Autism and Intellect: Are They Correlated?

autism brain

One of the biggest misconceptions about Autism Spectrum Disorder arises from media’s depictions of savants. Despite showing impressive talent, these prodigies are often described as being “off” or, indiscreetly, disabled in their thinking.

Even considering the over-representation of autism prodigies in mass media, the character trope has some basis in reality. Genetic variation increases the chances of developing autism, and possessing higher genetic variation is linked to above average intelligence and ability in different areas. Whether or not this correlation signifies autism gene’s potential advantages is unclear. However, a recent study at the University of Edinburgh hopes to illuminate this interplay.

In the first study ever done on autism genetic variations and intelligence quotients, researchers have discovered that people who carry autism-associated genes (but do not necessarily develop the condition) exhibit greater cognitive abilities than their typically developing peers. As per the 1 in 68 rate of diagnosis for children with autism, researchers believe that nearly half of these individuals will later demonstrate an above average intellectual level.

Of course, not all people benefit from this genetic discrepancy. Furthermore, it seems to be that people who have the genes, but do not necessarily meet the diagnostic criterion, comprise the largest portion of this statistic. Conclusive evidence from further studies in Australia have further strengthened this conclusion.

By Sara Power, Fordham University

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