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at·a·vism [at-uh-viz-uhm] (noun)
the reappearance in an individual of characteristics of some remote ancestor that have been absent in intervening generations.
From "Hominins and the Emergence of the Modern Human Brain
" (Published Jan 2012):
"Autism...is referenced in studies of fossil hominin brain structure and function, either as an analogy for developmental differences between closely related species or as a potentially atavistic indication of actual primitive phenotypes. For example, an autistic child lacking language created naturalistic artwork much like that from the Upper Paleolithic, on the basis of which it was suggested that fAMHS could have also lacked fully modern cognition"
Autism: The Eusocial Hominid Hypothesis
ASDs (autism spectrum disorders) are hypothesized as one of many adaptive human cognitive variations that have been maintained in modern populations via multiple genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. Introgression from "archaic" hominids (adapted for less demanding social environments) is conjectured as the source of initial intraspecific heterogeneity because strict inclusive fitness does not adequately model the evolution of distinct, copy-number sensitive phenotypes within a freely reproducing population.
Evidence is given of divergent encephalization and brain organization in the Neanderthal (including a ~1520 cc cranial capacity, larger than that of modern humans) to explain the origin of the autism subgroup characterized by abnormal brain growth.
Autism and immune dysfunction are frequently comorbid. This supports an admixture model in light of the recent discovery that MHC alleles (genes linked to immune function, mate selection, neuronal "pruning," etc.) found in most modern human populations come from "archaic" hominids.
Mitochondrial dysfunction, differential fetal androgen exposure, lung abnormalities, and hypomethylation/CNV due to hybridization are also presented as evidence.