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How Does the Autistic Brain Work?
How Does the Autistic Brain Work?
 An autistic teen helps brain researchers take on the mysteries of mind. 

Crammed into our craniums, the three-pound human brain may be the most complex matter in the universe. And scientists are learning more about how it works by investigating how it doesn't work. A 13 year-old young man named Tito Mukhopadhyay may be the Rosetta stone for autism, revealing what it feels like to be autistic. With astonishing clarity and detail, Tito, a prolific writer and poet, is able to tell outsiders about a world in which he and other autistics are trapped, a bizarre kaleidoscopic landscape where they are forced to select a single sense at a time in order to keep at bay the inundation of gross visual distortions and sounds that continually flood their consciousness.

“The shapes come first and then the color. If it moves, I have to start over again.”

Tito Mukhopadhyay
Autistic Youth, Author, Poet

Three leading brain scientists discuss normal brain functioning as being the combination of numerous processes and systems working together seamlessly. From what Tito describes, he receives images in pieces at different times, and is forced to mentally paste them together to understand what he's seeing. He has to flap his hands and rock so that the intensified blood flow to his hands and the moving air currents he stirs up define the outlines of his body. Most telling perhaps, is that while we are able to grasp sights and sounds immediately and Tito cannot, guest Terry Sejnowski's current research is showing that this information is really processed at different speeds in our brains, but so rapidly in ours that it only seems simultaneous to us. Tito's reports of his perceptions in which simultaneity is absent, are the first human descriptions that appear to confirm Sejnowski's theory.

Deeper insight is given by Tito's mother, the exceptional teacher Soma Mukhopadhyay, who invented the Rapid Prompting Method (a remarkable methodology for teaching autistics to communicate) , and by lay scientist and activist Portia Iversen, herself the mother of an autistic child and co-founder of Cure Autism Now, America's largest research foundation for finding a cure for autism.

Learn More!
Delve deeper into this episode�s content.
eric courchesne Eric Courchesne Ph.D.
Prof. Neuroscience, UC San Diego
What causes autism and what might help us understand it?

portia iversen Portia Iversen
Cure Autism Now Foundation
A look at Cure Autism Now (CAN), the Rapid Prompting Method, and Super Sensory Sessions to simulate the experience of autism.

tito mukhopadhyay Tito Mukhopadhyay
Autistic Youth, Author, Poet
Learn about Tito's writing.

erin schuman Erin Schuman Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof. Biology, Caltech
Erin Schuman on whether or not the soul exists.

terrence sejnowski Terrence Sejnowski Ph.D.
Dir., Computational Biology Lab, Salk Institute
Terry Sejnowski speaks about timing (temporal coding).
Video Clips

Low bandwidth Real movie. High bandwidth Real movie.
Why autistics flap their hands and rock.

Low bandwidth Real movie. High bandwidth Real movie.

Dysfunctional brain processes in Tito.


Acrobat format

Key Terms


The Binding Problem

Cure Autism Now (CAN)

Rapid Prompting Method (RPM)

Temporal Coding

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