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Autistic kids who best peers at math show different brain organization, Stanford/Packard study shows
Date:8/16/2013

STANFORD, Calif. Children with autism and average IQs consistently demonstrated superior math skills compared with nonautistic children in the same IQ range, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

"There appears to be a unique pattern of brain organization that underlies superior problem-solving abilities in children with autism," said Vinod Menon, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a member of the Child Health Research Institute at Packard Children's.

The autistic children's enhanced math abilities were tied to patterns of activation in a particular area of their brains an area normally associated with recognizing faces and visual objects.

Menon is senior author of the study, published online Aug. 17 in Biological Psychiatry. Postdoctoral scholar Teresa Iuculano, PhD, is the lead author.

Children with autism have difficulty with social interactions, especially interpreting nonverbal cues in face-to-face conversations. They often engage in repetitive behaviors and have a restricted range of interests.

But in addition to such deficits, children with autism sometimes exhibit exceptional skills or talents, known as savant abilities. For example, some can instantly recall the day of the week of any calendar date within a particular range of years for example, that May 21, 1982, was a Friday. And some display superior mathematical skills.

"Remembering calendar dates is probably not going to help you with academic and professional success," Menon said. "But being able to solve numerical problems and developing good mathematical skills could make a big difference in the life of a child with autism."

The idea that people with autism could employ such skills in jobs, and get satisfaction from doing so, has been gaining ground in recent years.

The participants in the study were 36 ch
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Contact: Louis Bergeron
louisb3@stanford.edu
650-724-9175
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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