People with higher genetic risk for autism tend to have higher IQs

Genes linked with a greater risk of developing autism may also be associated with higher intelligence […]. Researchers have found new evidence linking genetic factors associated with autism to better cognitive ability in people who do not have the condition.


Researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Queensland analysed almost 10,000 people recruited from the general population of Scotland. Individuals were tested for general cognitive ability and had their DNA analysed.

The team found that even among people who never develop autism, carrying genetic traits associated with the disorder is, on average, linked to scoring slightly better on cognitive tests.

Researchers found further evidence of a link between autism-associated genes and intelligence when they carried out the same tests on 921 adolescents who were part of the Brisbane Adolescent Twin Study.


Dr Toni-Kim Clarke, of the University of Edinburgh's Division of Psychiatry […] said: "Our findings show that genetic variation which increases risk for autism is associated with better cognitive ability in non-autistic individuals. As we begin to understand how genetic variants associated with autism impact brain function, we may begin to further understand the nature of autistic intelligence."

Professor Nick Martin, of the Queensland Institute for Medical Research, said: "Links between autism and better cognitive function have been suspected and are widely implied by the well-known "Silicon Valley syndrome" and films such as "Rain Man" as well as in popular literature. This study suggests genes for autism may actually confer, on average, a small intellectual advantage in those who carry them, provided they are not affected by autism."


Journal Reference

T-K Clarke, M K Lupton, A M Fernandez-Pujals, J Starr, G Davies, S Cox, A Pattie, D C Liewald, L S Hall, D J MacIntyre, B H Smith, L J Hocking, S Padmanabhan, P A Thomson, C Hayward, N K Hansell, G W Montgomery, S E Medland, N G Martin, M J Wright, D J Porteous, I J Deary, A M McIntosh. Common polygenic risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with cognitive ability in the general population. Molecular Psychiatry, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2015.12

from "Autism risk genes also linked to higher intelligence"

Quoted on Tue Mar 10th, 2015