Wednesday 3 April 2013

These children are special

Two of the greatest scientists of all times suffered from it. They, however, overcame this disability and went on to make monumental discoveries which changed the path of mankind.
Both the scientists showed symptoms of this debility from an young age. If one of them was Sir Issac Newton, the other was Albert Einstein and both suffered from Autism.
Latest research suggests that Einstein, who is credited with developing the theory of relativity, and Newton, who discovered the laws of gravity, had these traits to varying degrees.
Einstein showed signs of Asperger's from a young age and as a child, he was a loner and often repeated sentences obsessively until he was seven years old. He was also a notoriously confusing lecturer.
Researchers at Cambridge and Oxford universities believe both scientists displayed signs of Asperger's Syndrome   
Autism is a disorder of the nerves and it is generally characterised by impaired social interaction, broken communication and repetitive behavior.
Neurologists generally believe that the debility can be cured if it is diagnosed early-before a child attains three years of age. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize. Unfortunately, we do not know how this occurs. If this can be found out, the cure to Autism would not be far off.
 Autism is one of three recognised disorders in the autism spectrum (ASDs), the other two being Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (commonly abbreviated as PDD-NOS).
Autism has a strong genetic basis and its prevalence is about 1–2 per 1,000 people worldwide.
Unfortunately, the number of people diagnosed with autism has been increasing dramatically since the 1980s, and India is no exception. There has been a six-fold rise in the number of autism cases and from an estimated 20 lakh cases in 2003, there are today  1.36 crore autism patients in India.
Globally, one in every 88 children is born with autism now against a ratio of one in 150 till a few years ago.
Though this life-long disability  manifests itself during the first three years of life, a fairly large number of autistic patients in India continue to go undiagnosed or do not receive the services they need.
This is mainly due to lack of awareness and misunderstanding about autism among the medical professionals. The lack of basic equipment and improper diagnosis of autism has led to increase in autism in India.
Neurologists say early detection of this incurable disease can help a child lead his full potential but many medical professionals are unable to detect the disorder. The less said about the parents the better.
People, including parents, often mistake autism for mental disorder. People suffering from autism may be slow learners but as Albert Einstein and Newton have proven, they do have brilliant minds.
In Bangalore, one of the best centres for treating neurological disorders is NIMHANS.
The child and adolescent psychiatry services of NIMHANS offers a range of services to children suffering from neurological disorders.
Two years ago, scientists from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), an affiliate of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), located in Bangalore gave hope to people suffering from autism.
They mapped for the first time in the world  the defective connections between nerve cells in the emotional hub of the brain of mice who had Fragile X Syndrome.
While a fragile X chromosome may be passed from one generation to the other with no debilitating effects, the syndrome does affect one in 4,000 men and one in 6,000 women. Neurologists have said that  20 per cent of boys with autism have the condition due to Fragile X.
The syndrome is the most common inherited cause of intellectual impairment and it is also diagnosed as the most common genetic cause of autism. This chromosome can cause poor emotional response, hyperactivity, LD and attention deficit.
The research found the long-term ravages of autism could be reversed with medication in mice.
A few months ago, yet another research project on autism took off in Bangalore. An Indo-UK project, it aims to develop better diagnostic techniques for brain disorders and to unravel the mystery behind autism.
This research is now being carried out at the  Centre for Brain Development and Repair which is located inside the campus of Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.
The focus of the research is to  study genetic, neural and behavioural components of autism and at the same time find an answer to the disorder.
The centre, however, does not offer any clinical services

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