I see that neurodiversity ideologue and frequent Laurent Mottron/Michelle Dawson collaborator Morton Gernsbacher has a neurodiversity op-ed piece that she wrote. Not only does she have this piece but yet another piece out that deals with a similar theme. The first piece talks about how people might load a dishwasher with cutlery facing up rather than facing down. They would load it face up to clean what would become the dirtiest parts perhaps due to a germ phobia. They might load it face down due to a phobia of being cut. She also talks about analogies of which drawers people put their underwear in etc. She then goes on to talk about the interpretations of various brain scanning studies. The gist of her argument in the first piece is that the interpretations are subjective and that the brain studies might be measuring dysfunctions versus differences or compensations versus enhancements. It is all a matter of interpretation. The apparent insinuation can then be applied to persons with autism and other neurologic conditions. The reason that they might get different results on an fMRI scan than a typical person is not because autism is a disorder or a disease but that autism might merely only be a difference. One interesting example that she gives is a functional MRI study comparing how Americans and Japanese process faces. The two groups used different areas of the brain and modes of mechanisms to process the faces. This was due to cultural differences between the two groups and not due to a brain dysfunction among either American nor Japanese face processors.
In the second piece, she talks about how differences in brain imaging studies have shown how Women can have cortical thickening as opposed to men and in this case it can be considered merely a difference. However cortical thickening amongst autistics as compared to neurotypical controls is a dysfunction rather than a difference. The articles are trying to show that autism is not necessarily a disorder just because the brains appear different or function information differently.
One of the problems with the analogy of the second article that I see is that the techniques for measuring the brain with structural and functional MRIs are still too limited and primitive to detect anything other than superficial differences. Gernsbacher seems to conveniently forget this fact in her analogy. Does the fact that women and men have differences in cortical thickening and the autistics and nonautistics have similar differences show that autism versus nonautism is no more of a dysfunction of being a man versus a woman. Do the fMRI studies on face processing show a difference between autistis versus nonautistists is similar to differences between an American versus a Japanese? No, not really. Magnetic resonance imaging can measure some limited structural differences in the brain or which brain areas blood oxygen may flow to when doing certain tasks. However, they don't show how individual neurons work or which of them might be missing. They don't show differences in synapses or synaptic functioning that might account for the disabling factors of autism versus nonautism. They don't show a possible dysfunction in the sodium-potassium pumps in the neurons of autistics versus nonautistics. It is quite possible that at the deepest levels in autistic brains there are ionic differences in the functioning of neurons due to abnormalities of how much sodium versus potassium is in a neuron. The state of the art currently does not allow such comparisons to be made between autistic and nonautistic controls. It does not even allow the assessment of such things in living organisms period.
It is possible that this may be where Gernsbacher's analogy really falls flat. You could see the same differences in men vs. women as in autistics vs. nonautistics, but they could be there for different reasons. What if it were possible to scan for differences in individual neurons? Perhaps we would see no differences between men and women. Nor differences in the sodium-potassium pumps, blood-brain barrier functioning, etc. We might very well see these differences in autistics versus nonautistic controls. So, yes, in spite of the fact that superficial MRI scanning might find similar things in two groups prototypical versus nonprotypical they could mean very different things.
I also find Gernsbacher's analogies ironic in light of the fact of Isabelle Souliere's (someone whom Gernsbacher has collaborated with in the past) recent study showing the faster processing in the occipital lobes of autistics versus nonautistic controls. Souliere's was interpreting the findings that autistics were somehow superior in this endeavor and she put her own disingenuous spin with the media on her findings stating that she hoped it would not make persons underestimate educational potential in persons with autism. So, Gernsbacher and other Mottron/Dawson collaborators might not practice what they preach. On one hand it is just individual differences, on the other hand, it means that autistics in some respects are actually superior to neurotypicals. Sorry, my dear Morton Ann, but you can't have it both ways.
On a sidenote I once emailed Morton Gernsbacher asking about her essay stating in the title that autistics need acceptance and not cure. Though she may have never received funding from CAN or autism speaks, she has served them in an advisory capacity and has peer reviewed journal articles and research grants with them. I wondered why she would do this if she did not approve of a cure. She wrote me back a very nice/polite letter stating about how it was the duty of scientists to peer review and do editorial work of their colleagues and that she had not chosen the title of her article but that the media outlet who published her article had chosen the title with acceptance versus cure. In this article she claimed that persons with severe autism had made great contributions to the arts and science, yet neglected to give any specific examples. When I wrote Dr. Gernsbacher a follow-up email, querying what person with severe rather than mild autism could have possibly made great contributions to the arts and sciences she did not answer my email as she had previously the last one. I wonder why.
Well all I can say is that Gernsbacher's editorials and the double standards that she and her colleagues have of applying interpretations to their own research trying to show how smart autistic people are and how great autism is must be another example of convoluted neurodiversity logic.