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Evolutionary tradeoffs: Genes linked to autism may persist because they make us smarter

| | March 3, 2017
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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Autism genes may have been conserved during human evolution because they make us smarter, say scientists.

More inherited genetic variants linked to autism have been naturally selected than would be expected by chance, a study has shown.

The same variants were associated with traits linked to brain performance, such as molecular functions involved in the creation of new neurons.

Under the laws of natural selection outlined by Charles Darwin, evolutionary variants that have a negative impact on reproductive success are quickly eliminated from a population.

But those providing a better chance of survival tend to remain for generation after generation, if their advantages outweigh their adverse effects.

Study co-author Professor Joel Gelernter, from Yale University, said: “It might be difficult to imagine why the large number of gene variants that together give rise to traits like ASD (autism spectrum disorder) are retained in human populations.

“The idea is that during evolution these variants that have positive effects on cognitive function were selected, but at a cost – in this case an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders.”

[Study can be found here.]

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Autism genes conserved during human evolution to make us smarter, say scientists 

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