This section aims at showing that autistic children anchored in the memory of an allegedly known reality may grow into an adulthood still hampered by the difficulty to enter quantum coherence, in exploring the unknown infinity tackled by the Mesoamerican demigod Quetzal-coatl (Bird-serpent).
Autistics cannot return, as does Quetzalcoatl, because they cannot go.
As far as it is known, autism is an irreversible condition, for no cure has been found yet. Furthermore, the percentage of the population included in the autistic spectrum is fast increasing. Besides better diagnostic tools, unknown viruses, and the unwanted effect of some vaccines on some children, one cannot discard the irresponsible release of toxic chemicals in the environment.
Autism was confused with schizophrenia until the early sixties. Yet the difference between the two spectra is clear: Autistics cannot go with quantum coherence; and schizophrenics cannot return with quantum decoherence.
We may include in imperfect schizophrenia the people who could explore the edge of insanity when they were children; but in early adulthood they lose the capacity to leave madness behind in order to return to a renewed shared reality. Quantum decoherence, or the capacity of Quetzalcoatl for returning to a better self and a better other, is impaired in a variable degree in whoever remains trapped in psychosis.
Understanding autism will lead to an understanding of schizophrenia; understanding schizophrenia will lead to an understanding of the psychosis that surrounds it; and understanding psychosis will lead to an understanding of the 'normal' mind.
The proposal of a theory (for example, the logos heuristics) that uncovered the cognitive roots of autism and schizophrenia would make a providential happening in preventing the occurrence of both spectra, find a cure, diagnose autism early in life, and apply improved teaching methods very early in development.
THE PUZZLING GROWTH OF AUTISM SINCE KANNER AND ASPERGER
Autistics lack the freedom to 'go' in becoming a "Coatl-quetzal"; and unmedicated schizophrenics lack the freedom to 'return' in becoming a "Quetzal-coatl." Understanding infantile autism will make us all free to choose a "path with heart." (As in the work of Edmondo de Amicis and in the teachings of the Yaqui shaman don Juan).
Leo Kanner (1943) used the term infantile autism to describe the predicament of eleven children who showed three abnormal characteristics:
About Donald, the first child he had examined in 1938, he wrote, “He could, since the age of two- and one-half years, tell the names of all Presidents and Vice-Presidents . . . Yet he was unable to carry on an ordinary conversation. He was out of contact with people, while he could handle objects skillfully. His memory was phenomenal. The few times he addressed someone—largely to satisfy his wants—he referred to himself as ‘You’ and to the person as 'I' (pronoun reversal).
One year later, Hans Asperger presented a wider spectrum of children with similar features, showing that not all autistics are gifted with highly functional characteristics. Other peculiarities that Asperger noticed in his patients were:
Besides eliminating the subtypes of ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’ (ASD) (in the like of ‘Asperger’, for example), DSM-V (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) centers autism in two problem-areas:
A. impairments in 3 out of 3 areas of social communication and interaction across contexts (as severe as the total absence of language in many cases); in which, A1 points at poor social initiation and response (for example, lack of joint attention), A2 reflects weakness in nonverbal communication (for example, eye contact), and A3 addresses the deficiency of social awareness, insight, and relationship (for example, lack of a “theory-of-mind” in taking another person’s perspective after age 4 years);
B. restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior by at least 2 of 4 symptoms; in which, B1 refers to atypical speech or movements (for example, echolalia or pronoun reversal), B2 denotes excessive resistance to change and rigid thinking (for example, overreaction to trivial changes and inability to understand irony and humor), B3 is linked to excessive attachment to objects or circumscribed interests (for example, blankets), and B4 shows hypo- or hyper-reactivity to sensory aspects of the environment (for example, spinning objects). (See a summary of DSM-V observations about autism prepared by L. Carpenter (PhD) in 2013.)
THE PREVALENCE OF AUTISM AND PSYCHOSIS
Concerning the prevalence of autism, DSM-IV-TR (2000) presented a median of 5 cases per 10,000 individuals, whereas Atlanta’s CDC adheres now to a figure of 1 case of autism in 59 children (or 1.69 %). From this we may infer that there are about 5-million autistic individuals in the United States and perhaps 80-million autistics in the world.
In any case, Cassella (2018c) proposed that the prevalence of autism and psychosis (which includes schizophrenia) is growing.
The fact that solitary pretend play in DSM-IV (2004) was substituted in DSM-V with shared imaginative play demonstrates that the numerous authors of DSM-V do not master yet the underlying origin of autism--the failure to enter quantum coherence. A similar conclusion--the failure to enter quantum decoherence-- can be said about the illness at the center of psychosis: schizophrenia.
