Localization of Function in the Autism Brain

When reading the section for localization of function, I immediately related the material back to my own life. In fact, in many of the sections presented thus far (and in the coming weeks I am sure) I can relate almost everything back to my own life. I have three children, all boys, ages 6, 5 and 3 and all are diagnosed with varying degrees of autism spectrum disorder. While I am sure I will write about all of them quite often, today I am going to focus on my 5 year old, whom I will call AP. AP is profoundly autistic, non-verbal and is low-functioning as of this point in his life. Localization of function was especially interesting to read about, and easy to relate to my little AP from a specific conversation I had with his neurologist.

Localization of function states that specific functions that are carried out by the human body originate in specific areas of the brain (Goldstein, 2011). The lesson gives a good overview of what areas of the brain carry out what functions; like the cerebellum being involved with motor movements and motor learning. It also states that the occipital lobe is for vision, the temporal lobes and for auditory processing, the parietal lobes process sensory information and the frontal lobes have something to do with fine motor control (Lesson 2). Localization of function explains that there are different parts of our brain that process different stimulus, and carry out our reactions to such stimulus. Enter autism.

Autism is a “neurobehavioral disorder that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors.” (webmd.com). This disorder is often referred to autism spectrum disorder, as it covers many different levels of impairment. Children with autism often have difficulty communicating, understanding others and expressing their thoughts and feelings. Some children may experience a pain or annoyance because the sensory information they are receiving is too much for their brains to process. When reading about localization of function, I realized that almost every part of the brain is affected by autism. There are so many things AP can do, but so many things he can’t because of an impairment, and it leaves me in shock to begin to understand the depth of this disorder.

AP’s neurologist is a lovely lady, and very straight-forward with me. When he was diagnosed 3 years ago, I knew what it was and I just needed it confirmed. When asking about how his life will be impacted, she made a simple comment that I had dismissed up until now. She said that his brain was like a giant map, interconnected with highways. Some of those bridges and cities were damaged for an unknown reason and we had to repair them the best way we knew how. At the time I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about; I had just assumed with some therapy and discipline that he would be neuro-typical in no time. What I now know about localization of function, that the different areas such as the temporal lobes and parietal lobes were the cities and that there are many parts of his brain that need their “highways” and “cities” repaired in order to reach that goal of neuro-typical.

When comparing localization of function to a city map of the brain, and comparing the known functions of those areas to the specific issues my son has, it is easy to relate the material learned back to my own life. There are specific parts of the brain that control different cognitive functions. It makes the lesson that much easier to understand and comprehend.

Works Cited

Autism Causes, Types of Autism, Definition, and Symptoms. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2015. From: http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/understanding-autism-basics

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive Neuroscience. In Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

The Pennsylvania State University. (2015). Lesson 2: Cognitive Neuroscience. PSYCH 256: Introduction to Cognitive Psychology. Retrieved September 13, 2015. from: https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa15/psych256/001/content/03_lesson/printlesson.html

1 thought on “Localization of Function in the Autism Brain

  1. rbv5024

    Hi Lisa,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I especially liked that you chose to write about something that you could personally relate to. It’s truly amazing how our brain is localized and wired with different functions that all serve an important process in our cognitive learning abilities. Thank you for sharing your insight!

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