a. A point on the chemical characteristics:
Oxytocin and adrenaline
It has been suggested as a cause lack of oxytocin, explaining that individuals with autism do not produce enough of this hormone. This is where things get complicated. Yes, there is a “deficit” of oxytocin. Since there is social deficit, there is less production of oxytocin. Since there is less production of oxytocin, there is social deficit.
Oxytocin is well known. It plays an essential role in childbirth, where the body, if childbirth is natural, is drugged by the natural oxytocin. The oxytocin causes uterine contractions that cause the pain, and endorphin hormone which is anesthetic, the oxytocin is also the hormone of attachment that pushes the mother to focus on her baby.
In the absence of medical drugs, childbirth is when the production of natural oxytocin is the highest. The mother is like drugged. This, during childbirth, has the effect of placing the mother in a state of self-hypnosis, half asleep and it prevents her especially intellectual activity. If we ask rational questions to the mother during labor, the production of oxytocin / endorphin, which goes hand in hand, will be broken, and the pain will increase. In other words, oxytocin, produced naturally by the human body during childbirth, reduces the pain (because of endorphin release), but at the same time, induces and increases labor. Oxytocin causes the brain focuses on the only important thing at this time: delivery. At the same time, it is the hormone that will cause the mother focus on her child after birth.
In the last month of pregnancy, the cervix softens and ripens like a piece of fruit. Contractions of the uterus become noticeable, and the baby settles into the pelvis. The contractions become stronger, the cervix stretches and opens, and the baby moves lower and rotates, eventually moving down the birth canal. With each contraction, pain sends a signal to the brain and oxytocin is released. With the release of oxytocin, the contractions increase in intensity. As the pain of contractions increases, more oxytocin is released and the contractions become harder.
The pain of labor is what most women worry about. It is important to understand that the pain of the contractions in labor is valuable. It is an important way in which nature actually helps women find their own ways of facilitating birth. In a very real sense, the pain of each contraction becomes a guide for the laboring woman. The positions and activities she chooses in response to what she feels actually help labor progress by increasing the strength and efficiency of the contractions and encouraging the baby to settle in and move down the birth canal. When the pain is entirely removed, the feedback system is disrupted and labor is likely to slow down and become less efficient. As labor progresses and pain increases, endorphins (much more potent than morphine) are released in increasing amounts. The result is a decrease in pain perception, quite naturally. Nature’s narcotic! The rising level of endorphins also contributes to a shift from a thinking, rational mind-set to a more instinctive one. Endorphins create a dream-like state, which actually helps women manage the tasks of birthing. Inner experiences become more important than the external environment. As labor progresses and the pain of labor increases, women “go into themselves,” become much less aware and, at the same time, much more focused on the work of labor, and are able to tap into an inner wisdom.
The contrary hormone, which can also suddenly stop a delivery is epinephrine (fear hormone). It is said that oxytocin is the accelerator pedal, while the epinéphrine is the brake pedal. The two do not work together. If it is a reason to be afraid, it is impossible to de-rationalize. The absolute requirement for a good production of oxytocin is intimacy. Epinephrine also plays a role in normal birth, awakening the mother from her self-hypnosis just before delivery. That’s why mothers get “afraid” before the child comes out, and it is the same epinephrine rush that forces them to push the baby out.
Serotonin and melatonin
Serotonin has been observed among some autistic persons. Approximately one third of autistic persons have high levels of serotonin in platelets. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, transformed from tryptophan, an essential amino acid contained in proteins.
The production of serotonin in the brain varies directly with the transport of tryptophan into the brain (through the blood-brain barrier). The transport rate is itself inversely proportional to the concentrations of other large neutral amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine, tyrosine, phenylalanine) which are competing at the entrance of the brain. Concentrations of these finally vary according to the proportion of carbohydrates and protein that are consumed. Thus the consumption of sugar or sugary meal will indirectly result in increased concentrations of tryptophan in the brain, while a very high protein foodstuff (which, paradoxically, contains more of all amino acids, including tryptophan), will effectively reduce the brain levels of tryptophan and probably serotonin.
Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, and impulsivity or social aggression (empty stomach syndrome), and high levels of platelet serotonin are involved in allergies and migraine. The serotonin, as a neurotransmitter, bring information from fiber of the nervous system to neurons in the brain. It also plays a role in sleep, since due to the decrease of light, the serotonine hormone turns into melatonin, the sleep hormone, a hormone that is « deficient » in autism, who are sleeping little.
