The BBC is reporting on a report by Simon Baron-Cohen who claims that analytical couples, namely scientific types, may be more likely to produce children with autism.
Baron-Cohen, a prof at the University of Cambridge, said the phenomenon might help explain the recent rise in diagnoses.
This is similar to the claim made by Steve Silberman in Wired a few years ago in his article The Geek Syndrome in which he argued that the high prevalency of Asperger's Syndrome (a high-funtioning form of autism) in Silicon Valley was due to the pairing off of couples with "tech" and "math" genes.
Baron-Cohen labels people such as scientists, mathematicians and engineers as "systemizers" (ie. people skilled at analysing systems). He argues that systemizers are often attracted to each other - and thus more likely to pass "autism" genes to their offspring. On a related note, other researchers have found that both mothers and fathers of children with autism score highly on a questionnaire measuring autistic traits.
This shouldn't really come as a surprise; it's simple genetics. What he's really saying is that nerds give birth to more nerds. What's unique, I suppose, is that in today's society more systemizers are able to hook-up with other sytemizers. Revenge of the nerds, I guess (check out my column on that exact topic: "Once outcasts, some autistics now see their condition as a cognitive gift and even the next stage in human evolution—at the dawn of the transhuman age, who's to say they're wrong?".
Tags: neuroscience, autism, asperger syndrome, genetics.