Dear Caleb’s Mum
Sorry for the delay in responding to your question.
Asperger syndrome is a complex condition and part of a group of disorders called the ‘autistic spectrum disorders’. The symptoms for Asperger syndrome can vary widely and also the degree of severity, which makes it difficult to both diagnose and treat.
The cause of Asperger syndrome is still being researched with most scientists believing that there is a genetic component, but environmental factors may also have some effect on brain development.
The reason that it is believed that there is a hereditary component to Aspergers is that some children with Aspergers have a family member with some type of autistic characteristic. It is believed that a number of genes are involved in causing the disorder because there is such a wide range in the number and severity of symptoms.
A review article on the genetics of autism describes recent genetic data, including genes involved with austism. As many of the features of autism and Aspergers overlap, genes associated with autism may also be involved in Asperger syndrome. A few studies have also looked at genes that might be specifically involved in Asperger syndrome but these are very few and preliminary.
Some research studies have shown that there are differences in brain structure between people that have autism or autistic characteristics and people that do not. There is also a recent report on autism in TIME magazine that is very interesting:
TIME Magazine May 15 2006 P44.
Contact details are: TIME AUSTRALIA, GPO Box 3873 Sydney NSW 1022.
Tel: 02 9434 2222. If you would like a copy, please send your postal address.
This article describes the various regions of the brain that appear to be ‘rewired’ :
The frontal lobes are enlarged – these are important for higher reasoning.
The Corpus Callosum, which connects the right and left sides of the brain, is smaller.
The amygdala, linked to social behaviour and the ability to react to environmental threats or situations, is larger
The Hippocampus is also larger and this region of the brain is important for memory
The cerebellum is important in co-ordinating movement and is again enlarged, containing mainly nerve cell connections.
Similar brain structure findings have been found in autistic and Asperger syndrome individuals, with Asperger syndrome on the mild end of the autistic spectrum.
I hope that this information is helpful to you. Your doctor will be able to provide more information if your son is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. There are also Asperger syndrome support groups in Australia that might be helpful:
Other useful websites are: