Before I get to part 3 of my series high range tests, I wanted to quickly share my new theory on autism (or at least I think it’s new; maybe someone had similar ideas before).

When we are babies our brain begins to form a huge number of connections between neurons to help humans adapt to any environment we might be raised in. By our teens, it’s clear what type of environment we’re in and the brain begins to prune any connections that are not needed in that environment, to preserve resources for the needed ones.

However autistic kids show considerably less pruning than their peers.

Here’s where my theory comes in: autistics are thought to lack social and practical intelligence, or common sense. But common sense comes from experience and so we should expect autistics to be more impaired in acquiring experience based skills because they lack the very pruning process that diverts resources to the neural connections that experience tells them they need.

Does that make them less intelligent? I define intelligence as your ability to adapt, so on the one hand, not having the pruning process makes them much less adapted to their environment, because pruning evolved to maximize the functioning of specifically those connections needed in your environment.

On the other hand, if the environment rapidly changes, the autistic brain will have all these extra synapses ready to exploit it. This may explain why allegedly autistic types like Bill Gates were able to dominate when technology changed so rapidly, the pruning process could not keep up with it. It also explains why autistics tend to do better on so-called fluid tests of novel problem solving than on crystallized tests of acquired knowledge and why autistics seem to have a child-like personality (children like autists, have too many synapses).

So the autistic mind, like the mind of a child, is both adaptable and unadapted: unadapted to the environment they were raised in. Adaptable when the environment changes.

Now schizophrenia is sometimes said to be the opposite of autism, and indeed, schizophrenics show the opposite pattern: too much synaptic pruning. This would result in the social common sense part of the brain becoming too strong at the expense of the ability to learn new stuff. So common sense will tell them, there must be a conspiracy, but when no evidence of a conspiracy occurs, they can’t revise their theories. By contrast autistics may never grasp the common sense theory, but will constantly come up with new ones. This also explains why schizophrenics have higher rates of dementia: too much pruning means less cognitive reserve in old age when the brain naturally shrinks.