‘Rain Man’-Like Brains Mapped With Network Analysis
A group of researchers at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley have mapped the three-dimensional global connections within the brains of seven adults who have genetic malformations that leave them without the corpus callosum, which connects the left and right sides of the brain.
These “structural connectome” maps, which combine hospital MRIs with the mathematical tool known as network analysis, are described in the upcoming April 15 issue of the journal Neuroimage. They reveal new details about the condition known as agenesis of the corpus callosum, which is one of the top genetic causes of autism. The condition was part of the mysterious brain physiology of Laurence Kim Peek, the remarkable savant portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the 1987 movie “Rain Man.”In the 1987 movie “Rain Man,” Dustin Hoffman, right, played the remarkable savant Laurence Kim Peek, who in real life had the condition known as agenesis of the corpus callosum.
While some people born with agenesis of the corpus callosum are of normal intelligence and do not have any obvious signs of neurologic disease, approximately 40 percent of people with the condition are at high risk for autism. Given this, the work is a step toward finding better ways to image the brains of people with the condition, said Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging at UCSF who was the co-senior author of the research.
Understanding how brain connectivity varies from person to person may help researchers identify imaging biomarkers for autism to help diagnose it and manage care for individuals. Currently autism is diagnosed and assessed based on cognitive tests, such as those involving stacking blocks and looking at pictures on flip cards.