autism science comedy hour (hosted by me)

Your semi-annual autism science public humiliation and general roast will be commencing in five, four, three, two, one…

Our first roastee is an article from a FrontiersIn publication. The title of this article is “Atypical resource allocation may contribute to many aspects of autism” (I am refraining from naming authors, because I’m nice…except if they’re a known habitual offender, in which case I will say their name as many times as possible while mocking them).

This is an article that wants everyone to know that part of autism might be that like, in autism brainz, less stuff that’s like normal stuff is happening, and that’s probably because more stuff that’s like not-normal stuff is happening. Because brains have like, energy or something, and you do stuff with energy or whatever, and autistic people probably do different things with their energy. This makes sense, because autistic people, like…do different things.

It is mentioned that autistic people with severe sensory symptoms probably do even fewer normal things with their energy than less sensory-severe autistic people. But the author feels really not like sure about what the whole deal with that is, because like if different attention things and different sensory things lead to different “resource allocation” like…Uh…Oh wait, the “resources” in question are actually explicitly left undefined by this researcher because like, defining the word this article is focused upon would somehow ruin science, for reasons escaping understanding.

Also P.S. the author is inexplicably convinced, from the beginning of the article, that the causal chain goes: 1. Autism is like weird attention to stuff. 2. That means stuff inside the attention-brain things works different. 3. So like, there’s “atypical resource allocation.”

I would like to clarify for this author, if he/she ever reads this. It actually goes like this: 1. You wrote a fucking fourteen page FrontiersIn article. 2. In the entire fourteen pages, you never define the concept you named as your fucking central focus in the title of the article. 3. I tried to read this bullshit. 4. Now my brain is really damn tired.

The End.

Our second roastee: An actual PNAS (Publication of the National Academy of Sciences) article.

The title of the article is: “Children with autism are neither systematic nor optimal foragers.”

Just gonna leave that right there. Not gonna contextualize it, because there is no real context that could make this title seem anything other than non sequitur and hilariously weird.

That is all.

Our third roastee: An article from one of my least favorite reputable journals, Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. It’s a journal full of totally over-theorized and under-supported articles where neuroscientists look at brains and then make up conclusions about complex and incredibly subjective social and emotional processes. 1 out of every 25 or so articles is really interesting. The other 24/25 are mostly just bad science. This is a bad article. It is titled “Autistic traits are associated with diminished neural response to affective touch.” It is from Yale. I hate Yale.

In this article, they made people chill in an fMRI and then had a machine brush-touch them on the forearm at two different speeds, one slow, and the other fast. Then they looked at the fMRIs and were like “Look, a bunch of [large, variously-defined and complex] brain places lit up when people were [creepily] touched [by a robot] at different speeds.” Apparently mammals have these weird nerves that specifically register slow/gentle touch, and people think those touches are specifically affective touches…Because apparently nobody from this Yale research team has ever done sexytime things with another person.

(This Yale-sexytime-fail thing is actually in keeping with my own research knowledge of Yale. ‘Cause the head of the Yale psychology department once sent a letter to a really legit not-science journal in which he stated that evolutionary psychologists have yet to determine the evolutionary value of female orgasm. Seriously. And yes, that’s terrifying, but…also hilarious? It’s so easy to imagine the small-talk around the evo-psych faculty lunch-table: “So like, I mean, female orgasms and stuff aren’t a huge deal right? Like, if they didn’t happen like ever that would be fine? And stuff? I mean, my friend was wondering…He wanted me to like, ask for him…” But I digress)

Okay so like fast touches are whatever, slow touches are people-feelings, and then they like looked at the lit-up brain places that were different for them. Oh! Also. P.S. All the adults in this study were NT, and they just like…gave them all one of Baron-Cohen’s ridonkulous “Broader Autism Phenotype” tests, and then like looked at the brain-lights from the touches of people to see if they differed based on how Baron-Cohen-Man-Brain they had scored. And like, there was a part of the brain that was more lit up when people were slow-robot-stroked, and that part ended up being less lit-up-from-slow-robot-stroking in NT people who were very Baron-Cohen-Man-Brain.

That is the entire intellectual content of this article. Literally, that is the stuff these people did that they felt meant that being autistic means being deficient in the ability to appreciate basic mammalian bonding. That’s it. Fuck everything.

The fourth, and last, roastee is a doozie. Crespi and Badcock qualify as habitual offenders based solely on their publications about a single, solitary theory. Their only theory. The case in question is a Behavioral and Brain Sciences uber-piece—this journal only publishes two super-long theory pieces per issue, each with peer commentary and the author’s response to commentary included. So the articles are damn long. The title of this article is: “Psychosis and autism as diametrical disorders of the social brain.”

These dudes want you to know that they have made up a whole theory where, not only are autism and psychosis diametrical neurological opposites, they’re also both primarily disorders of “the social brain,” and…wait for it…totally gender-associated. (When stated by male evolutionary neuroscientists, “totally gender-associated” should be interpreted to mean “gendered in really offensively stereotypical and scientifically unsupported ways).

I want the world to know that:

  1. Autism and psychosis are not infrequently comorbid.
  2. The history of autism as a diagnostic category and the history of psychosis as a diagnostic category would like to inform Crespi and Badcock that they have just failed History of Psychiatry 101 and are required to go to Research Jail without passing Go, or collecting any grant funding whatsoever.
  3. Biochemistry also would like to inform Crespi and Badcock that they have heinously violated The Human Brain’s right to coherent and like, reality-based theoretical representation.
  4. This is an actual diagram that they made to accompany the end-bits of their article: Screen shot 2014-08-07 at 10.04.18 AM
  5. Too sexist to function.
  6. How does one go about petitioning for researchers to be stripped of their doctorates because of gross intellectual indecency? Please let me know. It’s important.

That is all for today! Please stay tuned for our next installment: “That One Time Autism Researchers Concluded That Autistic Kids Didn’t Understand What Pictures Were For Because They Couldn’t Figure Out That A Drawing Of A Rectangle Was Supposed To Be A Drawing Of A Mouse.” It’ll be a party.

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9 thoughts on “autism science comedy hour (hosted by me)

  1. this is amazing and awesome and hysterical. thx for this…I get pretty discouraged by all of the crap info and fake science out there about autism…this post just made me feel a whole lot better.

    • m finds my autism science sassin’ hysterical, so like, my day is officially made now.
      #ThatWasNotSarcasm

      AUTISM SCIENCE: #SoFunnyItHurts? #OrSoPainfulItsFunny?

      goddamnit jess the hashtagging is contagious.

  2. I had some really insightful things to say. Or at least faux-insightful funny things to say. Or whatever. I had SOMETHING to say. I know I did. But then you said Badcock. And then I just .. couldn’t.

  3. This is excellent. Have you heard of PubPeer? It allows folks to submit anonymous comments/critiques of scientific papers, including links to off-site ones (like this). Would you object if this was linked from the relevant entries?

  4. Oh my god.
    Oh my god.
    Once I saw a study that discovered that autistic kids who get invited to play with others are more likely to play with others. As no one could have possibly guessed.
    And, a book about how autism is caused by treadmills and bouncy castles.

  5. Pingback: Autism Science: The Original Trash Fire, Feat. Noxious S.B.C. | Lemon Peel

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