Scientists don't know exactly what causes autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Autism was first described in the 1940s, but very little was known about it until the last few decades. Even today, there is a great deal that we don't know about autism.
Because the disorder is so complex and no two people with autism are exactly alike, there are probably many causes for autism. It is also likely that there is not a single cause for autism, but rather that it results from a combination of causes.
Scientists are studying some of the following as possible causes of or contributors to ASD.
- Landrigan, P. J. (2010). What causes autism? Exploring the environmental contribution. Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 22(2):219–225.
- Hallmayer, J., Cleveland, S., Torres, A., Phillips, J., Cohen, B., Torigoe, T., et al. (2011). Genetic heritability and shared environmental factors among twin pairs with autism. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68(11), 1095–1102.
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2014). Common gene variants account for most genetic risk for autism. Retrieved March 2, 2018, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/072114-gene-variants-autism
- Pinto, D., Pagnamenta, A.T., Klei, L., Anney, R., Merico, D., Regan, R., et al. (2010). Functional impact of global rare copy number variation in autism spectrum disorders. Nature, 466, 368-372. Retrieved February 23, 2018, from https://www.nature.com/articles/nature09146