A new study from Cambridge University has for the first time found that autism diagnoses are more common in an IT-rich region.
The Medical Research Council (MRC) funded study, published June 20 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, has important implications for service provision in different regions and for the 'hyper-systemizing' theory of autism.
The researchers tested for differences in the prevalence of ASC in school-aged children in three geographical regions in the Netherlands: Eindhoven, Haarlem, and Utrecht-city. The region Eindhoven was selected because it is rich in information-technology (IT) … The two control regions were selected because they have similar size populations and a similar socioeconomic class. ..The researchers found school-reported prevalence estimates of ASC in Eindhoven was 229 per 10,000, significantly higher than in Haarlem (84 per 10,000) and Utrecht (57 per 10,000), whilst the prevalence for the control conditions were similar in all regions.
Simon Baron-Cohen commented: "These results are in line with the idea that in regions where parents gravitate towards jobs that involve strong 'systemizing', such as the IT sector, there will be a higher rate of autism among their children, because the genes for autism may be expressed in first degree relatives as a talent in systemizing. The results also have implications for explaining how genes for autism may have persisted in the population gene pool, as some of these genes
The study acknowledges alternative explanations for the pattern: there may be overdiagnosis in Eindhoven or underdiagnosis in the control communities. Furthermore, autism awareness may be higher in high-tech communities.