Autism: a social message in maternal odor

Body Odors Promote Automatic Imitation in Autism

Abstract Excerpt: “The maternal odor, which conveys a social message otherwise neglected, helps autistic children to covertly imitate the actions of others. Our results represent a starting point holding theoretical and practical relevance for the development of new strategies to enhance communication and social behavior among autistic individuals.”

As I’ve indicated before on two occasions: here and here, the practical relevance incorporates the epigenetic effects of nutrients and pheromones on adaptive evolution in species from microbes to man. We demonstrated the relevance to classically conditioned adult behavior using a study design that also incorporated video-taped interactions during exposure to show the affect on behavior of a mixture of androsterone and androstenol worn by a male confederate during a fifteen minute interaction with ovulatory phase women. In a replication, women also reported increased attraction.

The explanation for the pheromone-enhanced difference follows from the classical conditioning of responses to olfactory/pheromonal input that are genetically predisposed from birth to occur during exposure to other sensory input.  Cause and effect is clearly olfactory/pheromonal in species from microbes to man, as is indicated by the study on autism.

The focus on oxytocin and prosocial behavior does not address cause and effect at the level of molecular mechanisms that are required to link species of mammals. Besides, the focus on oxytocin does not cross other species boundaries as is required in a model of adaptive evolution that includes disordered brain development in autism and in neurodegenerative diseases among other things (i.e., all of them).

Author: James Kohl

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