As with autism, DSM-V eliminated a few subtypes of schizophrenia (for example, paranoia), leaving the terrain of the schizophrenic to people affected by delusion or hallucinations for more than one month. If one includes schizophrenia (25-60 million people), bipolar disorder (60-80 million individuals), and depression (270-300 million human beings) in the spectrum of psychosis (the inability to keep track of shared reality), then the global prevalence of psychosis (about 5%) becomes 5 times the prevalence of autism.
In 1964, Bernard Rimland showed that the view of shared reality in autism and the distortion of reality in schizophrenia obey opposite domains of cognition, in the same way that sanity of mind opposes insanity.
Because most schizophrenics respond positively to dopamine antagonists, whereas no drug can eliminate autism yet, Cassella (2017a) embraced Rimland’s assessment of schizophrenia as a genetic predisposition that is opposite to autism. While autism hits our children, schizophrenia hits us from the end of adolescence up to the age of 35 years, clustering around the age of 20 and the age of 30 years.
If schizophrenics (about 40 million) represent about 10% of psychotics (about 400 million), one in 200 person suffers from schizophrenia, and 1 in 20 from psychosis. A practical approximation might consider that 1% of us deals only with our sane side; and 1% deals only with our insane side. In sum, it is advisable to slow down before a green traffic light!
Autism, mental retardation, Down syndrome, schizophrenia, and psychosis are different manifestations of the deterioration of the meeting of two aspects of the normal mind:
The next section strengthens the hypothesis that the exploration of autism makes the first step into understanding and dispelling the various genetic defects that may reduce the cognitive capacity of our descendants.
The discovery of a third copy of chromosome 21 in Down’s syndrome represents a known defect. That is not the case of autism, since we know little of the genetic malformation at its base.
Although autism might stem from damage to a central and weird facet of our cognition, that spectrum is linked to a variety of etiologies, as happens with epilepsy, mental retardation, and cerebral palsy. In fact, 70 percent of autistic individuals present a variable degree of mental retardation, which is a characteristic autism shares with cerebral palsy and Down’s syndrome, although neither impairment is linked to infantile autism.
Furthermore, one third of children with autism is associated with pre- and perinatal abnormalities and the development of seizures in adolescence rather than in infancy (Deykin & MacMahon, 1979). By contrast, nonautistic mental retardation is linked to postnatal complications and to epilepsy in early childhood (Richardson, Koller, Katz, & McLaren, 1980).
THE BENEFITS OF KNOWING THE COGNITIVE ROOTS OF AUTISM
The proposal of a theory that uncovered the cognitive roots of autism would be a providential happening in preventing the occurrence of that spectrum, find a cure, diagnose it early in life, and apply improved teaching methods very early in development.
Cassella (2018f ) aimed at more than preventing the increase of autistic order and psychotic disorder. Besides avoiding the degeneration of leaders, nations, and global society, the comprehension of the cause of autism and the cause of schizophrenia may allow us to seek and find a new horizon of problem-solving, learning, and progress for our grandchildren.
The fact that the cognitive disorder at the basis of autism is not well understood severely limits the methods used to teach autistic children. Current teaching methods are generally fed by behavior-modification techniques derived from operant conditioning, as described by Harvard psychologist B. F. Skinner.
Operant conditioning—which considers the existence of the mind a superfluous hypothesis—has originated positive reinforcement techniques that are crucial to acquiring central meanings, habits, rules, and basic skills. Still, educational methods based on this theory cannot teach autistics how to readjust familiar knowledge when context changes abruptly or when the environment presents unusual demands.
As a matter of fact, when the problems raised by the vicissitudes of life force us to search for new horizons, behavior modification—used with great success in training the animals that perform in circuses—becomes less effective, ineffective, or counterproductive.
Since the creativity of autistics is weakened, in an ironic twist, behavior modification may reinforce their autistic tendency to stick to what they know in situations in which familiar knowledge is inadequate.
Teaching methods that lean on operant conditioning would work better if they were complemented by an attitude favorable to change or re-creation. Only through creativity can we suspend the validity of “certain,” “legitimate,” repetitive, and ingrained knowledge and habits at the right moment.
A theory capable of explaining the psychological and neurobiological roots of autistics’ cognitive limitations could enhance teaching methods and help both cognitively impaired and normal children.
