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 Table of Contents    
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 53  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 87-88
Can the world afford autistic spectrum disorder? Nonverbal communication, Asperger syndrome and the interbrain

Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh 160012, India

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Date of Web Publication13-Jan-2011

How to cite this article:
Dutt A, Grover S. Can the world afford autistic spectrum disorder? Nonverbal communication, Asperger syndrome and the interbrain. Indian J Psychiatry 2011;53:87-8

How to cite this URL:
Dutt A, Grover S. Can the world afford autistic spectrum disorder? Nonverbal communication, Asperger syndrome and the interbrain. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 Sep 25];53:87-8. Available from:

Authors: Digby Tantam

Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London, 2009

Pages: 254 Price: 24.95 $

Autistic spectrum disorders are present with abnormal or impaired development in social interaction, communication, and a restricted repertoire of activity and interests. The disorder, as the term spectrum suggests has a varied clinical presentation ranging from extreme disability and morbidity in the severe end of the spectrum (e.g., Rett's disorder) to individuals with Asperger's syndrome who usually have minimal disability and are capable of leading a productive life.

In his book "Can the World Afford Autistic Spectrum Disorder? Nonverbal Communication, Asperger's Syndrome and the Interbrain" Digby Tantam argues that the fundamental deficit in autism is impairment of nonverbal communication. Tantam proposes that this nonverbal communication forms the ''interbrain'' which is a form of ''wireless'' communication between humans. This theory has been propounded over eight chapters, first by illustrating what nonverbal communication means, its usefulness and necessity in maintaining social relationships followed by evidence supporting the fundamental role of impaired nonverbal communication in autistic spectrum disorders and whether it can be attributed to brain pathology. The final chapters have mainly dealt with the consequences of impaired nonverbal communication and why this problem should be understood by society. Throughout the book the authors have tried to link the behavior with brain and neural system and one good thing about the book is that the authors give elaborate examples to describe and make the reader understand the concept which they propose.

The first chapter describes the different types of nonverbal communication and their usefulness in maintaining social relations with interesting examples. The author has also assigned a brief paragraph about the involvement of the brain in these communications "right and left brain or something" and evidence for their impairment in autism. But this area appears to have no link with the rest of the chapter and leaves the reader slightly confused regarding its relevance. The second chapter has been devoted to the importance of gaze and shared attention in nonverbal communications. According to the author, the impairment of this function is responsible for the impaired social interaction in autism.

The third chapter deals with how people interpret nonverbal communications by giving the analogy of dream interpretation. He talks of leaked cues to explain how we understand people even when they are trying to control their nonverbal communication. It is here that he proposes the concept of interbrain, a system of wireless communication mediated by nonverbal interactions. The author compares it with bluetooth radio signals or WiFi microwave connections, the development of which depends on early childhood experiences. This chapter is well written with sufficient illustrations to appeal to the readers.

The fourth chapter begins with three case vignettes where the author demonstrates how social impairment arising due to various causes like social isolation, antisocial personality and autism differ from one another. The author invokes the older theories of autism like the attachment theory, the theory of mind, central coherence theory, empathy failure theory with an aim to link them together with his proposed fundamental disturbance in nonverbal communication. Although the author gives some evidence of the early appearance of impairment in nonverbal communication in autism, the chapter does not appear to integrate the other theories as it proposes to do so. Thereby the pages devoted to the above theories appears superfluous to the reader. In the next chapter, the author has tried to give the evidence for impairment of brain areas responsible for nonverbal communication in autism. The author however accepts that the evidences cited are not sufficient to explain the use of these brain areas as interbrain.

In the sixth chapter, the author tries to illustrate how impairment in nonverbal communication leads to marginalization, stigmatization, and apparent "difference" in those with autism. In the seventh chapter, the author argues that knowledge of interbrain impairment in patients with autism may be used in managing these children. As these individuals find maintaining interbrain communications effortful, the amount of time, such patients spent in communicating with others should be adjusted and limited according to the degree of impairment. The author proposes promotion of joint attention and involvement of the child in the social environment in a graded manner which is in keeping with the current practice of management of autism.

The final chapter is thought provoking as the author calls upon the society to take heed of these "different" individuals as "being offline from the interbrain is to be at our most individual, and therefore closest to the an awareness of the uniqueness of our minds". The idea that people with autism are "the greatest explorers of the untrammeled mind" aptly highlights the need to protect them, not only as it is their fundamental right as human beings but also for the benefit of the society. The book is written very compassionately and gives important insights to understand the behavior of subjects with autism.

Correspondence Address:
Sandeep Grover
Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh 160012
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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