What does sound look like?

sound and vision and autism

This is a small and interesting study. It does not produce a 'wow!' result, but it does capture the subtlety of Autism.

Two groups of children and teenagers, autistic and non-autistic, were asked to differentiate between low and high pitched sounds. They showed their choice by clicking on the appropriate button on a computer screen and all the while MRI scans were taken of their brains. 

Mainstream individuals were found to process sounds through the sound processing part of the brain (surprise surprise!) while autistic individuals used the visual processing part of the brain (the left lingual gyrus since you asked). The non-autistic group were better at distinguishing sounds, which is probably the reason we have a sound processing area in the brain ;-).

And the autistic folks who differentiated the sounds in the test better were the ones who used their visual cortex for the task more. That is kind of interesting. Even more interesting is that the autistic individuals who used their visual processing more were those individuals who showed more symptoms of Autism in their lives.

But all the autistic group were relying on their visual cortex to some extent or another to process sounds.

It is the subtlety that we know affects us constantly but is never really captured in research or even addressed. And we know that how each individual copes with Autism changes with the individual, the environment, age and a host of other factors.

Personally I like the idea of looking at sounds, but I also like to understand what people are saying sometimes. That is a big 'sometimes', mind you. So I can imagine a little thing like processing some sounds visually is going to affect a lot of behaviour, both positively and negatively.

Inattention to speech, more sensitivity to sounds, difficulties in high quality seeing and listening at the same time...

But yet how does this bring strengths? This is a blog post so imaginative speculation is allowed...and how about the necessity of focussing on speech and excluding visual cues. This deep focus could also mean a deep analysis. And so small talk is subjected to the same analysis as a scientific argument...ooops :-). That would make small talk burn with idiocy. Which it tends to do when you are autistic. 

Imagine how a necessary deep focus on sound (for those of us who can) could also bring strengths to discussion, music...even car repair. I knew of one mechanic who could diagnose faults in BMWs just by listening to the sound of the engine. Whether that mechanic was on the Spectrum or not I don't know, but it shows you how a difference can be a strength.