Autism and Genetics

The UCLA Registry for Genetic Studies in Autism was established in 1980 to test the hypothesis that genetic factors may be etiologically significant in subsets of patients. To date 61 pairs of twins have enrolled and 40 meet research diagnostic criteria for autism. The authors found a concordance for autism in these 40 pairs of 95.7% in the monozygotic twins (22 of 23) and 23.5% in the dizygotic twins (four of 17). (Ritvo, E. R., Freeman, B. J., Mason-Brothers, A., Mo, A. & Ritvo, A. M. (1985). Concordance for the syndrome of autism in 40 pairs of afflicted twins. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 142(1), 74-7.)

It’s been 25 years since the above published study explored genetic factors in autism etiology. New studies asking similar questions emerge several times a year. There is little doubt the genetics are integrally related to how autism emerges, but what we think the genes are, is changing.

I’m suggesting that to understand autism we have to reappraoch how we understand genetics and what we understand consciousness to be. We reflexively behave as if genes compel individual ontogeny with little reference to the environment. As regards autism, this may be a failure of model making. When approaching an understanding of consciousness, autism is nothing if not alternative consciousness, one committed to primary process: one time, one place, no opposites. Understanding autism is to understand the unconscious, and perhaps how normal waking (non primary process) consciousness evolved.

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