Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Autism awareness month. Autism awareness day.

Taking an optional module in my second year has been one of the best academic opportunities I have given myself. It has introduced me to new teaching styles, broadened by perception of society, and made me value my degree a lot more.

Since the start of my second semester, I have been doing a neuroscience module aimed to remove the stigma surrounding mental health disorders and brain conditions. I primarily chose the module because neuroscience is closely linked to artificial intelligence. I was further interested by the EGG tests we could do in the module and the exhibition we had to do of which topic had to explore a neuroscience topic inspired by our degrees. I was suggested to cover Autism for my exhibition, and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning and researching about it. I explored the expression of emotions in autistic people.

I learnt two things recently. April is actually Autism Awareness Month. April 2nd is even World Autism Awareness Day. Given my recent teachings of the topic, this blog entry is my own little way of spreading awareness of autism and how my degree could be applied to its research.

Everybody's brain is different. Here are regions of the brain most affected by Autism.
Taken from here.
Ever since doing my exhibition, I keep coming across literature about Autism. For example, on Saturday I went to a bookshop in my University town and came across a book titled 'The Autistic Brain' by Temple Grandin. I would have bought the book but I was in such a rush to travel home I did not - regretfully. There was an interesting chapter titled 'Thinking In Pictures' that I found fascinating when I was reading it. Additionally, my Dad brought home some German magazines and - surprisingly - in one there was an article featuring a reader with autism. I have never learned German so I am going to translate it and read it.

Again, it seems like the topic of Autism is gravitating to me. Yesterday night, I came across an engaging television documentary about Autism. It was presented by Professor Uta Firth, a developmental psychologist who has dedicated her life to studying autism. Here is a link to watch it online.

I am personally not affected by autism. I am not aware of any immediate relation to me who is autistic, but I think I know someone who has a form of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Yet, one of my lecturers said something very interesting about ASD. "We are all on the ASD spectrum. We are just at different intensities but, we are all unique." It is the number of ASD traits which classify whether we have ASD or not.

Taken from here.
Funnily, I came across a news article yesterday about autism. (Yes, seriously). You may be wondering how my degree could fit in with Autism. Well, using Artificial Intelligence methods like machine learning, you can programme computers to recognise emotions. At Ohio State University, research has shown that nearly everyone express 21 emotions facially exactly the same way!

“We’ve gone beyond facial expressions for simple emotions like ‘happy’ or ‘sad.’ We found a strong consistency in how people move their facial muscles to express 21 categories of emotions.”
     - said by the study leader Professor Aleix Martinez, a cognitive scientist and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Ohio State

For more of an academic explanation of how this computation works - with even reference to Aristotle - read this.

I do believe however that this research is limited to the culture of where the research was conducted and culture of the subjects taking part in the trial. Still, this finding is amazing.

This neuroscience module has really steered me in areas I could not have predicted. I was not really aware of autism before taking the module, and since then I have learnt:
1. It is imporant to be aware of ASD
2. Respect everyone on the ASD spectrum
3. Accept people with ASD.

I am going to purchase that book by Temple. I think April will certainly be my Autism awareness month.

1 comment:

  1. I am Sophie from Canada, I once suffered from a terrible and Chronic autism ,since i was bone , the doctor told me there was no permanent cure i was given medications to slow down its progress, i constantly felt my health was deteriorating as i constantly go out of breath,and this illness was really terrible especially when am going out with my friends, i have this constant disorder for about 31 years, this was really a terrible ailment ,on thin one day that i was going through the internet,and i came across a post of Mrs Kate on how his son was been cured from autism through the help of Dr Williams herbal product, I contacted this herbal doctor via his email and explain everything to him and make purchase of his product,few days later he sent me the herbal medicine through courier service, when i received the herbal medicine, i used it for 1 months and two weeks as prescribed by dr williams and i was totally cured within those week of usage,on thin now i have not experience any sign or characteristics again . for more information you can visit his blog for help