I am a contributing editor at Scientific American and write the Brain Waves blog for Psychology Today (you can find those posts here). My work has also appeared in The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time, Vogue and many other publications. Earlier in my career, I was on staff at Newsweek, and People, among other places and I’ve included a few of my old favorites from those days.
He had not studied STXBP1, or syntaxin binding protein 1, but he knew that it plays a critical role in the transmission of electrical signals between neurons. Researchers had identified mutations in STXBP1 that reduce that signaling as a cause of infantile epileptic encephalopathy in 2008. Since then, increases in genetic testing have revealed STXBP1 encephalopathy in about one in 33,000 children. Clinical symptoms vary, but include epilepsy and, often, severe cognitive impairment; about 20 percent of children with the condition exhibit autism traits. Of the most affected children, Boland says, “they’re not going to be potty trained ever, they’re not going to learn to dress themselves.”
Most autistic people want to and can make friends, though their relationships often have a distinctive air.
Photographs courtesy of Nick Morgulis / Actionplay It is lunchtime on a Sunday in January. At a long table inside a delicatessen in midtown Manhattan, a group of young people sit together over sandwiches and salads. Most of them have their phones out. One boy wears headphones around his…