By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The exact cause of Asperger syndrome is unknown and the pathology that underlies this condition is not well understood. However, research suggests that the factors that cause this condition may be a combination of both genetic and environmental variables. These factors may lead to changes in brain development that develops into Asperger syndrome.
What is evidenced in medicine and extensive studies is that Asperger syndrome does NOT depend on a person’s upbringing, their social or economic circumstances or due to the person’s own fault.
Primary and secondary autism
When autism in general is considered, there are two ways that causation may be explained:-
Primary autism that is also called idiopathic autism with no underlying medical condition that could be the trigger. This forms 90% of all the cases of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
For primary autism genetics, environmental factors like exposure to certain toxins during pregnancy, psychological and neurological factors in the development of the brain may be the cause.
Environmental factors that are associated with autism spectrum disorders and not only Asperger syndrome include mother having a viral or bacterial infection during pregnancy, mother smoking during pregnancy, exposure to air pollution and pesticides and the advanced age of the father.
Psychological evaluations into the brains of the children with ASD shows that the connection between the cerebral cortex, the amygdala and the limbic system are awry. The amygdale is the center that regulates emotions and relays them to the cerebral cortex for further processing.
Secondary autism usually has an underlying medical condition. These form very few cases of autism and are not specific for Asperger syndrome.
Some of the conditions associated with autism in general include Fragile X syndrome, Tuberous sclerosis, Rett syndrome etc.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)