Mathematical Talent is Linked to Autism
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- Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Burtenshaw, A. et al. Hum Nat (2007) 18: 125. doi:10.1007/s12110-007-9014-0
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A total of 378 mathematics undergraduates (selected for being strong at “systemizing”) and 414 students in other (control) disciplines at Cambridge University were surveyed with two questions: (1) Do you have a diagnosed autism spectrum condition? (2) How many relatives in your immediate family have a diagnosed autism spectrum condition? Results showed seven cases of autism in the math group (or 1.85%) vs one case of autism in the control group (or 0.24%), a ninefold difference that is significant. Controlling for sex and general population sampling, this represents a three- to sevenfold increase for autism spectrum conditions among the mathematicians. There were 7 of 1,405 (or 0.5%) cases of autism in the immediate families of the math group vs 2 of 1,669 (or 0.1%) cases in the immediate families of the control group, which again is a significant difference. These results confirm a link between autism and systemizing, and they suggest this link is genetic given the association between autism and first-degree relatives of mathematicians.