do.
Kids With Autism Quick To Detect Motion
Children with autism see simple movements twice as fast as other children their age, a new study finds.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Rochester were looking to test a common theory about autism which holds that overwhelming sensory stimulation inhibits other brain functions. The researchers figured they could check that by studying how kids with autism process moving images.