It is difficult to say why the autistic persons have a higher rate of serotonin in platelet, and if the consequences are roughly known, they are not certain.
A high level of serotonin may be associated with a dietary preference for foods containing tryptophan, a very efficient absorption of tryptophan, a greater need for tryptophan, or otherwise a reduced need of tryptophan, a greater or less efficiency of serotonin receptors in the brain. (greater: they reject more serotonin because only a small doseis necessary to send an information, and less: they need more serotonin to send the same information). This can also be linked to a greater sensoriality sensitivity (more information is sent, so more serotonin is necessary) as it may be the cause or a cause of greater sensoriality sensitivity in autistic persons ; and this may also be due to a lower conversion of serotonin to melatonin. All these reasons can also go hand in hand.
The last two causes are the most plausible, when we know about the high sensitivity of sensory in autistic persons and their low levels of melatonin. But again, are they hypersensitive because of their lesser transformation of serotonin to melatonin? Or is it because they are hypersensitive they turn less serotonin to melatonin?
These features are not the causes of autism, but its mechanic-chemical observation.
Of course, there is a link between these elements, but from there to see how they organize themselves, what bind them together and why, there is a gap.
Similarly, depression is linked to low levels of serotonin, as they say, or is it depression (ie a psychic impulse, or an impulse related to other phenomena), which induces low levels of serotonin? And if artificial serotonin (anti-depressants) actually changes the visible depression, does it play a role in the other elements?
Concerning serotonin / tryptophan: some parents of autistic children, or autistic persons themselves report that they feel that their hypersensitive condition is “getting better” a little if they stop consuming dairy products and / or gluten. If we follow the trail of serotonin, and not of an allergy, which is frequently suspected, it is important to consider the following table, that you can download here (.pdf). Indeed, it would not be dairy products themselves, or gluten, which are problematic, but the high content of tryptophan in them in comparisonto other amino acids in the majority of these products. This is not the case in the yogurt for example, where the tryptophan level is very low, but this is the case in soyproducts, which is often used as a replacement, and where the rate of tryptophan is very high. These features may explain why intolerance to dairy product and / or gluten often seems uncertain. It seems that these dietary changes may also play a role in certain skin diseases.
For oxytocin it is the same. It seems that many autistics have a high level of epinephrine, and a generally low level of oxytocin. All this still only applies to a small number of autistics, and all that is not the autism itself. It has been tested oxytocin sprays on autistic persons, with a small « positive » effect, but that does not “remove” autism. The autistic person is probably less “stressed”, less influenced by epinephrine, a little “drugged”, and suddenly a little more social, but autism is still there. Furthermore, oxytocin is a hormone that induces initiation of social behavior, but not its maintenance. The autistics who took these sprays are drugged for a short time, and moreover, the long-term consequences are not evaluated. I have for personal intuition that these sprays are harmful to autistic persons, I think it is dangerous to play the apprentice sorcerer with a hormone on a precisely different hormone system (the autistic). Note also that alcohol has long been sold for its inhibitory effects … The alleged lack of oxytocin is not the cause of autism, it is a symptom (among others) or an observation. All this without forgetting that oxytocin is also the hormone of social blindness, and increasingly, the side effects of the hormone are demonstrated.
To assess the impact of oxytocin on the brain function, Gordon and her team conducted a first-of-its-kind, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on children and adolescents aged 7 to 18 with ASD. The team members gave the children a single dose of oxytocin in a nasal spray and used functional magnetic resonance brain imaging to observe its effect. The team found that oxytocin increased activations in brain regions known to process social information. Gordon said these brain activations were linked to tasks involving multiple social information processing routes, such as seeing, hearing, and processing information relevant to understanding other people.
That is why where the science is floundering, we should probably give a place to the voices of autistics themselves…
b. An invasive sensoriality
Autism described by the autistic person, if the questions are not meant to make them reflect on other aspects, this is primarily an invasive sensoriality. This aspect is only one element in the diagnosis, precisely because, from the outside, it is not perceived, and autism seems to be a completely different thing. The problem is that often the people who work on autism do not experience autism themselves, and they write pages on the elements they perceive from the outside and sometimes those who annoy them: lack of social contact, shifty eyes, irritability, sometimes aggressiveness non-communication of emotions, etc. They often guide the autistic person thinking that it is these elements that are the problem because they sincerely believe that, and they feel unconfessed as the autistic persons are not able to know better, especially when they are working with children and / or autistics who are mentally deficient, as it is often the case. For adults with normal or above intelligence, it is almost as if the doctor told you where it hurts. The invasive sensoriality is taken into account, but as a problem among others.
