Seeing Past the Surface: Vision Abnormalities and Autism

Photo by: Look Into My Eyes/Flickr

The cause of autism is still not clear, but as we continue to research, we are finding that there is more to this disorder than what meets the eye. A recent study discovered that close relatives of people with autism have a higher tendency to suffer from abnormalities in their vision.  This could mean that there is a genetic component to the disorder, which may help us trace the cause of it.

The research, which was published in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, studied the eye movements of 57 close relatives — 42 parents and 15 siblings of people with autism. These individuals were then compared to 40 other people who were similar to them in age, gender and IQ but did not have any close relatives with autism. In the subjects who had close relatives with autism, the researchers found that they often had difficulty tracking moving objects in the first milliseconds that they looked at them.

John A. Sweeney, director of the Center for Cognitive Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago an also co-author of the study, said the abnormalities are minor and probably have no serious detrimental effect on vision. “These parents are walking around fine, and it’s unlikely that these [abnormalities] are going to affect anyone’s life.” Although this is the case, it also indicates that there is some pattern happening. Overall, it could be suggested that relatives of people with autism share an irregularity in the brain that, for them, didn’t fully develop into autism.

Sweeney acknowledged that the study doesn’t reveal the exact role genetics play in autism, if any at all. Still, the findings follow recent ideas “that suggests the problems in autism are much more the results of genetic than environmental factors,” he said.

For more on  this study you can visit the Archives of General Psychiatry here: http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/67/8/830

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