Brain Play

July 17, 2009 | 5 Comments

Category: Ontogeny

I’ve been reading a paper by Bernard Crespi, Psychosis and Autism as Diametrical Disorders of the Social Brain.  Crespi places ASD, or autistic trending conditions, at one end of a continuum opposite schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression at the other end.  One of the features of the theory is that the autistic display little theory of mind, but the schizophrenic show an enhanced theory of mind and easily estimate that others are thinking things they aren’t.

It looks to me like he’s sometimes cherry picking his supporting studies to congregate patterns around an elegant hypothesis.  I must admit I do the same myself.  Suggesting that this wide range of conditions can be cooked down to a single etiological dynamic is not likely.  It is likely, for example, that autism is actually several conditions.  When I go to the dentist with pain, it might be an abscess, a cavity or a bruise.  The dentist doesn’t call all three tooth pain.  He discovers the cause and names the pain based on what he concludes caused the pain.  Someday autism will have several names.

In the meantime, Crespi explores genetic hypotheses for explanations that might explain the patterns that he sees.  I study the rates and timing of maturation and their juxtaposition with social structure.  We both seem to be focused on the possibility that the influence of sexual issues on the mother is integral to understanding these conditions.

One thing that strikes me is his estimation that schizophrenics display too much theory of mind, assigning intention or deliberation to contexts where they do not sit.  Consider a person not considering that someone else can manifest deliberative tendencies.  This may be because the first individual is not self aware.  There is also the possibility that he or she is very self aware, but still not aware of awareness in others.  Then there is the third of four polarities where the individual is not self aware and is hyper alert to motivations of other people.  Last, there are those that are self aware and sensitive to others’ awareness.  All four poles may exhibit more or less of an extreme.

Like I do in my work, Crespi pays attention to brain size, corpus callosum size and even to degrees of lateralization.  What I am wondering at this particular moment is if the four awareness paradigms just noted could be explained by variations in two variables exhibiting four results.  One variable would be fluctuations in cerebral lateralization with right hemispheres more or less pruned by childhood synapse pruning.  The other variable would be corpus callosum size.

Large brain with both hemispheres the same size (no right hemisphere synapse pruning with large corpus callosum).

Large brain with both hemispheres the same size (no right hemisphere synapse pruning with small corpus callosum).

Smaller brain with the right hemisphere synapses pruned with large corpus callosum.

Smaller brain with the right hemisphere synapses pruned with small corpus callosum.

An additional effect is the timing of pubertal onset, which sets off the second cascade of synapse pruning that accompanies puberty.  So, you have early and later puberty impacting the four neurological prototypes just mentioned for a total of eight etiological paradigms.

There seems a suggestion of this perspective by theorists T. J. Crow and other European theorists.  I’ve seen brain size estimations compared to different types of alcoholism and season-of-birth effects compared with schizophrenia and autism.  (There may be correlations between season of birth and brain size.)  Still, this particular eight-paradigm breakdown seems unfamiliar.

Big Brain/Big Corpus Callosum/Early Puberty
Big Brain/Big Corpus Callosum/Later Puberty
Little Brain/Little Corpus Callosum/Early Puberty
Little Brain/Little Corpus Callosum/Late Puberty
Big Brain/Little Corpus Callosum/Early Puberty
Big Brain/Little Corpus Callosum/Later Puberty
Little Brain/Big Corpus Callosum/Early Puberty
Little Brain/Big Corpus Callosum/Later Puberty

Now, consider the four-pole awareness paradigm….

Self Unaware/Others Unaware
Self Aware/Others Unaware
Self Unaware/Others Aware
Self Aware/Others Aware

…and how it integrates with the eight pole cerebral paradigm….

