Saturday, August 15, 2009 - Vitamin D Theory of Autism - Vitamin D Theory of Autism:

"Much more interesting is the fact that children with Williams Syndrome (rare congenital disorder due to a missing piece of chromosome seven) often have greatly elevated activated vitamin D levels for several months in early life. They usually present in later life with remarkable sociability, overfriendliness, empathy, and willingness to initiate social interaction—strikingly the opposite personality of autistic children. 8 9

So, abnormally-low activated vitamin D levels produce infants with symptoms of autism while abnormally-high levels produce children with personalities the exact opposite of autism."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Smart Bombs: Mark Dery, Steven Pinker on the Nature-Nurture Wars and the Politics of IQ - Boing Boing

Smart Bombs: Mark Dery, Steven Pinker on the Nature-Nurture Wars and the Politics of IQ - Boing Boing

Mark Dery: I'm interested in the relationship between a facility with language---eloquence, by any other name---and intelligence. I'm especially interested in the question of whether people possessed of a certain facility with language can use language as a sort of simulation engine to create the illusion of a greater intelligence than they actually possess, whether through eloquence or, more crudely, the strategic use of a large vocabulary (specifically, arcane words or rarified jargon), highbrow allusions, and the like.
Thanks for taking the time to read and consider this query.

Steven Pinker: Unfortunately, there has not been much systematic work on the relation between language fluency and psychometric measures of intelligence. There are some neuropsychological and genetic syndromes in which retarded children and adults can speak deceptively well, fooling onlookers into thinking that there is nothing wrong with them. I discuss one case of hydrocephalus, and another of a child with Williams Syndrome, in chapter 2 of The Language Instinct.

Within the normal range, the word "glib"pretty much captures the common-sense intuition that it is possible to be verbally fluent without saying anything intelligent. On the other hand, even if fluency, high vocabulary and the like can momentarily fool listeners into overestimating the person's intelligence (or at least the quality of his thought, which is not perfectly correlated with intelligence---smart people can say foolish things), I suspect that the vast majority of verbally fluent people are also intelligent by standard measures. Vocabulary, as you probably know, is highly g-loaded, and on average, people who test well in verbal intelligence also test well in all other measures of intelligence (that is the basis for "g").

On your cultural critique of IQ tests: I'm not sure if you plan to reiterate the arguments of Stephen Jay Gould in The Mismeasure of Man (and similar critiques from Leon Kamin and others) but I assume you know that his arguments were considered highly inaccurate (to the point of dishonesty) by the scientists who study intelligence even when the book was published, and by now have been pretty much discredited.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Unfolding the mysteries of the brain

Unfolding the mysteries of the brain - The Boston Globe:

"Scientists have also found evidence of abnormal folding in a variety of mental and neurodevelopmental conditions, including depression, epilepsy, and the rare Williams Syndrome. These irregularities take a variety of forms - some regions of the brain may be overfolded, others underfolded, some folds may be too deep, others too shallow, and so on."

Gene ties trust hormone to Williams syndrome and autism

Gene ties trust hormone to Williams syndrome and autism « Virginia Hughes:

"Most people with Williams syndrome lack one copy each of 25 consecutive genes on chromosome 7. The girl in Korenberg’s study is only missing 24: she carries two functional copies of GTF2I.

Unlike most people with Williams syndrome, she also does not approach strangers and is not overly gregarious — suggesting that GTF2I is at least partly involved in social behavior.

“She’s the only one in the world who’s got that exact deletion, with all of numbers 1 to 24 missing, so she is the only one where we can look at all of the effects of that gene,” says Korenberg."