For autistic persons, especially for children, it is already not easy to make a difference, because any perception of the world is made through the senses, so if they are told that this feature is not of great importance it is likely that many individuals are able to believe that. However, when autistic persons are talking about autism, it usually takes only a short time before they share a particular sensory characteristic that makes life difficult, and that is a source of anxiety (hyperacusis, photophobia, etc.).
Invasive sensoriality. Imagine that you hear every sound through an amplifier, all the lights and bright colors make on you the same effect as when you have a migraine, the smells are like needles that pass through your body, and that each cloth (at least made of synthetic material) that touches you gives you chills throughout the body?
Would you have walked in a city full of car noises, motorcycles, smells, lights and headlights, streetlights, flashing signs, and advertisements ? Would you have been in a mall? In a cinema? In a school? Would you have driven a car? Be sitting In a bus? In a restaurant?
If even you had to do all this, do you still have the strength to talk to people around you? Conduct a conversation? Would you not have focused on your pain? In a kind of self-hypnosis?
The swinging to disconnect the senses
It has been shown that swinging or rocking, a thing that is typical of many autistics persons, but also the fact of going round in circles or make rotating or rocking movement (or even maybe to watch them) * typical of almost all autistic persons plays a role on the vestibular system (Ray et al. (1988)). This is not surprising since it is well known that the inner ear and balance are related. My hypothesis is that through this, the autistic person is disabling or at least attempting to disable his/her hypersensoriality. It is also instinctively what we do when we are confronted with intense pain without medication. It is common to rock or swing instinctively (it is very effective), most likely to sleep our sensory system that is overdosed (physical pain is a kind of overdose in the nervous system of touch, as well as the overdose of the auditory, visual or olfactory system in autistic): this is a self hypnosis. It disconnects the senses. That is the same with babies, who often need rocking to disconnect and fall asleep, it is not, as psychiatrists want, because they like to remember when they were in the womb… (Please note that they often say the same thing about autistic persons…).
* Some autistic persons does not balance (or equivalent), but hum the same music, for example, or perform a equivalent sensory repetition. It’s the same process.
Yet it is the opposite idea that they grow. It is often said that autistics have this type of behavior likely to stimulate their sensoriality (but who would have dared to say that about babies?), And therapies try to over-stimulate the autistic persons, assuming that their hypersensitivity is due to a lack of stimulation !
(The following text is a text by Temple Grandin from http://legacy.autism.com/families/therapy/visual.htm)
Animal and human studies show that restriction of sensory input causes the central nervous system to become overly sensitive to stimulation. The effects of early sensory restriction are often long lasting. Placement of a small cup on a person’s forearm for one week to block tactile sensations will cause the corresponding area on the opposite arm to become more sensitive (Aftanas and Zubeck 1964). Puppies reared in barren kennels become hyperexcitable, and their brain waves (EEG) still showed signs of over arousal six months after removal from the kennel (Melzack and Burns 1965). The brain waves of autistic children also show signs of high arousal (Hutt et al. 1965). Trimming the whiskers on baby rats will cause the parts of the brain that receive input from the whiskers to become oversensitive (Simon and Land 1987). This abnormality is relatively permanent. The brain areas were still abnormal after the whiskers had grown back.
Perhaps it would be beneficial if autistic babies were gently stroked and “tamed” when they stiffen and pull away. I often wonder if I had received more tactile stimulation as a child, if I would have been less “nervous” as an adult. Handling baby rats produces calmer adults which are more willing to explore a maze (Denenberg et al. 1962; Ehrlich 1959). Tactile stimulation is vital for babies and aids in their development.
My opinion is exactly the opposite, and it is important to note that these studies and ideas date from a time when people believed that the reasons of autism were psychological (as almost all by the way), including a too distant mother (therefore they wanted, they meant, to come again in the womb, you see… it is… ridiculous). These reasons have since been totally discredited, and, when we see the devastation that this type of approach have had on many families it is important to remember that. This approach to autism and sensoriality itself, is in my opinion dangerous. The act of cutting the whiskers of a rat does not prove that it sends less information (and therefore less stimulation) at baseline. This is ridiculous. The problem of excited puppies who are raised in a sterile kennel is also, of course, multi factorial. If you take a so-called normal child from his mother, and place him in a sterile institution (but what do they mean by sterile? A kennel is not sterile of auditory stimuli, for example …), the dramatic consequences will be obvious and well sure, they may in some aspects be closer to autistic behavior which is itself, in some aspects, a reaction behavior to suffering. To Mistreate an animal to get from him autistic behaviors cannot prove anything. Similarly, children can get used to everything, but that do not mean that it is good for them.
