One Pill Makes You Autistic — And One Pill Changes You Back

Illustration for article titled One Pill Makes You Autistic — And One Pill Changes You Back

Need to finish that work project, and wish you had the mental intensity to do it? Just take a synapse-regulating inhibitor, induce temporary autism, and you'll want to ignore your friends and do nothing but number-crunching for days. Autism-inducers could become as popular as Provigil among the geek set by 2020. Last night, in fact, a group German researchers announced they'd perfected the method for inducing autism. (They can also cure it.)

Over the past year, researchers have demonstrated several times that they can turn mice autistic by messing with brain chemistry — and then "cure" them using the same techniques. The discoveries could lead to a scenario similar to the one in Vernor Vinge's novel A Deepness in the Sky, where people are given a brain treatment called "focusing" that essentially turns them autistic and makes them obsessive, detail-oriented workers.

It might also lead to recreational autism, where people who want to take a break from having messy emotions about other people decide to unplug and enter a state where human relationships are no more important than inanimate objects.


Read about how scientists can induce autism [PNAS] and how they can cure it [BBC News].

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Annalee Newitz

@blakewest: Actually, this post *is* rank speculation. Right now, the research is entirely focused on understanding the range of symptoms that fall under the general "autism spectrum disorders" umbrella. The main goal is to ease painful symptoms for people who are suffering.

However, what I wanted to point out was that the research could easily lead to inducing autism-like symptoms in people. This could be for weaponization. Or it could be to gain the focus and intensity experienced by some people who have Aspergers — and then reverse it.

Would that be unethical? I leave it to you to decide.