Ottawa

John Elder Robison discovers the dark side of emotions

John Elder Robison talks to Alan Neal about living with autism, and what happened when he underwent TMS treatment to awaken his emotions.

'There were all kinds of messages, but they weren't all sweetness and love'

John Elder Robison has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. (Canadian Press/Frank Gunn)

After spending a good chunk of his life being — in his words — "blind to unspoken cues from other people," John Elder Robison imagined awakening to a world of emotions would be a moment of singular joy.

So Robison, who has autism, underwent transcranial magnetic stimulation — where scientists used an electromagnetic field to induce signals in the outer layer of the brain — a treatment to help autistic people read emotion in others.

It wasn't, he said, what he thought it would be.

"I thought there were all these sweet happy beautiful messages that I was oblivious to and of course, now, I realize that I was a hopeful fool to be thinking that," he told Alan Neal on CBC's All in a Day.

"There were all kinds of messages, but they weren't all sweetness and love."

Robison, whose popular books about life with autism include Look Me In The Eye and Switched On, discovered the downside of emotions too, and the aspects of his memories that his autism had shielded him from.

You can listen to his full interview with Alan Neal here.

Robison will be at Writersfest Saturday afternoon, at Christ Church Cathedral at 4 p.m.