Research finds common traits within families between child prodigies and individuals with autism

A new research study by the Ohio State University has found that child prodigies and individuals with autism, in the same family, share genetic traits.

Although the study group was only small, it was found that similar characters such as good memory and attention to detail, were evident.

DNA from 12 child prodigies were looked at, along with 39 people who were  members of the children’s families, that included 10 family members who had autism.

Genetic markers were found on chromosome 1 in both the child prodigies and their relatives with autism, although the specific mutations are yet to be found.

Joanne Ruthsatz, co-author of the study told:

“We now know what connects prodigy with autism. What we want to know is what distinguishes them. We have a strong suspicion that there’s a genetic component to that, as well, and that’s the focus of our future work.”

Dr. Daniel Geschwind, director of the Center for Autism Research and Treatment at UCLA believes that there is a weakness in the study due to the small number of subjects taking part and that it is statistically weak. He told Live Science:

“The authors say the results are suggestive, so they are not making strong claims. But still, I am not sure there is anything really here.”

What the study does do is raise new questions. Raphael Bernier, clinical director of the Autism Center at Seattle Children’s Hospital, told Live Science that it is a great starting point for asking questions about the link between prodigies and autism.

Ruthsatz will also be collaborating with researchers at McGill University in Montreal in order to sequence the specific mutations that may be involved.

The new study was published online in the journal Human Heredity.

Sources: Michael Dhar on the Live Science website: Child Prodigies and Autism: Is There a Genetic Link?

Jeff Grabmeier on the Ohio State University: Autism and prodigy share a common genetic link