Autism is largely down to genes, twins study suggests


Original post from BBC Health

amygdala (red) in brain
Individuals with autism have less activity in the amygdala (shown in red), which plays a key role in processing emotions

Genetic influences on autism are estimated to be between 74-98%, a Medical Research Council study of 258 twins suggests.

The King’s College London team said 181 of the teenagers had autism, but the risk was far higher in identical twins where one twin had autism, as they share the same DNA.

The researchers told JAMA Psychiatry that hundreds of genes were involved.

But they do not rule out environmental factors.

Both twins in each pair had been raised by their parents in the same household.

Increased awareness

Autism can be tricky to diagnose. It is a spectrum of conditions rather than a single disorder, and its severity can vary widely from person to person.

Researcher Dr Francesca Happe said, although not perfect, all the evidence pointed to genes playing a bigger role in autism than previously thought.

“Our findings suggest environmental factors are smaller, which is important because some parents are concerned whether things like high pollution might be causing autism.

“Some people think there might be a big environmental component because autism has become more common in recent years but that’s happened too fast for genetics to be a probable cause.

“The main consensus now is that the rise in diagnosis has more to do with increased awareness of the condition.”

Full lives

Dr Happe said what might have been labelled as a learning disability in the past was now being correctly diagnosed as autism.

She said lots of scientists were working to determine which precise genes were involved in autism and whether they were inherited.

“There may be perhaps hundreds of genes that contribute to autistic traits,” she said.

Dr Judith Brown, of the National Autistic Society, said: “Autism is a highly complex story of genes not only interacting with other genes, but with non-genetic factors too.

“This large population-based twin sample is significant because it helps us to understand much more about the role genetics play in autism and opens up the possibility of whole families gaining a better understanding of a condition they may share.

“However, we are still a long way from knowing what leads to autism.

“What people with condition, their families and carers need most of all is access now to the right kind of support to be able to lead full lives.”

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Autism

autistic girl playing with blocks

What is autism?

  • Estimates suggest one in 100 people in the UK has autism
  • Four times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with autism
  • The number of diagnosed cases of autism has increased during the past 20 years, reportedly because of more accurate diagnoses
  • There is no cure, but a range of interventions is available.  ……………..’

These twins can teach us a lot about racial identity


Original post from Vox

‘…………..Updated by on March 3

Lucy and Maria Aylmer                            YouTube

 

“There’s a set of biracial twins in the UK who are turning heads because one is black and the other is white.” That’s how the New York Post introduced a profile of Lucy and Maria Aylmer, 18-year-olds whose father identifies as white and whose mother is “half-Jamaican” (and, we’re to assume, thinks of herself as black).

It’s just the most recent story of fraternal twins born with such dramatic variations in complexion they’re seen by many — and even see themselves  — as members of two different racial groups.

Each of these situations and their accompanying striking images, is a reminder of how fluid andsubjective the racial categories we’re all familiar with are.

What “black and white twins” can teach us about race: it’s not real

Lucy and Maria’s story, and all the other sensational tales in the “Black and White Twins: born a minute apart” vein are actually just overblown reports on siblings who, because of normal genetic variations that show up in more striking ways in their cases, have different complexions.

But they’re fascinating because they highlight just how flimsy and open to interpretation the racial categories we use in the US and around the world are.

Even the Post’s description of the Aylmer twins is clumsy, asserting that they’re each “biracial,” but stating in the very same sentence that one is white and the other is black.

And the fact that the two, despite having the same parents,  see themselves as belonging to two different racial groups ( “I am white and Maria is black,” Lucy told the Post) proves that there’s a lot more than biology or heritage informing racial identity.

It’s a reminder that the racial categories we use are fickle, flexible, open to interpretation, and have just as many exceptions as they do rules when it comes to their criteria for membership — that’s why they have been described as “not real,” meaning:

  • They’re not based on facts that people can even begin to agree on. (If we can’t even get a consensus that people with the same parents are the same race, where does that leave us?)
  • They’re not permanent. (If Lucy decides one day, like many other people with similar backgrounds, that her Jamaican mother is black and therefore, so is she, who’s to stop her?)
  • They’re not scientific. (There’s no blood test or medical assessment that will provide a “white” result for Lucy and a “black” one for Maria.)
  • They’re not consistent (Other twins with the same respective looks and identical parentage as these twins, might both choose to call themselves black or biracial.)

For more on this, read 11 ways race isn’t real, and watch this short video.

“Not real” doesn’t mean not important

Lucy and Maria (YouTube)

Lucy and Maria Aylmer as children     (YouTube)

Of course, none of this changes the fact that the concept of race is hugely important in our lives, in the United States, in the UK where the twins live, and around the world.

There’s no question that the way people categorize Lucy and Maria, and the way they think of themselves, will affect their lives.

That’s because, even though race is highly subjective, racism and discrimination based on what people believe about race are very real. The racial categories to which we’re assigned, based on how we look to others or how we identify, can determine real-life experiences, inspire hate, drive political outcomes, and make the difference between life and death.

But it’s still  important to remember that these consequences are a result of human-created racial categories that are based on shaky reasoning and shady motivations. This makes the borders of the various groups impossible to pin down — as the “black and white” twins demonstrate — and renders modern debates about how particular people should identify futile.  ……………..’