Causes Of Asperger’s Syndrome

causes of asperger's syndrome

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects an individual’s ability to communicate and interact with others. While the exact causes of Asperger’s syndrome are still not fully understood, researchers suggest 1 Szatmari P. (2003). The causes of autism spectrum disorders. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 326(7382), 173–174. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7382.173 a combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a role in its development.

What Causes Asperger’s Syndrome?

The exact etiology of Asperger’s syndrome is not known. Research 2 Berney, T. (2004). Asperger syndrome from childhood into adulthood. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 10(5), 341-351. doi:10.1192/apt.10.5.341 and clinical practice over the years, however, point to the following as possible causes of Asperger’s syndrome:

1. Genetics

Asperger’s syndrome is believed to have a strong genetic component 3 Rylaarsdam, L., & Guemez-Gamboa, A. (2019). Genetic causes and modifiers of autism spectrum disorder. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 13(13). https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2019.00385 , with research indicating that the condition may be inherited from family members who might have a similar condition.

Genes with a predisposition to Asperger’s development (including those that regulate the development of brain cells and neurotransmitters) play a role in the development of the disorder. In fact, the genetic cause of Asperger’s syndrome is commonly attributed to first-degree relatives with Asperger’s syndrome or autism 4 Mosconi, M. W., Kay, M., D’Cruz, A. M., Guter, S., Kapur, K., Macmillan, C., Stanford, L. D., & Sweeney, J. A. (2010). Neurobehavioral abnormalities in first-degree relatives of individuals with autism. Archives of general psychiatry, 67(8), 830–840. https://doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.87 .

2. Brain development

Studies have shown that the brains of individuals with Asperger’s syndrome may develop differently than those without the condition.

Research suggests that the syndrome may be linked to life-long abnormal development 5 Ha, S., Sohn, I. J., Kim, N., Sim, H. J., & Cheon, K. A. (2015). Characteristics of Brains in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Structure, Function and Connectivity across the Lifespan. Experimental neurobiology, 24(4), 273–284. https://doi.org/10.5607/en.2015.24.4.273 in the brain volume and areas related to communication, social interaction, and sensory processing. This results in certain neurological differences in the way their brains process information.

The structural and functional brain changes linked to AS include:

  • Enlarged or arrested growth of brain volume
  • Impaired maturation of the gray and white matter
  • Accelerated cortical thinning
  • Neurotransmitter alterations
  • Other structural changes in the frontal lobe, superior temporal cortex, parietal cortex, and amygdala

3. Environmental factors

Studies 6 Modabbernia, A., Velthorst, E., & Reichenberg, A. (2017). Environmental risk factors for autism: an evidence-based review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Molecular Autism, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13229-017-0121-4 claim that the environmental causes of Asperger’s syndrome pertain to a number of prenatal and perinatal factors such as:

  • Improper parental vaccination
  • Exposure to toxins (like pesticides) during pregnancy
  • Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy
  • Birth complications associated with trauma
  • Complications in childbirth that result in the infant’s premature birth and low birth weight
  • Maternal hypoxia
  • Maternal infection
  • Maternal obesity
  • Maternal diabetes
  • Maternal stress and addiction to substances (like tobacco)

4. Medical conditions

Asperger’s syndrome has been linked to medical conditions 7 Motlani, V., Motlani, G., & Thool, A. (2022). Asperger Syndrome (AS): A Review Article. Cureus, 14(11), e31395. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.31395 , such as epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, and immune system disorders. While these conditions are not the cause of Asperger’s, they may contribute to the development or severity of symptoms.

Read More About Asperger’s Syndrome Here

Risks For Asperger’s Syndrome

The common risk factors 8 Karimi, P., Kamali, E., Mousavi, S. M., & Karahmadi, M. (2017). Environmental factors influencing the risk of autism. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 22, 27. https://doi.org/10.4103/1735-1995.200272 for the development of Asperger’s syndrome include:

  • Genetics
  • Birth defects
  • Gender, as Asperger’s syndrome is more common in males 9 Napolitano, A., Schiavi, S., La Rosa, P., Rossi-Espagnet, M. C., Petrillo, S., Bottino, F., Tagliente, E., Longo, D., Lupi, E., Casula, L., Valeri, G., Piemonte, F., Trezza, V., & Vicari, S. (2022). Sex Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Diagnostic, Neurobiological, and Behavioral Features. Frontiers in psychiatry, 13, 889636. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.889636 than females
  • Prenatal development, such as premature birth, low birth weight, etc.
  • Age of parents, as studies suggest that older parents may be more likely to have children with Autism—including Asperger’s syndrome.

Recovery From Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s syndrome is a condition that lasts a lifetime and cannot be cured, but early intervention and treatment can support individuals in developing the necessary skills to lead a fulfilling life. With the right support, it is possible for people with Asperger’s to improve their symptoms and develop behaviors that are nearly identical to those of typical adults.

