Okay, after a very long hiatus I'm back.
I've been working on a post that has nearly morphed into a research paper, and it is finally time to post it.
First, a warning. The paper is verrryyyy long. My recommendation, for anyone who is interested in reading it, is that you break it into smaller sections and read a little at a time. This approach has worked well for someone who had an earlier draft copy. The paper is already divided into sections that may make for convenient break-points.
For those who are asking why I have not broken the paper up for you, my answers are that a) after spending so long writing this I just want to get it out there (and so do not want to delay posting even further to take the time to burst it), b) that anyone who is interested in reading it can probably judge how large a 'chunk' is digestible for them at a time, c) that any criticism should probably be based on having a full copy of the paper to skewer, rather than picking at parts, d) that the blogging community is no longer the only audience that I'm trying to reach with this post and e) writer's fatigue. (E is probably the most honest answer.)
For those who are interested, the paper is also available in MS Word. Just drop me an email if you want a Word copy (see the link in the side bar for an email address, if you don't have my real email).
My overall hypothesis is that the disorders called ASD can be explained through a developmental interaction of the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC), Anterior Insula (AI), and Frontopolar Cortex. From the developmental interaction of these regions I think that one can link sensory issues, executive functions, eye contact and face processing, emotion and empathy, joint attention, the mirror neuron system, and mentalizing (theory of mind) in an overall explanation of ASD. I have not tried to account for every facet of ASD (the paper is already long enough, thank you - I had to come to a stop somewhere), but I believe that many of the omissions can also be explained in light of the material presented. If pressed hard enough I might try to do so.
One key omission is that of speech (although I touch upon language acquisition in places). I would suggest that speech issues can ultimately be linked to a variety of causes, primary and secondary, including sensory and motor integration and developmental issues, but that this is a topic worthy of its own post. I could not do the subject justice by cramming it into this post, but invite you to write your own if you feel so inclined.
Not all of you will like the explanation that I am proposing. Oh well. The real test is whether it ultimately holds water, not whether anyone in particular likes it.
To be clear, I do not propose an answer as to WHY the issues that I describe have occurred. My view is that there are probably multiple etiologies behind what is ultimately called ASD. What I am suggesting though is that various causation models ultimately result in ACC and AI dysfunction to a greater or lesser degree, and that the developmental impact of this dysfunction results in various presentations of ASD. If I am wrong then so be it. I still have my job as a used car salesman to fall back on (kidding!). At a minimum there is probably some interesting learning for those who are willing to do some reading, and the references (with links, where available) at the end of the post make for a pretty good reading list.
I would also like to point out that I am solely responsible for any factual errors or misinterpretations of existing work found in this post. Having said that, I am grateful to the person (a fellow blogger) who has been reading through the material and has let me know that there may actually be something here that is worth reading. I'm not going to reveal who that person is, only because I don't want to unfairly saddle them with any responsibility (or - in the ASD blogging world - blame) for the content. But I am grateful for this person's efforts (you know who you are - Thank You).
So, I'll post the paper in the next day or so. I'm up for an interesting discussion on this, if anyone is willing. All I ask is that any debate remain civil and courteous, and be based on what is written (or not written but that legitimately challenges the hypothesis), rather than what anyone wants to pretend that I have written.
Finally, I plan on following up the post with the 'Acceptance' post that I have been threatening to write for a while. After this I finally feel that I have enough written that I can clearly state what it is that I do and do not 'accept'.