Scientists Identify 27 Genes Associated With Asperger’s Syndrome: What Does This Mean?


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asbergerAsperger’s syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is part of a distinct group of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by communication difficulties, social impairment, restrictive, sterotypical and repetitive patterns of behavior. Abnormalities in social interaction may include isolation, and a lack of ability to pick up on non-verbal forms of communication. It’s also characterized by clumsiness and poor communication skills.

It is labelled as a disorder simply because there are observable differences with social interaction and behavior in social settings. Does that not seem highly questionable to you? So what if there are observable differences in behavior? Differences does not equal disorder, they are simply differences that are unique to the individual and require no cure.  When it comes to differences in brain functioning, the American Medical Association has a tendency to label them as disorders without sufficient evidence. When one reads a description of the ‘disorder’ the readers usually believe it without asking critical questions and making critical connections. If we are going to label something as a disorder without evidence, it is equally plausible to label them as an advantage. Truth is, we are made up of the same thing, we all bring our unique individuality to the whole.

Scientists have long suspected that there are genetic components to Asperger’s syndrome and other Autism Spectrum Disorders, but no specific gene has ever been identified. Instead, the most recent evidence indicates  a common group of genes whose variations make an individual more vulnerable to developing ASD. Scientists from the University of Cambridge have identified 27 genes that are associated with autistic traits and/or Asperger Syndrome. They looked at genes that are linked to the observable characteristics and qualities within a human being that are different than the “norm.” Genes identified were associated with empathy, judgement, decision making, social/emotional sensitivity and more. They chose these genes because these children show observable differences from the norm in these areas. For example, a child diagnosed with ASD or Asperger syndrome might look like they lack empathy or social and emotional sensitivity. I do not think we should judge a book by it’s cover, and I do not think differences in the genetic makeup responsible for empathy and emotional sensitivity should be labelled as a disorder. The research is published in the journal ‘Autism Research’ and this is the first candidate gene study of its kind.

The research found that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 27 out of the 68 genes studied were nominally associated with either AS and/or with autistic traits/empathy. A single nucleotide polymorphism is a DNA sequence variation occurring when a single nucleotide in the genome differs between members of a biological species or paired chromosomes in a human. Nucleotides are molecules that form the building blocks of DNA. Therefore, the genetic structure of a child or adult with Asperger’s syndrome differs from the genetic structure of the mass population, different DNA. The cause of this is still unknown.

Observable differences here do not suggest a disorder, they simply mean exactly what the study finds, differences in DNA sequencing, that’s all. How do we know that evolution isn’t taking place? After all, single nucleotide polymorphisms are the most common type of genetic variation among people. Just because there are observable social and behavioral differences, coupled with observable differences in DNA/genetics does not give us the right to label, define and categorize children into a category of disorder. This can prevent them from achieving their full potential. Children often diagnosed with these labels usually show a number of remarkable qualities and characteristics. Medical associations and big pharmaceutical companies like to persuade professional opinion through academic literature, and they do it in a very clever way.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S089662730000115X

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/157802.php

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/genomicresearch/snp

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  1. mergon

    Frequency is another perspective your brain has a frequency if you have Aspergers or are Autistic ,or dyslexic
    Your frequency has to adapt to that situation ,some people can problem solve because they can picture the fault in their minds eye ,while a so called normal person will have to a full diagnostic to get a result.
    Frequecy of lights is another issue that is often overlooked strip lights ,cfc,s can effect so called normal people let alone any of the above ,sound is another marker as sound comes in many different frequencies whats needed here is an understanding of how different frequencies affect people with APS,AUT or DYX .

    What you consider to be normal for sight and sound can be alien to someone with any of the above !

  2. bo moore

    I began studying human evolution as a driver of behavior long before I was diagnosed Aspergers. A hobby, you might think, but carried out with typical Aspie intensity. I am a non-biological scientist, so I see connections between the physical environment and biological entities quite differently; more structural, time dependent, and in the case of humans, culturally directed. What I see is the current literature is the incorrect assumption that humans have always been social: social humans define “being human” as “being social.” This is obviously not true. Our wild ancestors are not interchangeable with modern urban humans: modern humans are childlike – dependent on elaborate social systems, infrastructure and outside support for survival. They could not possibly have survived in raw nature – but an Asperger type likely could have.

    Our early ancestors are often pictured as already behaving as modern people do; obsessing over all things social and trivial, when what they must have done in order to survive is to study in detail the animals, plants, and physical workings of their total environment. They had to make mental maps of their territory, animal migrations, water sources – all requiring highly visual thinking. As individuals living in small groups, honesty and trustworthiness would have been paramount, whereas deception, disloyalty, and a predatory hierarchy would have been disastrous. People tend to disparage the literal processing of information common to Aspergers, but guess what? We live in a literal universe, the description of which is the goal of science.

