Gene discovery research is uncovering similarities and differences underlying a variety of disorders affecting the developing brain, including autism, attention deficits, tics, intellectual impairments, developmental delays and language difficulties. Researchers found some genes are more closely associated with autism and others with intellectual impairments, but many times there is overlap, indicating some genes pose broader risks. Certain genes were detected only in males with high-functioning autism.
In their study population, the researchers associated 91 genes with the risk of a neurodevelopmental disorder. These included 38 genes not previously suspected of playing a role.
Of the 91 genes, 25 were linked with forms of autism without intellectual disability. The scientists also described a gene network that appeared to be related to high-functioning autism. Individuals with this form of autism have average to above average intelligence, but may struggle in learning to talk, interact socially, or manage anxiety and sensory overload.
Additional findings suggest that less severe mutations may be behind autism that is not accompanied by intellectual disability.
Although the overall numbers were low, several autism risk genes appeared predominantly in males, including some detected exclusively in males who had autism without intellectual impairment.
[Full study can be found here (behind pay wall)]
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