A new study that has been headed by Dr. Joachim Hallmayer, who is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural sciences at Stanford has hinted that environmental factors that exist within the womb during the time of a twin pregnancy is a crucial decider when it comes to autism. Earlier genetic make-up was given utmost importance in autism studies.
For the research, 192 cases obtained from California were looked at. The sample was a combination of both fraternal and identical twins. In all the cases, one twin in a pair had autism. The rate of autism was also more in identical and amounted to 77 % in male identical twins and 50 % in female identical twins. On the other hand, the cases of autism and autism related disorders amongst fraternal twins were relatively lower with cases of autism in male fraternal twins at 31 % and in female fraternal twins at 36 %. The vast difference between identical and fraternal twins is due to the fact that identical twins share 100 % of their genes whereas fraternal twins share 50 % of their genes.
However, the interesting point to note in this research was that 58 % of the reported cases of autism were attributed to shared environmental factors within the womb. Genetic factors caused autism in only 38 % cases. This revelation now shifts the focus on the fact that the hitherto neglected shared environmental factors within the womb also have a telling effect on autism in twins. However, the incidence of autism in siblings who are not twins is very low.
Autism has affected nearly 1 % of the population especially within the developed world. Autism and autism related disorders such as Aspegser’s syndrome affect a person’s social behaviour; it can affect the person’s ability to communicate and also causes problems such as social withdrawal and repetitive behaviour. Therefore prenatal care becomes even more critical so as to ensure that environmental factors within the womb are conducive to the proper growth of babies.
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