A new study bolsters a controversial theory that people with autism have ‘hyperfunctional’ brains that perceive the world in fragments, its details vivid but the big picture obscured. Proponents say this ‘intense world theory’ could explain why some people with autism are hypersensitive to certain stimuli.
In the study, published Tuesday in Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers found that a structured environment that’s free of surprises can ease anxiety and social withdrawal in a rat model of autism. We covered the workat the 2014 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. Lead researcher Kamila Markram, Autism Project director at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, notes that many autism interventions incorporate structure and routines, but not sufficiently. “We say you have to put it at the center and you need to be addressing sensory overflow,” Markram told Time. Markram proposed the intense word theory with her husband, Henry Markram, in 2007. She is also co-founder and CEO of Frontiers, which published the theory and the new study.