Repetitive behaviours in general are present in different neurological, psychiatric and developmental disorders, but certain types of these behaviours are characteristically autism-specific. Some theories take them as overt outputs of neurological and biochemical deficits, others invest them with adaptive functions. After outlining the main approaches a new theory is introduced concerning the possible function of repetitive behaviours, according to which these repetitions induce a certain altered state of consciousness, generated by the given individual for herself, aiming at a calming-effect via reducing the arousal-level. The aim of this paper is to reflect upon theoretically whether the neurochemical and neuroanatomical mechanisms behind repetitive behaviours in autistic spectrum disorder induce or contra-induce the formation of an altered state of consciousness. This problem - over and above its scientific significance - might contribute to the understanding of the nature of repetitive behaviours from a point of view quite ignored so far: that of subjective experiences accompanying overt behaviour. On the other hand, revealing the possible functions of these repetitions might serve as a basis for elaborating appropriate reactions to repetitive behaviours in clinical therapy.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.