The Autism Enigma

Autism spectrum disorder has attracted intense interest from the public and scientists over recent years. Nature sorts fact from fiction in this hot, but sometimes contentious, field: from the debate about soaring diagnoses, to the idea that scientists and engineers are at high risk of having a child with autism. The special includes news and comment from Nature, and articles from Nature Medicine, Nature Neuroscience and Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

Image credit: Daren Newman


  • The mind's tangled web

    Efforts to elucidate how genes and the environment shape the development of autism, although making progress, still fall far short of their goal.

    Nature 479, 05 ( )



  • The prevalence puzzle: Autism counts

    Shifting diagnoses and heightened awareness explain only part of the apparent rise in autism. Scientists are struggling to explain the rest.

    Nature 479, 22-24 ( )

  • Scientists and autism: When geeks meet

    Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen thinks scientists and engineers could be more likely to have a child with autism. Some researchers say the proof isn't there.

    Nature 479, 25-27 ( )

  • Autism, authenticated

    A burst of research into the genetics of autism has given scientists insight into the basis for the disorder. Now, some companies aim to capitalize on these findings by developing DNA screens that might one day provide a diagnosis at birth.

    Nature Medicine 17, 1336-1338 ( )

  • Turning tides of autism

    Arab children with autism are beginning to receive the latest education methods developed in the West at new specialized institutes, but the region also has something to offer autism researchers in the rest of the world – consanguineous marriages.

    Nature Middle East ( )


  • Changing perceptions: The power of autism

    Recent data - and personal experience - suggest that autism can be an advantage in some spheres, including science, says Laurent Mottron.

    Nature 479, 33-35 ( )

  • Addressing autism in the Arab world

    As researchers tap into Arab genomes in their search for genetic mutations involved in autism, the medical community in the Middle East needs to redouble its efforts to ensure early diagnosis and the best intervention in children with autism, argues Mostafa Amr.

    Nature Middle East ( )

News and Views

  • Unfolding Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Found in translation

    In Bench to Bedside, Guoping Feng and Jonathan Ting peruse a study that uncovers how fragile X syndrome–causing gene mutations unleash a translation break that finally leads to overexpression of synaptic proteins that alter the proper transmission of signals at the synapse.

    Nature Medicine 17, 1352-1353 ( )


  • In search of biomarkers for autism: scientific, social and ethical challenges

    There is widespread hope that the discovery of valid biomarkers for autism will both reveal the causes of autism and enable earlier and more targeted methods for diagnosis and intervention. However, growing enthusiasm about recent advances in this area of autism research needs to be tempered by an awareness of the major scientific challenges and the important social and ethical concerns arising from the development of biomarkers and their clinical application.

    Nature Reviews Neuroscience 12, 603-612 ( )

  • The conundrums of understanding genetic risks for autism spectrum disorders

    Recent advances in the genetics of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are offering new valuable insights into molecular and cellular mechanisms of pathology. At the same time, the emerging data challenge long-standing diagnostic conventions and the notion of phenotypic specificity. This review addresses the particular issues that attend gene discovery in neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders and ASDs

    Nature Neuroscience ( )