Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Do Animals Think Like Autistic Savants?

20.02.2008
When Temple Grandin argued that animals and autistic savants share cognitive similarities in her best-selling book Animals in Translation (2005), the idea gained steam outside the community of cognitive neuroscientists.

Grandin, a professor of animal science whose best-selling books have provided an unprecedented look at the autistic mind, says her autism gives her special insight into the inner workings of the animal mind. She based her proposal on the observation that animals, like autistic humans, sense and respond to stimuli that nonautistic humans usually overlook.

In a new essay published in the open access journal PLoS Biology, Giorgio Vallortigara and his colleagues, argue that, while Grandin’s book “shows extraordinary insight into both autism and animal welfare,” the question of equivalent cognitive abilities between savants and animals “deserves scrutiny from scientists working in animal cognition and comparative neuroscience.”

Vallortigara et al. argue that savant abilities—for example, exceptional skills in music, math, or art—come at a cost in other aspects of processing and, therefore, appear to be unrelated to the extraordinary species-specific adaptations seen in some taxa. Furthermore, the authors argue, rather than having privileged access to lower level sensory information before it is packaged into concepts, as has been argued for savants, animals, like non-autistic humans, process sensory inputs according to rules, and that this manner of processing is a specialized feature of the left hemisphere in humans and nonhuman animals. At the most general level, they argue, “the left hemisphere sets up rules based on experience and the right hemisphere avoids rules in order to detect details and unique features that allow it to decide what is familiar and what is novel. This is true for human and nonhuman animals, likely reflecting ancient evolutionary origins of the underlying brain mechanisms.”

... more about:
»Cognition »Grandin »argue »autistic »savant

Grandin, who responds to the authors’ critique in a special commentary, suggests that “the basic disagreement between the authors and me arises from the concept of details—specifically how details are perceived by humans, who think in language, compared with animals, who think in sensory-based data. Since animals do not have verbal language, they have to store memories as pictures, sounds, or other sensory impressions.” And sensory-based information, she says, is inherently more detailed than word-based memories. “As a person with autism, all my thoughts are in photo-realistic pictures,” she explains. “The main similarity between animal thought and my thought is the lack of verbal language.”

Though Grandin appreciates the authors’ “fascinating overview of the most recent research on animal cognition,” she suggests that “further experiments need to be done with birds to either confirm or disprove Vallortigara et al.’s hypothesis that birds such as the Clark’s nutcracker, which has savant-like memory for food storage, has retained good cognition in other domains. My hypothesis is that birds that have savant-like skills for food storage sites or remembering migration routes may be less flexible in their cognition.” Grandin welcomes the discussion following the publication of her book—we invite readers to join in that discussion by posting their own Reader Response.

Citation: Vallortigara G, Snyder A, Kaplan G, Bateson P, Clayton NS, et al. (2008) Are animals autistic savants? PLoS Biol 6(2): e42. doi:10.1371/journal. pbio.0060042

Andrew Hyde | alfa
Further information:
http://www.plosbiology.org
http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0060042

Further reports about: Cognition Grandin argue autistic savant

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Colorectal cancer risk factors decrypted
13.07.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

nachricht Algae Have Land Genes
13.07.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Research finds new molecular structures in boron-based nanoclusters

13.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Algae Have Land Genes

13.07.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>