THE FAILURE OF AUTISTICS IN FALSE-BELIEF TESTS (THEORY OF MIND)
The theory we are searching for needs not be based on speculation, for at present we hold on to a variety of unexplained results brought about by innumerous experiments with autistics in different fields of psychology and neurocognitive science. This sizable array of enigmatic results may become a treasure-trove in the eyes of whoever integrates them in explaining the causal factors they respond to.
A coherent theory would have the capacity to:
The figure above summarizes the theory that the human mind and nature respond in the first place to classical computing (in which the truth of a proposition with p = probability = 1 opposes the falsity of an opposite proposition with p = zero) of an autistic side (p = 1, on the left in the central face) that opposes a schizophrenic side (p = 0, to the right in the central face), within the bosom of the 1st. attention.
In the second place, the fight between these two faces of the self and nature can be re-adjusted by an artistic side (the two faces together within quantum computing):
The person unable to see simultaneously our autistic face (overdeveloped in high-functioning autism), our schizophrenic face, and our artistic face (or the left and right faces together) may fathom the difficulty of evisioning the Third Attention.
The social use of the awareness of the possible union of the three facets (autistic, schizophrenic, and artistic) brings up the Third Point as a personal finish line of any human being.
The theory broached here is supported by a scientific thrust. Beyond the hypotheses he developed in his own research at Harvard and UNESR in 1994-2001, Cassella (2018b; 2018c) explained the mystery behind the “shift/disengage” protocol (SDP) devised by Landry and Bryson (2004).
In that protocol, autistics matched normal subjects in shifting their local first attention from a group of flashing lights that went off on one side and went on on the opposite side in the “shift” stage. However, autistic subjects did not engage their nonlocal second attention during the “disengage” stage, when the lights went on on the opposite wall while the original lights remained on.
The nonlocal capacity of nonautistic subjects for looking simultaneously in their minds at opposite sets of lights in the SDP protocol calls for . . .
In sum, the poor performance of autistics in the SDP suggests that they cannot handle tasks based on . . .
Since 1985, cognitive scientists have found out that the core problem of the spectrum of anomalous behaviors observed in autistic individuals lies in their inability to pass ‘false-belief’ tests (Baron-Cohen, Leslie, & Frith, 1985) (Baron-Cohen, 1989, 1993, 1995).
As an example, experimental subjects may be asked to look at two dolls (a boy and a girl) who are playing marbles in a room. The subjects are then shown that the girl-doll places her marbles under a pillow before leaving the room. They also see that the boy-doll moves the marbles to a desk drawer while the girl-doll is away.
At this point a researcher asks the experimental subject where the girl-doll (who is about to enter the room) will look for her marbles. Normal children answer that she will look under the pillow, where she left them; and autistics say that she will search for them in the drawer, where the marbles are.
In 1997, after his own research, Cassella started valuing the hypothesis that
In other words, the nonautistic subjects have the mental possibility of moving into opposite tenets simultaneously and choosing between the truth of reality and the opposed truth in the mind of the girl-doll, which implies the precedence of an infinite mental speed over a finite speed.
THE SUCCESS OF AUT ISTICS IN SELF-OTHER RECOGNITION TESTS
Another crucial piece of knowledge that has contributed to Cassella's view (1997, 2000, 2002a, 2002c, 2011, 2017a, 2018c) of the roots of creativity is autistics’ success in passing “Zaitchik’s Photo Task.” (Zaitchik, 1990).
This test, which measures the capacity to recognize the identity of the other over time, is passed by normal children at the age of four to five years, the same age at which normal children pass false belief.
In Zaitchik’s Photo Task, Ernie, a Sesame Street character, takes a picture of his friend Bert lying on a mat. Bert leaves, and Big Bird takes Bert’s place on the mat. Pointing at the developed picture without showing its content, an experimenter asks the subject, “In the picture, who lies on the mat?” Acting in a way seemingly opposite to their behavior in false-belief tests, autistics correctly answer, "Bert," although they see clearly that Big Bird lies on the mat.
In Perner’s (1991) and in Leslie and Roth’s (1993) analogous replications, autistics were about 50 percent more successful with Zaitchik’s Photo-Task than were matched normal controls. Because this test appears to be similar to and as complex as false-belief tasks, the question arises: What is the reason behind autistics’ astounding performance?
In his books, Cassella explained that autistics are extremely successful at this task because Zaitchik makes use of a systems dynamic, and a set of cognitive laws that rests not on the need to violate reality, but to honor it.
The analysis of Zaitchik by Cassella leads him to posit that sequence/Tonal/Crook/Thummim underlies our capacity for preserving invariance and truth. In the particular case of Zaitchik, autistics answer that . . .
