It was with interest that I read an article in today's L.A. times about frontotemporal dementia. The man described in the article had a variety of social judgment impairment problems. When he stood in line behind a tattooed woman he said loudly, "Wow, that's a lot of tattoos." He would wander into property with no trespassing signs. This condition, also called 'Pick's disease', is similar to Alzheimer's in that it is caused by the buildup of proteins in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain resulting in the degeneration of neurons in these areas. Alzheimer's usually happens in the area of the hippocampus and surrounding areas where it affects memory. FTD happens in a different area of the brain, thusly producing different types of manifestations and symptoms.
Upon looking at yet another website. It appears that some other symptoms can be inability to speak, echolalia and lack of emotional warmth.
I can't help but seeing some of the parallels between this condition and autism. Of course, this may be superficial. Those who believe that mercury could be the cause of autism have tried to demonstrate that there are similarities between the symptoms of those two conditions. Others, such as Karin Nelson and Margaret Bauman, have disputed these showing there are differences as well.
I have to wonder if what is known about FTD could open the door into resolving the mysteries of the etiology of autism. I'm interested in knowing exactly what have caused the myriad of problems and disability that I've had in my life.
A variety of research has suggested that autism could be caused by problems in the frontal lobes of the brain, particularly the most recent autopsy study published by Courchesne, et. al. I wrote about this research and the relationship to my life about a few months ago. Also, the data from the mirror neuron research done by Marco Iacoboni, Mirella Depratto(sp?) and others have also suggested frontal lobe involvement. Based on other frontal lobe impairments this area of the brain could be considered a good candidate, as it is where Broca's area, which generates spontaneous speech is located. Also, the frontal lobes are responsible for executive functioning.
I think the temporal lobes have been implicated in the etiology also but I'm not as familiar with this area. I do remember the Kluver-Bucy syndrome in monkeys whose temporal lobes were removed and the social problems and aggression it caused.
A problem with this line of thinking is that developmental impairments may be different than adult impairments. I asked Eric Courchesne about this when I first met him back in 1989. At the time, their research showing the hypoplasia of lobules VI and VII of the cerebellar vermis was making news. If the cerebellum were responsible for the problems of autistics, I wondered why they would have intact motor systems much of the time. His answer was that if the damage occurred early enough, it would not affect the motor abilities of persons with autism. Developmental lesions were different than adult lesions.
I have a bad handwriting and fine motor coordination problems, but my ability to type and do other types of motor activities is intact. These problems are sort of similar to the constructional apraxias of adults that have had lesions in the right hemisphere of the parietal lobe. A cerebellar impairment would not explain my ability to type fast unless what Courchesne said about the differences between developmental and adult lesions were true.
After I read Marco Iacoboni's book, I contacted him and wondered why if mirror neurons were deficient in persons with autism, why didn't someone with Broca's aphasia from a stroke develop autistic-like behaviors. I wondered if it were because developmental lesions were different than adult lesions. He responded stating that this could possibly be the case and also that the frontal lobes were just one part of the mirror neuron system so this could be a reason as well.
My disability has made it too difficult for me to apply myself and study neuroscience as extensively as I want to. Even if it didn't, I guess no one really knows exactly what causes autism.
The article about the frontotemporal dementia in today's times was quite intriguing. I was interested in reading about Stuart Bryant's problems. There did seem to be some parallels with autism, though I suppose it may not provide a clue about my problems or what is wrong with myself.