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what type of disorder is autism?

a neuro-developmental disorder


how many neurons are made per second in the peak of being a toddler?

2 million


when do people start making memories and why?

around 3 years old as this is when the language and frontal lobes develop

memeories are conscious recall facilitated through language


how many synapses will the brain have at 3 years old?

1000 trillion


when does process of synaptic pruning begin and slow down

begins at 3
by adolescence around 1/2 synapses have been discarded


which 2 parts of the brain are involved in empathy and fear response?

amygdala and hippocampus


what emotions are we able to display from birth?

content and displeasure


what emotions are we able to display from 6 months?

more complex emotions e.g surprise and sadness


when do girls begin to be able to empathise?

1 year old`


when does Theory of Mind begin to develop?

3 years old


when does complex theory of mind develop?

7-9 years


what is Theory of Mind?

explanation for it's being impaired in autism?

being able to attribute mental states to others,
to infer what someone is thinking or feeling
know they have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different to one's own

impaired in those with autism perhaps due to the fact they mainly look at the mouths of people and not the eyes which tend to reveal their emotions
also, no activation in amygdala which helps identify emotions when looking at faces


what is empathy?

ability to understand and share the feelings of another


what is cognitive empathy?

conscious drive to understand and infer what someone else is thinking

(theory of mind)


what is affective empathy?

feel and share their emotion in order to respond appropriately


how does Theory of Mind develop?

babies develop pre-verbal social skills e.g making noises

they begin to use gestures which leads to shared communication and shared perspcetive

normal communication enables a chilld to share in the perceptions and thoughts of those around them


what is a description of austism?

when the ability to connect with people is absent

i.e both cognitive and affective empathy s impaired


what percentage of children with austism have a learning difficulty?


(the rest have borderline learning disabilities)


is autism roughly equal across culture and social class?



which gender is diagnosed more frequently and is there an explanation for this?

3-4:1 to boys

girls diagnosed less as overlooked as shy and less effective in diagnosing girls than boys


prevalence of autism in children?

affects 1 in every 110 children


parental influences as a cause of austism?

old notion of "refrigerator mother" who is cold and rejecting causing autism in the child

no evidence to support this

although, possible for mother to seem cold if has autism herself


MMR vaccine as a cause of autism?

no evidence for this being correct

however, many mothers stopped children from having this vaccine, leading to many having these diseases which may have onset autism due to brain injury

Kaye found incidence of autism increased from 0.3 to 2.1 per 10 000 from 1988 to 1999 when MMR vaccine at same level


what are the factors in the triad of impairment of people with autism?

socialisation - e.g looking through people and turning their backs on them as see people as unpredictable

language developent - e.g refer to themselves in third person and not understand complex language like sayings or sarcasm

behaviour - e.g engage in repetitive acts


why may people with autism view everything as threating and therefore people as unpredictable?

disconnection between cerebellum and other parts of the brain which acts as a warning system so not regulated


biological causes of autism?

genetics : 91% of MZ twins and about 0% of DZ twins
heritability estimate of 80%

illness : e.g rubella direct cause as causes increased neurobiological abnormality in the brain


neurobiological causes?

brain size increases between ages 2-4 larger than average which could indicate that neurons aren't being pruned correctly and therefore the brain is not maturing

abnormalities in the cerebellum (linked to less exploratory behaviour)

difference in size of the amygdala at different ages which is associated with social and emotional behaviour


early signs of autism? social impairment

abnormal social play, impaired ability to make friends

behaviours explained by lack of theory of mind as don't attribute differet emotions to others e.g Sally Anne experiment

problem in joint attention (interactions requiring 2 people to pay attention to each other)


early signs of autism? language impairment

less frequent babbling as a baby

echolalia (echoing someone else)

pronoun reversal and refering in 3rd person


early signs of autism? restricted behavioural repertoire

why they may behave in this way?

obsessional and ritualistic quality to behaviour

distress over changes in routine

play with inanimate objects

why? attempting to impose order on external world as can't organise inteneral world