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On Autism, Eggs, The Cosmos, Infants Counting and Entropy
An Egg is a low entropy object. It is ordered and structured. If that order and structure is disrupted it stops doing what it is intended (as a reproductive structure) to do (and becomes breakfast). Entropy is chaos, crack an egg and it becomes more chaotic and entropy increases. The egg is commonly used to explain what low entropy can mean. In short low entropy means order.
The observable universe has it's share of high entropy and low entropy examples and as a general rule entropy increases. Things break down from low entropy to high entropy. Only gravity, crystals and life seem to actively buck this trend although crystals and life require energy to be formed.
Cosmologists talk about the universe expanding. That not only can things move away from each other, that the universe itself is expanding like a giant rubber band being elongated. They theorize that as the universe expands, energy will become so diffuse that all the stars and galaxies will eventually (billions and billions of years from now) fall apart and cool off. Their structure drawn asunder by space expanding (sort of). Entropy becomes the winner.
It often is said that each person's own personal universe consists of what is in their own mind. This is of course a metaphoric thought but still compelling. Just like the universe it has it's structure. In fact the structure in a human's brain may be more complex than the whole rest of the universe (counting all the cellular complexity).
Just like the universe, man once thought the mind to be relatively simple. The more man peers out in telescopes into the universe the more structure he sees. In the same way, the more man investigates the mind, the less of a jello like grey blob it proves itself to be.
It would be easy to imagine the mind as a series off nondescript neurons that self assemble connections to each other as input from the senses are provided to them. If this were true though, everyone's mind would be completely different than the next person's. That is not the case, while there is individuality to every mind, there are structures. Some control the hands, some manage vision, some handle danger, from conception these structures are slowly forming as the brain grows and they don't stop forming, maybe ever but most notably until a person is in their mid twenties (then we start killing it with alcohol). These structures are evident in that an infant can count logarithmically, meaning it will notice a change from one item to five, then ten then twenty. No one teaches them this skill. In order for a baby to do that, they must have a structure in place that is formed in their brain. A structure that is meant to handle numbers in that way.
Now what happens to those structures when space expands faster than the structures can form? Entropy increases, chaos. How could that happen in a brain? So far I've been explaining what thoughts are leading to my thought on Autism.
An Autistic child's brain is on average 2% larger than a normal child's brain at age 2. Some go all the way to 10% larger. Then by age 5, although their brains stay larger than average, the growth rate slows. Normally people would think that a bigger brain would be a good thing but perhaps not when the brain is trying to form and grow at the same time. The structures may be diffused by the unusual expansion of the tissue they are forming in.
As evidence some autistic children act fairly normally until about age two when quickly and dramatically they loose social and verbal function. Now to be clear, some children's autism is observable nearly at birth by telltale behaviors but commonly enough, major symptoms can arise very quickly. Something that was there, breaks. Some structure that used to exist stops working.
Which structure breaks and how much function is lost is random and variable from one child to the next. Perhaps if the expansion is minor, with some work the brain can repair the structure over time. Then again if the expansion of tissue is severe in just the wrong place, a vital cognitive structure could be rent apart, never to reform.
Then there are those that are savants. How does this happen? This falls a little more intuitively under the idea that a larger brain would seem to be better. Some structures may be disrupted only marginally or at their periphery. The holes are repaired and either give rise to more computational potential in the structure or a different but still valid structure. In most cases these are an autistic person's quirks. In some they may disrupt filters that prevent a person from taking in details that are normally thought of as irrelevant. In some they may allow the person to more actively manipulate their mental process. There are any number of ways that the expansion could do some good over time as the brain struggles to catch up.
This would seem to match the pieces of the puzzle that I am aware of. This could be testable by looking at an fMRI and seeing which parts of an autistic 2 year old's brain are bigger than average and then seeing if the corresponding parts are linked to where they later show disfunction. It also may be possible that the whole brain grows and the amount of disruption only occurs in some of the more delicate structures of the brain.