No, probably not

Daily Mail health headline again:

 Is this what causes autism? Brain injury in the womb might be root of the disorder according to new research

Autism is a symptom much more than it is anything else. And it’s certainly possible that brain injury could cause it: brain injury can do all sorts of strange things like make people talk with a Scots’ accent (err, no, not saying that all who do so have brain injuries, despite that being a useful explanation for Glasgow. Rather that people who are not and never have been Scots have been recorded as not having Scots accents before injury and having one after).

But we know absolutely that there is a genetic component to much of what we record as being autism. It runs in families, it’s more prevalent in males than females….these aren’t consistent with foetal brain injury being the only or even most prominent cause.

7 thoughts on “No, probably not”

  1. Old, old story.

    My forty-year-old cousin has Asperger syndrome. My aunt was knocked off her motorbike when she was pregnant with him.

    She was told thirty-odd years ago that trauma in the womb seemed to be correlated with various forms of autism.

  2. Wang’s paper appears to be a review of the existing literaure, and very speculative. He isn’t providing any new, compelling, evidence.

  3. “Autism is a symptom”
    I describe it as a syndrome, but that’s a good enough description.
    There are many possible causes for autism, just as there are numerous illnesses that result in a fever. So it is generally agreed (among those who know a little of what they are talking about) that some cases are caused by pre-natal brain damage and/or birth trauma, some cases have a genetic link, some have other causes.
    It seems probable that the sub-set of cases that are genetically linked (or may be a sub-sub-set of that sub-set) are due to a “faulty” gene on the x-chromosome (as with haemophilia) since the male:female ratio is so high and the female cases are more extreme, but the setup is more complex than the one-gene factor for haemophilia involving a combination of different genes.

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