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Study shows genetic link between synaesthesia and autism

Study shows genetic link between synaesthesia and autism

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Janina Neufeld Photography: Andreas Anderson

Overlapping genetics

A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B provides insight into the relationship between autism and synesthesia. By examining twins who differ in synesthesia or autistic traits, researchers were able to estimate the influence of environmental and genetic factors.

– Above all, we saw a genetic link to autistic traits that are not linked to social abilities, says Janina Neufeld, senior researcher at KIND (Center for Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karolinska Institutet) and one of the lead authors of the study.

Link to some symptoms of autism

In autism, symptoms are classified into two different groups, with difficulties in social interaction making up the first group, and limited and repetitive behaviors making up the second group.

– Janina Neufeld says: – There was a significant genetic link between synaesthesia and autistic traits such as limited interests, the ability to focus on details and repetitive behaviors. However, we found no relationship between synesthesia and social ability.

Synaesthesia, autism and synesthesia

Janina Neufeld was one of the first to show that synaesthesia is more common among people with autism, which has been confirmed by numerous studies since.

– Janina says: – I have been fascinated by the possible link between synaesthesia and autism since my doctoral days. This study was a first step in appreciating the role of genetics in the association. Now the next step will be, among other things, to try to determine which genes have an effect.

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Different sensory perception, and how sensory impressions are experienced, is very common in autism. In another ongoing study, the research group at KIND is investigating whether people with autism and people with synesthesia are similar in terms of how they perceive sensory impressions and reason socially.

Janina Neufeld says that over- or under-sensitivity to sensory impressions can cause this in social situations. Through the upcoming study, we hope to gain more information about the factors that contribute to different perceptions of sensory impressions.