Autism and prodigy share a common genetic link – sciencedaily
Researchers have discovered the first evidence of a genetic link between the prodigy and autism.
Scientists found that the child prodigies in their sample share some of the same genetic variations with people with autism.
These shared genetic markers occur on chromosome 1, according to researchers at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.
The results support a hypothesis made by Joanne Ruthsatz, study co-author and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State’s Mansfield campus.
In a previous study, Ruthsatz and a colleague found that half of the prodigies in their sample had a family member or first- or second-degree relative with a diagnosis of autism.
âBased on my previous work, I thought there must be a genetic link between the prodigy and autism and this new research provides the first evidence to confirm it,â said Ruthsatz.
New study appears online in journal Human heredity.
While this study provides a solid foundation for identifying a link, there is still a lot to learn, said co-author Christopher Bartlett, principal investigator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at Ohio State.
“We did not identify the mutations, but we did find that there is something about this region of chromosome 1 that is the same in prodigies and their family members with autism,” Bartlett said.
These results are the first step towards answering the big question, said Ruthsatz.
“We now know what connects the prodigy to autism. What we want to know is what sets them apart. We strongly suspect that there is a genetic component to that as well, and that is the goal. of our future work, âshe said.
The Human Heredity Study involved five child prodigies and their families that Ruthsatz studies, some for many years. Each of the prodigies had received national or international recognition for a specific skill, such as math or music. All of them have passed tests to confirm their exceptional skills.
The researchers collected saliva samples from the prodigies and from four to 14 family members of each prodigy. Each prodigy had between one and five family members in the study who were diagnosed on the autism spectrum.
DNA was extracted from saliva and researchers sequenced the exome, the segment of DNA containing 1 to 2% of the genes that make proteins. (It’s less expensive and complex than whole genome sequencing.) The researchers plan to move on with full genome sequencing, which will reveal more information about the genetic mutations that prodigies share with people with autism.
“What we found here was just an indication that there is something similar in the genetic makeup of prodigies and their family members with autism. There is a lot more to study,” Bartlett said.
In her previous work, Ruthsatz found that although prodigies and people with autism share above-average scores on tests that measure attention to detail, prodigies scored higher among these two groups. And the Wonders really did excel when it comes to working memory, with everything she’s studied scoring in the 99th percentile.
âWe believe there may be a working memory gene or genes that may be a key component in helping to create wonders,â said Ruthsatz.
“Prodigies seem to have protective genes that save them from the deficits associated with autism and only allow the talent that you see in scholars to shine. This is what we seek to identify.”
In the meantime, the researchers warn that they have not found any “smoking gun”.
âThe tests we did here wouldn’t help anyone tell if he was going to become a prodigy or be autistic,â Bartlett said.
“We haven’t found the exact genes or the mutations involved. It’s a good start, but it’s just a start.”
The other co-authors of the study were Stephen Petrill, professor of psychology at Ohio State; and Ning Li and Samuel Wolock from the National Children’s Hospital.
Support for the study came from the Marci and Bill Ingram Research Fund for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
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