Children who inherit genes that raise the risk of autism but don’t end up actually developing the disorder may inherit higher-than-average intelligence, according to researchers in Scotland and Australia.

Writing in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Queensland described their analysis of 10,000 people recruited in Scotland. Recruited subjects had their DNA studied and were tested for cognitive ability.

This test and another involving 921 adolescents in the Brisbane area found evidence that autism-linked genes were linked to intelligence in people who did not end up developing autism.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“Links between autism and better cognitive function have been suspected and are widely implied by the well-known ‘Silicon Valley Syndrome’ and films such as ‘Rain Man’ as well as in popular literature,” said Nick Martin, a professor at the Queensland Institute for Medical Research. “This study suggests genes for autism may actually confer, on average, a small intellectual advantage in those who carry them, provided they are not affected by autism.”

Read more stories like this one. Sign up for Disability Scoop's free email newsletter to get the latest developmental disability news sent straight to your inbox.