Genetics

Researchers link gene mutation to autism behaviors

A collaboration between scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina and clinicians at the Greenwood Genetic Center has yielded new findings about how a particular gene might regulate brain development.

Genetics

Study identifies group of genes with altered expression in autism

Autism has long been associated only with behavioral and environmental factors, but the role of genetics in its development is now increasingly evident. Some 100 genes have been found to play a role in autism spectrum disorder, ...

Psychology & Psychiatry

Children with autism face higher risk of eating disorders

Previous research has found that autism and eating disorders can occur together, as 20-30% of adults with eating disorders have autism, and 3-10% of children and young people with eating disorders.

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Autism

Autism is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. Autism involves many parts of the brain; how this occurs is not well understood. The two other autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are Asperger syndrome, which lacks delays in cognitive development and language, and PDD-NOS, diagnosed when full criteria for the other two disorders are not met.

Autism has a strong genetic basis, although the genetics of autism are complex and it is unclear whether ASD is explained more by rare mutations, or by rare combinations of common genetic variants. In rare cases, autism is strongly associated with agents that cause birth defects. Controversies surround other proposed environmental causes, such as heavy metals, pesticides or childhood vaccines; the vaccine hypotheses are biologically implausible and lack convincing scientific evidence. The prevalence of ASD is about 6 per 1,000 people, with about four times as many males as females. The number of people known to have autism has increased dramatically since the 1980s, partly due to changes in diagnostic practice; the question of whether actual prevalence has increased is unresolved.

Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child's life. Although early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help children gain self-care, social, and communication skills, there is no known cure. Not many children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, though some become successful. An autistic culture has developed, with some individuals seeking a cure and others believing autism should be tolerated as a difference and not treated as a disorder.

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