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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

 

Autism and older fathers

Read this study relating autism and older fathers. Note that the reporters interview people with all sorts of views (genetic, direct paternal influence, statistical artifact). Compare the reporting on this study and the reporting on the older brother effect. Even though there are explanations other than pre-natal, most media did not report them.

Comments:
Perhaps I misread the report, but it looked to me as though all were in agreement that the autism was pre-natal in cause.

This would be consistent with the older brother effect, not a contrasting comparison.
 
Father characteristic: "The very real possibility that autistic traits in fathers led to older age of marriage and age at childbirth presents a real problem for interpretation of the results," said George M. Anderson, a research scientist at the Child Study Center and Laboratory Medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. "This critical aspect is downplayed by the authors."

And then statistical artifact (this one is possibly true of the older brother effects as well): "Not an especially interesting finding," said Eric Courchesne, director of the Center for Autism Research at the San Diego Children's Hospital.

It is unlikely this finding will have any significant impact on neuroscience research or on early identification or treatment of autism, Courchesne said. "The study says nothing about the brain bases and nothing specific about the genetics or possible environmental factors that may cause the condition," he said.

In fact, Courchesne thinks the finding might be a statistical fluke. "Autism is a heterogeneous disorder, and when you get a huge enough sample, even small and possibly irrelevant statistical associations may be found," he said."
 
"Autism is a growing problem, affecting 50 children in every 10,000, compared with just five in 10,000 only 20 years ago."

Genes have changed that much over the past 20 years, huh?

Same observation, regards rates of obesity. Has "the fat gene" gone wild over the past 2 decades?

I don't think so.

However, rates of homosexuality (as in the attraction, not how it is expressed) appear to have been stable across a very long time, and cutting across all cultures and types of families.

And therein lies a difference...
 
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