Thursday, November 03, 2011

Special Issue Of "Nature" On Neuroscience: The Autism Enigma

Everything about autism spectrum disorder conspires to make it hard to understand. It takes diverse forms, from profound communication and behavioural problems to social difficulties coupled with normal language and even precocious talents. (Here, Nature will refer to them all as autism.) The prevalence of autism is rising — by some counts, steeply — but the reasons for that are unclear. Causes of the condition include a complicated mixture of genetic and environmental factors, most unknown (see page 5). Its roots lie in the development of the human brain, a process that, despite huge leaps in neuroscience, remains mysterious. So as awareness rises and parents clamour for answers, scientists can offer few certainties. Hearsay and unsubstantiated theories sometimes fill the void. more

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