• The very limited success of conventional management techniques to date, suggest a wider search for innovative and alternative methods. This has necessitated a new platform where we essentially ‘understand autistic behaviour by studying the underlying intermediary biological processes’ than by symptom by symptom approach.
• Here is an explanation to make it clear. If you get angry very often at the work place -the problem which you never had till recently- your doctor may prescribe a tranquilizer pill to calm you down, it is a symptomatic approach. If he traces it to your constipation – lack of sleep and relieves your constipation and thereby the anger – it is biological approach.
• For average people like us, behaviour is a matter of choice, control, and will. Though we may like to watch the football match, we may turn off TV to complete some pending officer assignment. We can use our inhibitory abilities to control anger and keep quiet for the sake of workplace harmony. We, the so called normal individuals obtain all these abilities -by default- due to the near normal connectivity/integration of the functional areas of our brain and the neurotransmitters which process the sensory inputs [hearing, vision, touch, taste. smell etc] to a proper output of emotion and activity.
• This ‘proper processing and integration of sensory inputs’ by the brain is the fundamental functional unit of learning and behaviour. ‘Health and behaviour’ is a product of perfect biological harmony between ‘brain-the upstream commander and downstream organ systems’.
• The individuals with Autism lack this remarkable ability of ‘Processing and integrating Sensory inputs’ resulting in the various behavioural issues and lack of communication.
• The spontaneous question in your minds could be ‘why does the brain of these children lack this ability to process input information, while we develop it by default?’
We have a logical answer for this query
• It is understood with recent breakthroughs in genomics that Autism is a multifactorial neurological disease with a very strong genetic component.
• These children possibly have susceptible/vulnerable genes which are not strong enough and they succumb to environmental toxins, which you and I may withstand.
• The resulting malfunctioning of genes affects the molecular order. Ensuing molecular disorder results in long standing inflammation in their organ systems. Through molecular signalling [information transfer through cellular mechanisms] the brain is possibly secondarily affected.
• This understanding has not come overnight. It has taken decades of dedicated research and the postulate is arrived at after analysis of the most constructive discoveries as detailed below.
• Irregular bowel habits, constipation and vomiting and food intolerance were observed in many individuals with autism. In 1980s to 90s with the advent of flexible endoscopes, many such children with ASD were subjected to endoscopy and found to have various degrees of inflammatory lesions in the stomach – duodenum-and colon.
• This discovery was an eye opener as it gave the evidence of an organic basis for autistic behaviour. These children were suffering from unexpressed visceral pain as they are non-verbal. This could be one of the reasons behind their night time sleep disturbance and day time altered behaviour. [Can you relate it to the time when you had a stomach problem and the disturbed sleep]
• Later research identified that the constant visceral pain could trigger sympathetic over activity causing hyperactivity and inattentiveness.[Can you relate it to the unprovoked anger you exhibited when you had headache for two days with indigestion]
• Later 1990s, advances in molecular biology, genomics and techniques like immunecytochemistry identified increase in tissue damaging chemicals called ‘cytokines’. This led researchers to think that the inflammation not only causes pain but releases chemical mediators which can cross boundaries and spread to different organ systems. Most of the research data indicated that the primary organ system affected could be the digestive system [Gut]
• Recently inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis) hypo-perfusion/hypoxia (Low oxygen saturation) and neuro-inflammation were identified in key areas of brain in autism. Long standing inflammation in the tissues of the digestive system, mast cell activation and break down of the blood–brain defence barrier suggest that symptoms of autism could be intensified by chronic inflammatory molecules generated in the Gastro Intestinal tract.
• All these painstaking research leads are pointing out to a model in which the inflammation – molecular disorder – in the downstream systems influencing the – molecular order of the upstream brain affecting processing and connectivity and conceivably converging on to the autism profile.