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Both Genetics and Environment Important in Autism

By Shana R. Spindler, Ph.D. on January 22, 2012


Overview: Autism susceptibility has a significant environmental component, according to a study published in the November issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.


Background: Researchers from across California identified twin pairs with at least one twin having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to investigate the relative influence of genes versus environment on the development of ASD. In total, the researchers examined 192 pairs of twins, including 54 identical twins and 138 fraternal twins, one of the largest studies of its kind.


What's New: The researchers completed a statistical analysis comparing the rate of autism diagnosis for identical versus fraternal pairs. Using their analysis, they estimated that 38 percent of ASD cases are due to genetic factors, and 58 percent are due to environmental factors. However, the study’s findings were not conclusive given that the statistical analysis did not take into account genetic susceptibility to the environment.


Why it's important: According to the report’s authors, future studies that examine the association between genetics and environment will likely enhance our understanding of autism.


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