Perspective | Published:

Time to give up on a single explanation for autism


We argue that there will be no single (genetic or cognitive) cause for the diverse symptoms defining autism. We present recent evidence of behavioral fractionation of social impairment, communication difficulties and rigid and repetitive behaviors. Twin data suggest largely nonoverlapping genes acting on each of these traits. At the cognitive level, too, attempts at a single explanation for the symptoms of autism have failed. Implications for research and treatment are discussed.

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We would like to thank all the families who participate in Twins Early Development Study, which is supported by Medical Research Centre grant G0500079 to R.P.

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