Since they cannot court the infinite speed that sustains doubt,
And follow that behavior because our autistic side is supported by principles based on the perceivable and real finiteness of the universe.
As Einstein showed us through his work on special relativity, an infinite speed would violate visible reality.
The difficulty to suspend finiteness virtually stands at the base of the official neglect of the existence of the anti-universe (Cassella, 2019b) and of a way to solving the so called "Vacuum Catastrophe" or "Cosmological Constant Problem." (The reader may see the details of the case in the last 4 sections of this page.)
This proposition is strengthened by the similar performance of autistics in an analogous task, Proper Self (Povinelli, Landau, & Perilloux, 1996), which is passed by normal children at the same age (4-5 years) they pass false belief and Zaitchik’s Photo Task.
According to Povinelli et al., their test measures the capacity for recognizing the identity of the self over time. In the Proper-Self Task, the leading experimenter stands beside a seated subject. A helper takes a picture of the subject and the experimenter while the latter is on the verge of surreptitiously placing a sticker on the subject’s head. In a second picture, the sticker resting on the head of the unsuspecting person is clearly visible. The experimental subject passes the test if he or she takes the sticker off upon seeing one or both pictures.
At the beginning of Cassella's research (in the summer of 1996), he tested autistic and nonautistic individuals for false belief in the Boston Higashi School at Randolph (MA). He also examined their performance in Proper Self. The autistic subjects of Cassella failed False Belief, as expected, but passed Proper Self. The nonautistic subjects passed both tests.
Cassella's initial experiments (Cassella, 1997) demonstrated that . . .
The guidance of Cassella's Virgil (Dr, Alfonso Caramazza ) was essential in establishing that in persons not hit by autism, quantum false belief is mounted on classical Proper Self.
As it seems, the nonlocal 2nd attention impaired in autism rests on the 1st, attention spared in high-functioning autism. In the very words of Caramazza, . . .
"Passing Proper Self makes a necessary but insufficient condition for passing False Belief."
Caramazza's words point directly at the crux of autism: the conservation of classic memory coupled to damage to quantum neural computing; and indirectly, at the distributed hierarchy that organizes the mind and nature.
For references about articles and books by Antonio Cassella, please look at the list provided in the Biography.
American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSMA V, 5th Edition), Washington, D.C.: Author.
Asperger, H. (1944). Die autistischen, psychopathen in kindersalter. Archiv fur Psychiatrie und nervenkrankheiten, 117, 76-136.
Baron-Cohen, S. (1989). Are autistic children behaviorists? An examination of their mental-physical and appearance-reality distinctions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 19, 579-600.
Baron-Cohen, S. (1993). From attention-goal psychology to belief-desire psychology: The development of a theory of mind and its dysfunction. In S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg, and D. J. Cohen, eds., Understanding other minds: Perspectives from autism (pp. 59-82). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Baron-Cohen, S. (1995). Mindblindness. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press.
Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A., & Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”? Cognition, 21, 37-46.
Caramazza, A. (1994). “Parallels and ubiquities in the acquisition and dissolution of language.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 346, 121-127.
Deykin, E, Y., & MacMahon, B. (1979). Pregnancy, delivery, and neonatal complications among autistic children. American Journal of Diseases of Children, 134, 860-64.
Kanner, L. (1943). Autistic disturbances of affective contact. Nervous Child, 2, 217-250.
Leslie, A., & Roth, D. (1993). What autism teaches us about metarepresentation. In S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg, and D. J. Cohen, eds., Understanding other minds: Perspectives from autism (pp. 83-111). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Perner, J. (1991). Understanding the representational mind. Cambridge, Mss.: MIT Press.
Povinelli, D. J., Landau, K., & Perilloux, H. K. (1996). Self-recognition in young children using delayed versus live feedback: Evidence of a developmental asynchrony. Child Development, 67, 1540-1554.
Richardson, S.A., Koller, H., Katz, M. & McLaren, J. (1980). Seizures and epilepsy in a mentally retarded population over the first 22 years of life. Applied Research in Mental Retardation 1,123-38.
Zaitchik, D. (1990). When representations conflict with reality: The preschooler’s problem with false beliefs and “false” photographs. Cognition, 35, 41-68.
Wimmer, H., & Perner, J. (1983). Beliefs about beliefs: Representation and constraining function of wrong beliefs in young children’s understanding of deception. Cognition, 13, 103-128.
Voigt, W. (1887). Ueber das Doppler'sche. Princip. Nachr. Ges. Wiss. Gottingen 8, 41-51.
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