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Will Scientists Learn How To Fine-Tune Autism?

In his 2000 novel A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge writes about a treatment called Focusing:

Focusing ennobles. It is the key to Emergent success, and a much more subtle thing than you can imagine. It's not just that we've created a psychoactive microbe....

"We can improve the attention-focusing aspects of consciousness: we can take humans and turn them into analytical engines."
(Read more about focusing)

Researchers have announced this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) that genetically altered mice "with a loss-of-function mutation in the murine NLGN4 ortholog Nlgn4, which encodes the synaptic cell adhesion protein Neuroligin-4, exhibit highly selective deficits in reciprocal social interactions and communication that are reminiscent of ASCs (autism spectrum conditions) in humans."

Last summer, it was announced that inhibiting an enzyme called PAK can stop mice from exhibiting signs of hyperactivity and repetitive movement.

If scientists learn a bit more, it is not outside the realm of possibility that it might be possible to induce autism-like behaviors and then remove them. Autism and genius are increasingly seen as being related; some forms of mild autism may provide a shortcut to increased concentration for particular individuals.

An ideal study pill - which can be reversed in time for you to enjoy being with friends on the weekend? Don't be surprised if someday students are asked to pee in a cup or give a blood sample after taking an important test like the LSAT or GRE.

Other barriers are already being broken in the race to cheat on tests:

Via the nifty new site io9; science links here and here. Also, read more about the idea of how autism may relate to brilliance in this well-done article about a musical savant diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder and this set of links on autism, creativity and genius.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/30/2008)

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