Environment As Important As Genes in Autism

 – May 3, 2014  –– 

Environmental factors are more important than previously thought in leading to autism, as big a factor as genes, according to the largest analysis to date to look at how the brain disorder runs in families. The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggest heritability is only half the story, with the other 50 percent explained by environmental factors such as birth complications, socio-economic status, or parental health and lifestyle. Most previous studies have suggested heritability of autism may be as high as 80 to 90 percent. But this new study, the largest and most comprehensive to date, found genetics factors only explained around half of the cause of the disorder. "Heritability is a population measure, so whilst it does not tell us much about risk at an individual level, it does tell us where to look for causes," said Avraham Reichenberg, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who worked on the study while he was at King's College London.

-Dr. Avraham Reichenberg, Professor, Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

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