Autism is a highly controversial disorder, which has gotten its popularity over the past couple of decades from a former scientist who said autism was caused by vaccines. This caused an uproar among parents everywhere, the “evidence,” which was eventually proven to be false, caused a wave of parents to not vaccinate their kids, and advanced autism studies further in order to disprove it. 1 in 68 children have this disorder in the United States, and to this day there still isn’t a cause or cure for any part of the spectrum. Autism has various levels, ranging from some deficit to severe deficits, and there are a variety of symptoms accompanied with these. Even though many people claim things like diet, and the time spent in the womb are what causes autism and it’s severity, neither has been confirmed, and many still believe that vaccines cause it, even though that has been disproven. However, more studies are being done to see what causes autism, and a recent study says there may be a connection to how “male” or “female” our brain is. In an article posted in the psychiatry edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a study was published that suggests the phenotype, how our brain presents, may suggest out chances of getting autism.
The question is how can a brain be more “female” or “male” since there have been no defining markers found with the brain. The researchers set out to prove that there can be a difference by doing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on the brains of 98 individuals with autism (49 male and 49 female) as well as 98 neurotypical individuals (57 male and 41 female) and looked for a difference in cortical thickness, which is amount of grey matter on the cortex. Females have been found to have thicker cortexes in many areas, whereas men have thinner cortexes, which hasn’t been explained yet either. There is a belief that it could be due to testosterone, but it hasn’t been proven. During the study, the researchers were correct about 74% of the time on the gender of the person scanned, which shows that there is some correlation in cortical thickness and gender, but it is not exact. The researchers used cortical thickness to investigate about autism because cortical thickness has shown to be altered in individuals with autism. Autism was found to be 2 to 5 times more likely in males than females, the difference on whether a woman is 2 or 5 times more likely was dependent on whether her cortical thickness was more feminine or more like a man’s; if the girl’s brain is more like a woman’s she was 5 times less likely to get autism than a man, but if she had a manlier brain, she was only 2 times more likely to get autism. There was found to be no difference in likelihood in males with female or male brains.
The study didn’t include those who had genetic disorders, psychiatric disorders, history of brain trauma, or brain disorders (like epilepsy), and also took out those who took medications that would affect the brain like mood stabilizers. All of these would pull up as a change in brain structure since they all can cause or are caused by differences in brain structure. Also, this study only included those who are right handed because that can also effect brain structure since those who are left handed can have some functions form on the opposite side. Both groups mean age was in their mid-twenties but the group with autism was slightly younger than the neurotypical group. The researchers wanted both groups to be very similar because age also plays a major role in brain develop, and they didn’t want anything to mess up the results.
Even though this study wasn’t a definite cause for autism, it does give hope for us to find a cause soon and maybe a cure, but for now more studies on this topic should be done so we can create an actual lab test for autism. Right now we rely on just interviews, history, and also by ruling everything else out, but e test could allow for children to get diagnosed earlier, which could lower any deficits caused, and it could ease parent’s fears sooner than ever. The more we know about autism, the closer we get to the treatment and the cure, which will change the life of many who live with the disorder, no matter how big of a role it plays in their lives.
Links to articles: CNN article: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/08/health/autism-typical-male-brain-study/
Scholarly article: file:///Users/Holly/Downloads/For%20Holly%20Hu%20(3).pdf
Reflection: I really enjoyed this assignment, because now I’m warier about what I read on news outlets like CNN because they don’t include all of what needs to be there. This made it easy for me to critique the CNN article because learning about what all needs to be in research allowed me to know what is needed for research so I could easily pick out what needed to be added and what needed to be more detailed. However, the scholarly research critique was the hardest because there wasn’t much to critique, since they had to be very thorough to get it published, but there were a few tiny things like why they did that experiment. The media production project paper was easier to write than the scholarly article critique, but harder than the CNN article critique, which was surprising, since I thought it would be harder. The media production paper was easy to do because it was explaining the study, which was explained well, but the hardest part was to put it into common terms while still explaining the study completely. Since the study had so many factors that many people don’t understand I had to be sure to define them all, while not making the paper filled with just explanations, which was the toughest part of all. By the end of this project, I figured out how deceiving popular articles can be, but I still believe they are worthwhile if they give the link to the original article so those who are truly interested can learn more about the topic.