Inside Asperger’s (with a Side of Politics)

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In this chat, Jason Cockrell talks about his Asperger Syndrome self-diagnosis and guides us into his political mind. Find out what Asperger’s is, how genetics affect it and why we might like politicians with more social disinhibition. As an extra bonus, you can hear more political discussion with Jason in this 25-minute outtake.  He recommends his blog and mises.org.

Asperger Syndrome involves significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. For example, people with Asperger’s find it difficult to get jokes or sarcasm. And although they tend have trouble making small talk, they’ll be very comfortable with particular topics that really interest them. Unlike classical autism, Asperger’s has only minimal effects on language and cognitive development. So Asperger’s is very much like high-functioning autism, and because of that similarity, there’s some talk of removing the Asperger label all together.

Most of what we know about the genetics of autism comes from twin studies. For example, a 2006 study at King’s College London surveyed the parents of 3,400 8-year-old twin pairs. The survey asked about autistic spectrum symptoms. The study then looked at how similar or different each twin pair was. It found that genetically identical, or monozygotic, twins tended to be more similar in their symptoms than fraternal, or dizygotic, twins. Using information about twin genetics, the study estimated that autistic-like traits are 80% inherited. Other studies with different samples and stricter definitions of autism have found genetic contributions as low as 30%, but basically we know that autism has an important genetic component with some environmental triggers as well. Which specific genes and triggers are involved is still very unclear.

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