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Joel Frohlich isa PhD student at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he is examining biomarkers of autism spectrum disorders. He is also senior editor at Knowing Neurons.Published in association withKnowing Neurons an Aeon Partner
People like simplicity. Each decade, corporate logos grow progressively minimalistic, pop songs use ever simpler melodies, and visual arts embrace simpler compositions as Monet gives way to Picasso, and Picasso to Rothko. This zeitgeist, summarised in the phrase ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’, shapes our perceptions of the human body in interesting ways. The thumping of a beating heart is often celebrated as nature’s beautifully simple rhythm. And yet, a heartbeat that is too simple and too rhythmic might be a warning sign of congestive heart failure.
Perhaps the heart is an anomaly, you say. But moving
from cardiology to neurology, epileptic seizures manifest
in the brain as highly organised electrical activity in
contrast to the chaotic electrical patterns of a flourishing
brain. Continuing to psychiatry, new researchshows that
}individuals with autism have highly regular speech patterns as compared with healthy controls.
Life is complex, but why is complexity
healthy – and why does orderliness suggest pathology
in the brain?