    There is much more evidence, but in short, my hypothesis is that the Aspergers type of brain is a legacy of our wild ancestors, and that neurotypicals are a recent product of selection for juvenile (tame) behavior due to population pressure. Aspergers = wild. Neurotypicals = domesticated.

    • Very apt. Thank you for this. Instead of beating myself up about my personality traits, I now have an underlying reason for them which I can be proud of. I identify with ‘surviving in raw nature’ (also n an abstract sense) as well as with ‘processing things literally.

  3. Robert

    Sorry, but I will not subscribe to any theory that suggests an autism disorder is an advantageous trait. If everyone was autistic homo sapiens would cease to exist. The magical thing about our species is that most individuals born with maladaptive traits are nurtured. Autism in any other species would not survive. We are a very special species and because we love our children and want them to succeed, we assist those born with maladaptive traits to reach their full potential. The interesting thing is that likely because autism causes such widespread havoc in certain areas of the brain, other parts of the brain compensate with specialized growth. One day we might see an autistic person with a very specialized skill develop a way to reach other habitable planets or cure death. But that would happen only when that person is provided with a tremendous amount of support in their early critical years of growth. Sorry, but the bottom line is that autism is maladaptive and survival cannot happen without drawing a more substantial amount of resources than the average individual.

    • Smith

      No, if everyone was autistic we wouldn’t have such a shitty society.
      Have a nice day.

    • (Reply to Robert) No one is suggesting that Autism is advantageous in today’s hyper-social environment. 1. I don’t subscribe to Asperger’s being a form of Autism. 2. My post clearly states that Asperger traits would have been viable in our WILD ancestors. 3. You are stuck in the modern social paradigm, which assumes that today’s social human is an evolutionary advance on all other life forms. (A religious idea) There is no logical support for projecting modern social behavior onto our wild ancestors; behavior is a response to the environment: 5-10 million people crammed into a few square miles of artificially created environments requires very different behavior and abilities than small isolated groups in very low population natural environments.

  4. Pingback: Autism Advocacy and Awareness: Part II | Sprocket Ink

  5. Jack

    In response to the article:

    Life occupies all the possible space that it can in the most efficient way that it can. Birds inhabit the sky only because of the speed of flight that allows them to travel further to find food and escape predators. There is a bell curve scale for every possible combination and condition of life. The condition of “humanity” is genetic and not restricted to homo-sapiens.
    Most species exist only in relationship with other species. Some as predator/prey, some as symbiotic and some both. Homo-sapiens that genetically can no longer nurture themselves as adults will either cease to exist or become part of a symbiotic relationship. They must satisfy some need that other homo-sapiens have, whether it be purely humanitarian, for companionship or for an extra ability that others do not posses.
    In a similar way those that occupy the extreme end of the field of aggression find themselves contained in gaol systems or die in gang or crime violence, or become needed by society on the battlefields fighting other aggressors from other countries.
    Just as those that inhabit the extreme ends of the physical spectrum have been subject to many different pressures throughout history, those at the extreme ends of the mental spectrum have mostly been passed over by natural selection.
    However time and pressure can do strange and wonderful things. There is no limit to the possibilities of evolution. To think of an albatross gliding over the southern ocean is to see the possibility of a flying dragon, although maybe not a fire breathing one. It is very possible that mentally diverse groups could evolve into a range of other species. Can you imagine what the class system in India would look like in ten million years if it had continued to diversify? Or even the diversification in a modern western city over the same period? A sub species of tax collectors for example. Of course at the moment that seems impossible because a modern city is far too unstable and evidence suggests that homo-sapiens breeding habits tend not to be confined to groups. But it is possible!
    Those mentally extreme individuals that “code” posses the ability to focus intensely. Maybe others have or will develop the ability to navigate just as the birds do and lead us into space exploration. It appears that diversification is definitely happening in some fields but at the same time unification in others. Both evolution and dis-evolution.
    In this recent four hundred year period of extreme homo-sapiens population explosion might we consider that those individuals that feel the natural desire to procreate past the pigeon pair as being more disordered due to the burden that they place on other homo-sapiens, other species and to the planet as a whole. In two hundred years time how will this group be viewed? Ultimately it will be the environment that shapes whether the homo-sapiens species will diversify or unify because it has not yet learned to limit the space that it occupies.

