The importance of empathy is particularly apparent in disorders such as autism,  Mirror neurons and autism are clearly linked. Studies showing abnormal EEG's related the the mirror neuron system imply a dysfunction. Could therapy to stimulate mirror neurons help them?

Some scientists suggest that the capacity for empathy is a critical cognitive difference between men and women. In general, women tend to score higher on empathy tests. High testosterone in-utero has been associated with anti-social behavior similar to autism.  There are autistic  females, however.  Families with multiple engineers seem to have more autistic children.  Could it be that ability to concentrate on a task and block out the world is an advantage in some cases?  Obviously it is.  We certainly need engineers with these talents.  Empathy is necessary for maintaining relationships and groups but perhaps there is value in autism in the genetic mix?  If that is the case, then those of us not on the autism spectrum should appreciate the value that is contributed by those that are.  The problem for the individual is having too much.

Perhaps it is a contribution analogous to thalassemia or sickle cell disease?  Those who get too many genes suffer but those who get one or two are resistant to malaria.  Very important to the population as a whole.  Very hard for those that suffer. 

--Dave




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