Hey AdrianG...I'm no PhD (unless that stands for "Phucking Hate this Disorder
)...but anyway, I agree with a lot of your anaology... but I do think that stating SA is a "learned disorder" is rather simplistic in the evolution of SA in an individual.
Plus, there are so many variables within the degrees of SA that is very difficult to reduce it to a 'one size fits all' kinda mentality (I'm not saying you are doing this...just my own thoughts on the subject). I also realize you are probably speaking in generalities which, with any spectrum disorder, is reductionism at it's best.
In using your analogy, not only do the connections become solidified in the brain but the very make-up of the cells themselves undergo change. In the March '08 issue of Scientific American there is a great article on the maturing brain called "White Matter Matters" written by R.Douglas Fields and it talks about how the myelin that coats the axions need a protein called neuregulin to signal the thickness (layers) of myelin to surround the axion. And to quote:
" Interestingly, many people who suffer bipolar disorder or schizophrenia have a defect in the gene that regulates production of this protein" (pg 56).
Basically, the article goes on to say how the physiological maturing brain is subjected not only to our environmental exposures creating 'who' we are but also by our most fundamental genetic make-up. It is a really informative piece on understanding the complexities of brain development.
The study in epigenetic research is also proving to be quite relative in determining the mechanism(s) that is responsible for certain genes to be turned "on" and others that are turned "off" and how environmental factors play a role in this process.