Big Brain/Big Corpus Callosum/Early Puberty            Self Unaware/Others Aware?
Big Brain/Big Corpus Callosum/Later Puberty            Self Unaware/Others Unaware?
Little Brain/Little Corpus Callosum/Early Puberty
Little Brain/Little Corpus Callosum//Late Puberty
Big Brain/Little Corpus Callosum/Early Puberty
Big Brain/Little Corpus Callosum/Later Puberty          Self Aware/Others Aware?
Little Brain/Big Corpus Callosum/Early Puberty          Self Aware/Others Unaware?
Little Brain/Big Corpus Callosum/Later Puberty

I’m playing here, not feeling like I’m uncovering anything significant.  Nevertheless, I suspect if this emerging model has predictive power, males and females will appear in different places on this grid, with their positions influenced by their evolutionary histories (see “Introduction to the Theory of Waves“).

Let me try a garden hose analogy to make this make sense.  Consciousness is the water that squirts out the end.

Fat Hose with Small Nozzle        Big Brain/Little Corpus Callosum        Schizo Paranoid
Fat Hose with Fat Nozzle            Big Brain/Big Corpus Callosum           Autism
Small Hose with Small Nozzle    Little Brain/Little Corpus Callosum     Normal
Small Hose with Fat Nozzle        Little Brain/Big Corpus Callosum        Schizo Withdrawn

I’m going to have to come back to this another time.  It seems there are potentially useful patterns here, but a problem is that I know so little about schizophrenia.  Also, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the female and male versions of the above.  I suspect the debilitating outcomes of these brain architectures will vary between male and female subjects.


Comments

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5 Comments so far

  1. Brain Play Continued : Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social transformation, left organizing and internet activism - how they all connect on July 18, 2009 7:04 am

    […] AndrewLehman.com ← Brain Play […]

  2. Anonymous on September 20, 2009 1:18 am

    My birth-mother had childhood-onset schizophrenia, which was very much like autism, except that she heard voices from early on (by age three or so). I think that you could look at schizophrenia as being like narcolepsy of the frontal cortex, leading a person to fall asleep while awake. The conscious mind becomes hypnotized into believing the subconscious mind’s wishful thinking or irrational fears. It’s as if the adult lets the inner child drive the symbolic car of consciousness. My mother’s delusions are really her “just” working out conflict between her subconscious and conscious mind externally. (i.e. To solve her problems of feeling powerless, she produces the delusion that she controls a posse that will do her bidding.) A person with autism, by contrast, is overwhelmed from the beginning and withdraws socially as a survival strategy to reduce the unpleasant/painful stimuli of social contact. Another concrete parallel could be comparing the autistic to a person who feels nauseated and doesn’t eat, while a schizophrenic is like someone who eats great but involuntarily vomits everything up. They both have a processing deficit (analagous to digestion), but the delay in schizophrenia’s symptoms surfacing means that the brain is already in decline by the time it is treated. Since antipsychotics lead to a reduction in gray matter, they ultimately make the cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia worse, which is unfortunate because IQ is a big predictor for successful outcomes in in schizophrenia.

    Autism is associated with a bigger brain size, which could be compared to square footage in a home. The autistic mind deals with its processing deficits by compartmentalizing everything and hording data. A person with Schizophrenia lives in a small home with no closets, so their inner junk is out in the open demanding to be processed. Unfortunately, the lack of discernment associated with schizophrenia may lead an afflicted individual to throw out the good and keep the bad.

    It is interesting how the autistic brain is so similar and yet so different from the schizophrenic brain. Autism is a developmental condition appearing from early childhood, while schizophrenia is a degenerative condition, generally being diagnosed at the onset of adulthood. I think that both conditions can benefit from increased choline consumption (which improves memory and reduces anxiety), but schizophrenics need something to stimulate their prefrontal cortex and lessen the activity of their limbic system to keep them plugged in to reality.

  3. wrapping paper storage on August 21, 2011 8:56 pm

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    Bernard Crespi inspired exploration of autism and schizophrenia etiology based on lateralization and corpous callosum variation. | Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social transformation, left organizing and internet activism…

  4. food deals on April 14, 2012 10:40 pm

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    […]Bernard Crespi inspired exploration of autism and schizophrenia etiology based on lateralization and corpous callosum variation. | Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social transformation, left organizing and internet act…

  5. general spin on May 26, 2012 1:36 pm

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    […]Bernard Crespi inspired exploration of autism and schizophrenia etiology based on lateralization and corpous callosum variation. | Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social transformation, left organizing and internet act…

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