Silicon Valley & Autism

Silicon Valley & Autism
Extracto de noticia publicada


|De Investigación y Ciencia

La progenie de científicos e ingenieros quizás herede genes que no solo confieren capacidades intelectuales, sino también una predisposición al autismo.

Con mi colaboradora Sally Wheelwright encuesté en 1997 a una muestra de casi dos mil familias del Reino Unido. A alrededor de la mitad las incluimos porque tenían, al menos, un niño con autismo, trastorno del desarrollo que provoca comportamientos obsesivos y dificulta la comunicación e interacción con los demás. Las otras familias tenían hijos a los que se les había diagnosticado el síndrome de Tourette, el de Down o retrasos en el lenguaje, pero no autismo. Hacíamos a los progenitores esta sencilla pregunta: ¿en qué trabajan ustedes? Muchas de las madres no habían trabajado fuera del hogar, así que no nos aportaban un dato que nos resultase útil, pero los resultados correspondientes a los padres fueron fascinantes: el 12,5 por ciento de los padres de los autistas eran ingenieros, frente a solo un 5 por ciento de los padres de los niños sin autismo.

De forma análoga, el 21,2 por ciento de los abuelos (masculinos) de esos niños con autismo habían sido ingenieros, frente a un 2,5 por ciento de los abuelos de los niños sin autismo. La pauta se repetía en las dos ramas de la familia. Era más frecuente que el padre de las mujeres con niños autistas hubiera sido ingeniero, y también que estas se hubieran casado con alguien cuyo padre lo había sido.

¿Coincidencia? Me parece que no.

Entre las posibles explicaciones se cuenta un fenómeno, el «emparejamiento selectivo» o «emparejamiento por afinidad», que viene a ser algo así como eso de «cada oveja con su pareja». Me topé con la idea en 1978, en la Universidad de Oxford, durante un cursillo de estadística para estudiantes, cuando la instructora me dijo —posiblemente para hacer más amena esa disciplina— que los compañeros sexuales no lo son por puro azar.

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