    • waltinseattle

      Jack…have you read the wonderfull book ” Darwins Dangerous Idea” ? you describe rvolution very nicrly, if somewhat in a condensed way.

      what bothers me in new age circles is the acceptance of teleological actions. destiny by evolutionary “goals” is religious destiny with gaia replacing jehovah. and no more acceptable.

      and filling any availsble new niche is how this blind process has “evolved” to where we can trade ideas via silicon wafers and electric currents. this ability has no bearing on some imagined next step of doing it without the devices. nor did toolmaking prefigure growing fang nor hoe .

      • Jack

        Thank you for the recommendation, I shall endeavor.
        So what is acceptable?
        The fleas have out grown the dog and there’s no other dog just yet. This space ship is currently the only one we have. World fish stocks are estimated to be in decline since 1988 and I believe this not because it is from some media source but because I spend a lot of time on the ocean and have observed it first hand over a 40 year period. Did the Easter Islanders know their world would radically change five years before the event? I’m pretty sure some of them did, but not the majority.
        I sometimes wonder that we call ourselves intelligent at all. Consciousness is like a locomotive, once it is built it has to go somewhere. No good sitting idle, it will just fade away.
        Looking forward down that line for it’s own reason, no other.
        Consciousness is a tool for survival, nothing more. It has nothing to do with actual living. A bunch of cells self replicating and existing harmoniously together is what living is and the corals of the ocean do that just as well as what we do. Consciousness is an equation, x circumstances in the past equals y circumstances in the future. Reflection and projection for the self fulfilled need of survival. Stepping off this gravy train removes the genetic code that would reduce the urgency of survival in each generation.
        That life is now exploring what consciousness is, is logical. Homo-sapiens have built a world for themselves. The limestone structure that houses the corals evolved to become internal in ourselves, and now we mimmic that ancient shelter on land building house and the rest of infrastructure. This safe environment is now ripe for diversity within. So we get crack houses and nasa scientists, ASDs that endlessly search for the slightest chance for survival and big brother reality shows where the mindless aspire to be the perfect homo-sapien. The list goes on and on. And we are sold the idea of happiness like a carrot leading the donkey. Is coral happy? Living in bliss? No it’s just living, at peace, or in stress or somewhere in between. Stress is the ultimate driver of all action. How much time is left before the individual will not be able to prosper without the latest iphone.
        ASD is not a disorder, it’s the norm in a crazy world. Just as normal as drug addiction, rocket science, war between corals and a moth that disguises itself as a thorn in the Amazon rain forest. We all have a chemical floating around in our system that creates a desire to survive and procreate. You either achieve that goal or you don’t. ASDs just like everybody else are searching for a way to achieve these desires. They live with a very short fuse and extreme levels of stress. They will direct all their attention to the very one thing that they believe will secure their future. If this one thing is disrupted to them it feels like death itself. Catatonia results when there is no belief in survival and the chemical responsible for those desires ceases to flow. Well that’s my best guess.

        • Jack: “Reflection and projection for the self fulfilled need of survival”….” Stress is the ultimate driver of all action.” Pretty much my view except maybe our definitions of stress. I see consciousness as a grand way to survive. That is all the brain really is good for. The rest is stress relief. The sort of stress you refer to I think. But hunger, need for companionship thirst…these are “stresses also, and in a hierarchy. I think some over stressed folk get the hierarchy all wrong. Druggies certainly do. Improper communication with those neurohormones- (oxytocin,) and the reward transmitter chemicals. The Taoists ratwe the way natural “dumb” life is. They merely accept conditions and do what they can to lessen the stress, assure survival. we, with thoughts of the future are different. We worry about the lion tomorrow, the possible lack of food next week. If we could get over these fears and just deal with what is…not bliss but equanimity, the present…as good as it can get.

          The catatonia observation is good too. My eldest had some issues, undiagnosed. long term plans did not happen though he was normal in the moment to moment category. More manic depressive. He did not choose catatonia but did shoot himself after a disasterous manic episode that took 5 others to their graves. Anger, will to live? who could ever reconstruct it. But as we get farther from the old world, there will definately be more room for those not so average.

          Easter Island. I have this picture of perfect employment as every man woman and child was looking for food. and some were still saying : “look, no unemployment, don’t worry, with everybody out there food will be found, it always has..” some don’t ever get the big picture or the long term perspective I think my son had both in excess..between seeing down the road and his own issues, it was not a journey he was ready to keep making.

          So we really do need to keep an open mind. It was not a simpleton brain, it was a polymath…who figured out the calendars we still are amazed by. Guys were probably lousy hunters anyway. maybe they went into inventing things like atl atl and the bow?

  6. waltinseattle

    that last whopper sounds like Lysenko-ism does it not! the autists created the genes. nature follows human intent..genes fulfill desire. wowsers

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