The Significance of Synchrony


Scientists have long-awaited the day that they can come up with a concrete diagnostic tool for early detection of autism. Though they are still working on this, current research has brought them one step closer.

Over the past several years, there has been a lot of debate about patterns of synchrony within the autistic brain. It was once believed that they were underdeveloped; however, new research indicates that the problem could in fact be over-synchronization.

Studies by Professor Marlene Behrmann of Carnegie Mellon University demonstrate a significant difference between the brain profiles of normally developing individuals and those with autism. She and her team of researchers have investigated data from fMRI tests taken from subjects of both cognitions during a period of rest. During periods of rest, the brain elicits spontaneous patterns unrelated to specific stimuli; therefore, researchers are able to detect brain patterns as they naturally occur and synchronize.

“Synchonicity” refers to the the connections between different parts of the brain. There is a wide variance in the degree of connectivity in autistic brains- some are under-synchronized, while others are over-synchronized.

Results demonstrate that while normally developing brains follow very similar patterns of synchronization, autistic brains follow a distinctly different pattern. In fact, this pattern distinguishes itself by the very fact that it follows no pattern. Rather than conforming to one norm, it is idiosyncratic. As a result, each person with autism experiences the world in a very different manner, which could explain their behaviors and reactions to their environment.

The variations between the brains of those with autism causes many scientists to use the term “autisms” instead of the singular “autism.”

Researchers still have a long way to go before they can definitively state that they can diagnose autism based strictly on brain imaging devices. However, this discovery could lead neuropsychologists down the path it takes to get there.

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