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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Michael Joel Schrift, DO, MA (University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine)
Description: The is an exceptional new book (originally published as an issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B (2003) 358, 275-427) on the scientific status of research of a devastating neurodevelopmental disorder, autism. Written and edited by an outstanding array of internationally recognized researchers in the field, this book is an important contribution to the field.
Purpose: The purpose is to bring to the reader "...examples of the cutting edge of research and highlights some of the burning questions." Indeed the editors and authors have produced an extremely interesting and up-to-date account of the current research questions that are being pursued in this field.
Audience: The primary audience, although not specifically stated, includes researchers of neurodevelopmental disorders and clinicians in child psychiatry, developmental psychology, adult psychiatry (these individuals grow up), child neurology, and any mental health practitioner who wants to become aware of the major research ideas in this fascinating field.
Features: The introductory section and chapter 1 are essentially summaries of the book providing an overview of the current research ideas in autistic disorder. Chapter 2 is an interesting retrospective analysis of Hans Asperger's clinical case records. Chapter 3 focuses on putative neurocognitive phenotypes of autistic disorder. Chapter 4 summaries the literature on joint attention as a pivotal skill in autism. Chapter 5 evaluates the hypothesis of impaired involuntary eye gaze in autism. In chapter 6 the authors suggest why congenital blindness may relate to the pathogenesis of autism since the experience of two-way interactions appears critical. Chapter 7 looks at why individuals with high-functioning autism find social situations difficult. Chapter 8 focuses on the high-level cognitive processes of empathizing and systematizing in normals and in autistic individuals. Chapter 9 reviews the literature of a putative neurocognitive defect in autism: weak central coherence. Chapter 10 attempts to "disentangle" two of the putative neurocognitive deficits in autism: weak central coherence and executive dysfunction. Movement disturbances are reviewed in chapter 11 and individual differences in brain abnormalities are explained in chapter 12. Chapter 13 reviews the role of the fusiform face area in the temporal lobe in the pathophysiology of autism. Each chapter ends with useful and relevant citations of the literature. The index section is helpful.
Assessment: This book is an excellent presentation of the recent research literature in this very interesting field. Anyone interested in the brain and mind should read this book.