An Aha! moment for touch sensitivity in autism?

The social symptoms get all the press in autism, but the sensory symptoms may be the most important.   Now researchers are narrowing in on how those symptoms arise.

         “Where is fancy bred?  In the heart or in the head?”

One day you turn on your TV and find the picture is filled with static.  What is happening?

There are two big possibilities.  Perhaps there’s a problem with your TV itself, in which case you need to call for TV repair.

But maybe there’s a problem with the signal your TV is getting – maybe the antenna is askew, the satellite dish is blocked, or the cable is on the fritz.   In this case, the solution is to call your provider, not waste your time with TV repair.

Now researchers have found that in at least one kind of autism, the problem begins in the signal itself.   They added a gene associated with Rett Syndrome the touch receptor cells of mice.  These mice had ‘normal’ brains, but “autistic”  touch receptors.   And this alone was sufficient to trigger the sensory symptoms.

It will be fascinating to see if how much this holds up across the rest of the autistic spectrum.

An important ray of hope, thanks to:   Autism may affect not just brain but sensory nerves, mouse study suggests


The Thalamus and New Experiences

I’ll just put this here for now:

Learning How The Brain Learns: Mediodorsal Thalamus Supports Decision-Making During New Experiences

Another clue in this groovy mystery:

Chakraborty S, Kolling N, Walton ME, Mitchell AS. Critical Role for the Mediodorsal Thalamus in Permitting Rapid Reward-Guided Updating in Stochastic Reward Environments. eLife. 2016.