Thursday, February 2, 2017
Uta Frith discoveries on autism and dyslexia
"No matter what the IQ of a person with autism – and the spectrum is huge – some degree of social impairment is universal. "The brain is not like a pudding; it is more like an exquisite, traditional engine." People with autism who lack theory of mind are missing the "tiny gadget in the big engine that allows us effortlessly to take into account what another person wishes, believes and thinks".
Theory of mind: the intuition about what is going on in another person's head.
But she had never been happy with the lack-of-bonding thesis. The counter-proposal, that autism was organic – nature, not nurture – was a dramatic reversal. (Comparably, she would later destigmatise dyslexia, showing it to be separate from environment and intelligence; her work on reading development and spelling has been highly influential.)
Frith talks enthusiastically about advances in neuroscience and what technology has made possible. "We can make things visible with unbelievable precision and look inside neurons to see how information travels. But what I am looking for is macroscopic – the mind." About the autistic mind, she remains "intrigued and mystified as ever I was". But she is nothing if not optimistic. Will we ever understand how the brain works? "Yes," she answers decisively, "by the end of this century."