Siblings Share Brain Activity?

Dr. Michael Spencer, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, led a study that has identified the reduced activity in a part of the brain associated with empathy and argues it may be a “biomarker” for a familial risk of autism.

In a previous blog, “Mindblindness”, we reported on autism.  Individuals affected by autism have trouble interacting with others.  Their brains work differently than normal brains especially with processing the emotions of others.  In Mindblindness, BBC News Health stated, “[autism] is a disorder that affects the ability of children and adults to communicate and interact socially.”

This new study, reported on by Science Daily was published in the July issue of the Journal of Translational Psychiatry.  It is the first time scientists have found that siblings of people with autism also have a similar reduction in brain activity when viewing others’ emotions.

“The findings provide a springboard to investigate what specific genes are associated with this biomarker.  The brain’s response to facial emotion could be a fundamental building block in causing autism and its associated difficulties,” says Dr. Spencer.

The siblings in the study have not been diagnosed with autism or Asperger syndrome, but they do have decreased activity in various areas of their brain (including those associated with empathy, understanding others’ emotions and processing information from faces) compared to those with no family history of autism.

Chris Kennard, Chairman of the Medical Research Council funding board says, “This is the first time that a brain response to different human facial emotions has been shown to have similarities in people with autism and their unaffected brother and sisters.”

What are your thoughts on understanding facial expressions and the emotions of others?

Do you think there could be a genetic biomarker for autism?

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One response to “Siblings Share Brain Activity?”

  1. WC says:

    I think there could be for sure. I grew up with an autistic brother and have seen a lot of other children and adults with autism in the process. The people with aspergers syndrome are very blinded by others emotions. Even the high functioning people are the same way. I think having a bro with autism has actually improved my own ability to read into emotions and situations because he doesn’t talk. Most of the time it’s playing the guessing game and figuring out what he’s feeling before he actually acts out.

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