Seeing you seeing me

February 28, 1997

NEURO-RESEARCHERS have discovered what appears to be a brain spot governing human beliefs about the world, helping to explain and potentially assist autistic and schizophrenic people.

Chris and Uta Frith, of the Wellcome department of cognitive neurology, University College London, have pinpointed a distinct brain area that is activated when people are asked to think what someone else is thinking.

This ability is crucial to human society and communication. Tests on autistic children have shown that they cannot conceive of other people's beliefs and this may partly explain why they are isolated and withdrawn.

Clinical application of the Frith's work may lead to more accurate diagnosis and potentially a new form of drug therapy. The couple are looking at schizophrenia and the possibility that paranoid delusions are due to malfunctioning of the neuro-systems governing belief.

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