Surely babies with autism have sensory needs, and especially from their family. This is obvious. But what they do not need is the constant change of these stimuli, the noise of the city, the brutal lights, garish colors on toys, unsustainable materials (fleece, plastic), toys coated with a chemical odor, perfume, smells from household products, and later school, etc.
The autistic is a wild human
It stands to reason that the type of perception described above could be that of a wild animal faced with a so-called modern city. It is obvious that a domesticated horse can be scared by a car, light, sound, and even that he may be stressed by the modern world. It is also evident that the horse, or even better, than any wild animal will be more comfortable in a quiet meadow or forest.
Hyperacusis in horse, tied to an instinct of flight is even used in horse racing.
Bouchons d’oreilles : Boule de liège placée dans les oreilles des chevaux lors des courses de trot attelé. Le driver peut déboucher les oreilles de son cheval en tirant sur des cordes reliées à ces derniers. Ceci a, en général, pour effet de faire accélérer le cheval lors du sprint final.
Earplugs: cork ball placed in the ears of horses during trotting races. The driver can lead to the ears of his horse pulling ropes connected to them. This has, in general, the effect of making speeding up the horse in the final sprint.
Ma réaction au contact était comme celle d’un cheval sauvage hésitant et battant en retraite. Les réactions d’un enfant autiste au toucher et celle d’un cheval sauvage peuvent être semblables.
My reaction to touch was like a wild horse who are hesitating and retreating. Reactions of an autistic child to touch and that of a wild horse may be similar.
The human sensoriality : the hand who can see.
However, concerning human beings, nobody understand anything longer. It has been explained that the human senses were very bad, that they had more or less lost them in the race to evolution, and that if it was remains there was evidence of a more or less primitive state.
At the same time, it is explained that the development of the capacity of the hand has played a key role, not to say “is the cause of” the so-called evolution of mankind.
This is a fine paradox. One of the senses of the human being is highly developed: the touch. The naked skin, which is a human characteristic, at least on the mainland (and outside of hairless dog and cat breeds, which are created by human), is extremely sensitive. I think each of us has once experienced dressing gloves, which, even if they are very thin, generate a considerable disadvantage. Everyone has had the experience of moving in the dark and, only by trusting in his hands, be able to, without hesitation, know where is his bed, if it is normal, wet, unusually warm or cold, if it is there a snake or an insect. This with no light, no movement, no sound. But if you are experiencing this with gloves, you’ll be less reassured …
The unique sensitivity of our skin, makes it possible to create tools with our hands, but more importantly, it is an incomparable communication means with the outside world, that makes us able to take information from it.
The skin will thus be able to tell you, even in the dark, and with a little knowledge, if a fruit is ripe or rotten, even if it rains or if the weather is wet, but mostly what and really exactly what you touch. Anyone is able to recognize a geometric shape with his fingers, or other complex modern objects. In fact, almost anywhere, regarding your orientation in nearby space, you can rely on touch. That is almost possible to say that the hand is seeing, because as a child we have touched all sorts of things, and even carried to our mouth many objects for greater sensitivity. When we are adult, we don’t need to touch the objects around us anymore, because they are saved, just as a dog saves a large repertory of odors.
Additional senses are not directly used for orientation in nearby space unlike many animals. Our hands are so sensitive that they will not touch an object that is repugnant to us because touch is almost like eating. Many animals use other senses to communicate with nearby space, including smell, or seeing in flies, and so it is easy to understand that it is not “primitive”, it is simply a necessary part of the direct communication with the outside world, something we do not need. In humans, other senses are rather used to communicate with the world outside scope, in several scale. The smell, such as touch, to communicate with the relatively close world. I mean by this that it is only usable in the atmosphere. Hearing is a little between the two, but it also can be used only in the atmosphere and the view is able to capture extremely distant objects waves. Thus, it is quite understandable that in the absence of some sort, the meaning should be saturated, since they can capture infinite elements. Fortunately, they say, our senses are not so good …