An Insight into the Autism Brain and Empathy ?

Empathy Represses Analytic Thought, and Vice Versa: Brain Physiology Limits Simultaneous Use of Both Networks

http://www.journals.elsevier.com/neuroimage/

New research shows a simple reason why even the most intelligent, complex brains can be taken by a swindler’s story — one that upon a second look offers clues it was false.

When the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows us to empathize, it suppresses the network used for analysis, a pivotal study led by a Case Western Reserve University researcher shows.

How could a CEO be so blind to the public relations fiasco his cost-cutting decision has made?

When the analytic network is engaged, our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed.

At rest, our brains cycle between the social and analytical networks. But when presented with a task, healthy adults engage the appropriate neural pathway, the researchers found.

The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time

The work suggests that established theories about two competing networks within the brain must be revised. More, it provides insights into the operation of a healthy mind versus those of the mentally ill or developmentally disabled.

“This is the cognitive structure we’ve evolved,” said Anthony Jack, an assistant professor of cognitive science at Case Western Reserve and lead author of the new study. “Empathetic and analytic thinking are, at least to some extent, mutually exclusive in the brain.”

The research is published in the current online issue of NeuroImage.

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Commentary

This research then may answer some of my own speculations in regards to empathy and the ASD brain. It is not that ASD children lack empathy it is that they are often not able to access this pathway as it is otherwise engaged. Layered on top of that speech and communication difficulties …

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