While it is unclear which individuals can achieve this level of improvement, research 10 Posar, A., & Visconti, P. (2019). Long-term outcome of autism spectrum disorder. Turk pediatri arsivi, 54(4), 207–212. https://doi.org/10.14744/TurkPediatriArs.2019.16768 suggests that those who develop verbal skills early and exhibit fewer restricted and repetitive behaviors in their youth may have a better chance of seeing improvements in adulthood, including the gradual disappearance of Asperger’s symptoms.

Takeaway

The causes of Asperger’s syndrome are complex and not fully understood. While there is no single cause, research suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may contribute to the development of this condition.

Further research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms that lead to Asperger’s syndrome and to develop more effective treatments and interventions to support those living with this condition.

At A Glance

  1. Asperger’s syndrome is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
  2. Research has identified several genetic variations that may contribute to the development of Asperger’s syndrome.
  3. Exposure to certain environmental factors during prenatal or early childhood development may increase the risk of developing Asperger’s syndrome.
  4. Brain abnormalities (such as differences in brain structure and function) have been observed in individuals with Asperger’s syndrome.
  5. Abnormalities in the levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, may be associated with Asperger’s syndrome.
  6. There is no single cause of Asperger’s syndrome, and more research is needed to fully understand its complex origins.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Who is most at risk of Asperger’s syndrome?

There is no specific group that is most at risk for Asperger’s syndrome, but it is more commonly diagnosed in males than females.

2. Which part of the brain causes Asperger’s syndrome?

The exact part of the brain that causes Asperger’s syndrome is not known, but research suggests that there may be differences in brain structure and function in individuals with this condition.

3. Is Asperger’s syndrome hereditary?

Asperger’s syndrome is an epigenetic disorder and can run in families.

4. Can you develop Asperger’s syndrome or are you born with it?

Asperger’s syndrome is a neurodevelopmental condition that is typically present from early childhood, although it may not be diagnosed until later in life.

5. Do you get Asperger’s syndrome from your mom or your dad?

Asperger’s syndrome may be inherited from both parents, as it is a genetic condition.

6. Can parenting cause Asperger’s syndrome?

Parenting does not cause Asperger’s syndrome, although a supportive and understanding home environment can be helpful for individuals with this condition.

7. What are the chances of my child having Asperger’s syndrome?

The chances of a child having Asperger’s syndrome depend on a variety of factors, including genetics and environmental factors, and may vary from person to person.

References:

  • 1
    Szatmari P. (2003). The causes of autism spectrum disorders. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 326(7382), 173–174. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7382.173
  • 2
    Berney, T. (2004). Asperger syndrome from childhood into adulthood. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 10(5), 341-351. doi:10.1192/apt.10.5.341
  • 3
    Rylaarsdam, L., & Guemez-Gamboa, A. (2019). Genetic causes and modifiers of autism spectrum disorder. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 13(13). https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2019.00385
  • 4
    Mosconi, M. W., Kay, M., D’Cruz, A. M., Guter, S., Kapur, K., Macmillan, C., Stanford, L. D., & Sweeney, J. A. (2010). Neurobehavioral abnormalities in first-degree relatives of individuals with autism. Archives of general psychiatry, 67(8), 830–840. https://doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.87
  • 5
    Ha, S., Sohn, I. J., Kim, N., Sim, H. J., & Cheon, K. A. (2015). Characteristics of Brains in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Structure, Function and Connectivity across the Lifespan. Experimental neurobiology, 24(4), 273–284. https://doi.org/10.5607/en.2015.24.4.273
  • 6
    Modabbernia, A., Velthorst, E., & Reichenberg, A. (2017). Environmental risk factors for autism: an evidence-based review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Molecular Autism, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13229-017-0121-4
  • 7
    Motlani, V., Motlani, G., & Thool, A. (2022). Asperger Syndrome (AS): A Review Article. Cureus, 14(11), e31395. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.31395
  • 8
    Karimi, P., Kamali, E., Mousavi, S. M., & Karahmadi, M. (2017). Environmental factors influencing the risk of autism. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 22, 27. https://doi.org/10.4103/1735-1995.200272
  • 9
    Napolitano, A., Schiavi, S., La Rosa, P., Rossi-Espagnet, M. C., Petrillo, S., Bottino, F., Tagliente, E., Longo, D., Lupi, E., Casula, L., Valeri, G., Piemonte, F., Trezza, V., & Vicari, S. (2022). Sex Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Diagnostic, Neurobiological, and Behavioral Features. Frontiers in psychiatry, 13, 889636. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.889636
  • 10
    Posar, A., & Visconti, P. (2019). Long-term outcome of autism spectrum disorder. Turk pediatri arsivi, 54(4), 207–212. https://doi.org/10.14744/TurkPediatriArs.2019.16768
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