Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Genes maintain stability of autism traits over time

Traits that typically accompany autism, such as social impairments and communication difficulties, remain largely consistent as children age, and this stability is primarily due to genetic factors, a new study concludes. The research, published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, is based on more than 6,000 twin pairs in the general population1. Studies have shown that autism is a largely stable condition. It’s rare for children to outgrow a diagnosis of autism, and a 2012 study found that in more than 80 percent of children with autism, symptom severity does not changesignificantly over time2. Researchers have also studied autism-like traits, such as social aversion and repetitive behavior, in the general population, and found that these characteristics tend to remain constant as children age3. But little research has explored why autism behaviors vary so little over the course of development. Is it because the genes that govern the behaviors are expressed stably across the lifespan? Or because environmental factors that influence the traits are constant?

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