Are autism genes in all of us?

Genetic risk for autism spectrum disorders and neuropsychiatric variation in the general population

New light has been shed on the genetic relationship between autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and ASD-related traits in the wider population, by a team of international researchers including academics from the University of Bristol, the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

Summary

Almost all genetic risk factors for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) can be found in the general population, but the effects of this risk are unclear in people not ascertained for neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Using several large ASD consortium and population-based resources (total n > 38,000), we find genome-wide genetic links between ASDs and typical variation in social behavior and adaptive functioning.

Autism genes are in all of us, new research reveals, University of Bristol, 21 March 2016.

This finding is evidenced through both LD score correlation and de novo variant analysis, indicating that multiple types of genetic risk for ASDs influence a continuum of behavioral and developmental traits, the severe tail of which can result in diagnosis with an ASD or other neuropsychiatric disorder.

A continuum model should inform the design and interpretation of studies of neuropsychiatric disease biology.

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