A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Spring, 2016 | Number 2, Volume 30

“Autism genes” affect neurotypical behavior

Gene variants associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are widespread throughout the neurotypical population and influence behavior and development in this population, according to a new study. 

Elise Robinson and colleagues analyzed data collected on more than 5,600 children by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, as well as data from other studies involving more than 13,000 children with autism and more than 16,000 controls. The researchers say their data strongly suggest that both inherited and spontaneously occurring gene variants associated with ASD influence a range of behavioral and developmental traits across the entire population, with individuals diagnosed with ASD representing a severe presentation of these traits. 

Study coauthor George Davey Smith says, “Many traits that relate to disease risk—like blood pressure or cholesterol levels—demonstrate a similar continuum of risk, with contributions from common and rare genetic variants, plus environmental and chance events. The present study demonstrates how this continuum applies to a condition generally thought of as either existing or not.”


“Genetic risk for autism spectrum disorders and neuropsychiatric variation in the general population,” Elise Robinson et al., Nature Genetics, March 21, 2016 (online). Address: erobinson@ atgu.mgh.harvard.edu. 


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


“Autism genes may be in all of us, researchers say,” Shaun Heasley, Disability Scoop, April 12, 2016.