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Genetics and autistic savants

By Raichel Philip

People like to say that everyone has some sort a talent. This is unlikely the case for everyone, however, in the case of those with Savant Syndrome, it surely rings true. Savant syndrome a rare condition in which those who have significant mental disabilities demonstrates certain abilities at an exceptionally high level. The abilities of those with savant syndrome are limitless; they have exceptional abilities ranging from areas in mathematics, to music, to art. Savant syndrome is typically caused through neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism. Now savant syndrome does not always occur in those with autism. So this poses the question: how does savant syndrome develop? and, is there a gene for savant syndrome?

Savant syndrome is not exclusive to those with autism but there is a high possibility there is a genetic correlation between savant syndrome and autism. In fact, this aspect of autism can be transmitted genetically as some parents of children with autism can excel on visual or verbal tasks. As many as 20 genes can contribute to autism risk. In a study on autism families conducted at Vanderbilt University, researchers found that in over 20 savant-skills positive families there existed significantly increased evidence for linkage to Chromosome 15q11-q13. This implies the possibility of a correlation between autism risk and an over-representation of genes on that specific chromosome.

The existence of savant syndrome in autism is special because even with the intellectual challenges that come with autism, there comes the amazing event that the person can have an exceptional ability. While savant syndrome is not specific to autism, gene research can help determine first why is occurs in autistic persons and can later lead to greater advance in the etiology for all forms of savant syndrome. Due to a genetic abnormality or not, savants are unique and rare persons and their extraordinary talents are worthy to be praised and given greater attention in the field of genetics.

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