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Empathy vs. Lack of Empathy

A new study conducted at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (Switzerland) has surfaced stating that people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders do not lack empathy. Intense World Syndrome - An Alternative Hypothesis For Autism, conducted by Henry and Kamila Markram proclaims that ‘people with ASD’s are overwhelmed by empathic feelings’. This is caused by the autistic brain’s hyper reactive and hyper plasticity of local neuronal circuits. These excessive neuronal processing in circumscribed circuits leads to hyper perception, hyper attention and hyper memory; these are autistic symptoms. This suggests that autistic people’s brain hyper function rather than hypo function. The ‘excessive neuronal processing may render the world painfully intense leading to social and environmental withdrawal. Excessive neuronal learning is also hypothesized to rapidly lock down the individual into a small repertoire of secure behavioural routines that are obsessively repeated’. (Markram 2007).

Although this study hasn’t been officially taken up by the medical profession; the concept is important to explore because they might just have found the missing piece in ASD research. The theory that they have discovered in their research could very well advance understanding of ASDs.

Is lack of empathy definitely a defining characteristic of ASD’s or is the condition actually based on feeling intensely overwhelmed by how various parts of our brains process the world around us?

Many people with ASD’s have reported that when they walk into a room full of people they can be overwhelmed by other people’s feelings. Autistic wired brains hyper function too quickly to process the information around them. This explains why social development is not as advanced in someone with ASD.

Overstimulation of intense feelings result in the individual experiencing fear. That intensity may overwhelm a person with ASD (as well as cause fear), which in turn causes them to withdraw in a way which could make them appear cold and uncaring.

This should be looked into by the medical profession because it could finally solve the mystery of Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Then there may be an increase in understanding and acceptance within society surrounding the aspects of ASD’s that are not fully understood.