Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Cleanup Needed in Aisle Two

A couple of recent news stories are bouncing around in my head at the moment. The first is a British study showing the prevalence of autism to be about 1 in 86. If this number is accurate on a global scale, it would mean that the world's autistic population is about 70 million.

The second story is about a neuroscientist at the University of Louisville, by the name of Manuel Casanova, who is claiming to have made a breakthrough discovery resulting in an incredible new treatment for autism (yeah right, how many times have we heard that one?) I don't give active links to crap like that, but you can find the full article at wave3.com/Global/story.asp?S=5146301 if you're feeling inclined to read something incredible, in the literal sense of the word. Here's an excerpt that begins by describing autistic brain structure:

More cells and smaller cells, making up tiny brain strands, or minicolumns. These minicolumns take in information, process it and respond to it.

But the increased amount of cells works to increase other abilities -- like mathematics.

Armed with this knowledge, Dr. Casanova is ready to begin working on wiping out autism entirely. "Knowing the pathology, what is wrong with the brains of autistic individuals, opens the door to potential strategies that may actually even lead to a cure."

Dr. Casanova's first step: developing a brain stimulator to bulk-up the brain strands. And he feels so strongly about the potential that he's ready to pay for it with his own money.

Yes, that's the actual wording. "Wiping out." As if 70 million human beings were some sort of noxious infestation. Hey, let's drop a nucular bomb on them thar minicolumns, Bubba. Red-blooded normal folks don't need no wimpy mathematicians doin' no fancy figgerin' nohow.

I'm not actually worried that the next generation of autistics might get their brain architecture restructured into gleaming normality with the amazing handy-dandy brain stimulator. My common sense quack-o-meter tells me it's about as much of a cure for autism as horse manure. What's got me pissed off is that more helpless autistic children are going to be victims of yet another quack cure, zapped with the latest Frankensteinian device as if their brains were no more valuable than those of lab rats. More parents will be fleeced out of their savings with bogus science and phony promises. And more news articles will describe autistic people as vermin to be exterminated.

You want to do some brain wiping, Dr. Manuel Casanova? This is what I have for you: A virtual mop and bucket to clean up the grimy residue of your humanity, along with some virtual disinfectant to wipe out your genocidal bigotry.

Edit, July 19, 2006: Dr. Casanova has left a comment on the Autism Vox blog concerning this story, in which he asserts that he was misquoted (but doesn't actually deny making the "wiping out" statement). Whether or not he said it, my main point stands: Altering the natural structure of millions of children's brains—to make them conform to the expectations of a society that values football players more than mathematicians—is a despicable goal.

Second edit, July 30, 2006: Dr. Casanova also posted on Aspies for Freedom and wrote that he never said he was getting ready to wipe out autism. I've written more about that in a new post, My Publicist Ate My Homework.

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  • I thought Doc Casanov was a decent research type, zeroed in on them little columns and all, but then I read that. WTH?

    Oh, and the fact that he presented at the autism won conference makes me wonder if his mini-column of financial support is drying up.

    70 million sounds about right to me.

    By Blogger notmercury, at 10:18 PM  

  • I know this post is a bit old but I thought I'd post anyways.

    Dr. Casanova was definitely misquoted (gotta love the media). His intention is not to wipe out autism; he wishes to research on the potentially beneficial effects of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) on autism on things like anxiety, social unease (i.e., lessening social phobia), lessening uncomfortable sensory issues, etc.

    With the TMS, it would hopefully increase neural inhibition, thereby decreasing some of the above behaviors/perceptions. It also should not affect the things in which we auties excel.

    He has begun a small number of trials and has paid for much of this with his own money (which is no small sum).

    Never trust the media when it comes to reporting research. They love absolutes and worst-case scenarios.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:39 PM  

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