- Why did the savant syndrome not spread in the population? A psychiatric example of a developmental constraint
- Psychiatry Research
- Volume | Issue number
- 166 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
A developmental constraint is a mechanism that limits the possibility of a phenotype to evolve. There is growing evidence for the existence of developmental constraints in the biological literature. We hypothesize that a developmental constraint prevents the savant syndrome, despite its positive aspects, from spreading in the population. Here, the developmental constraint is the result of the high interactivity among body parts in an early stage in embryological development, namely early organogenesis or the phylotypic stage. The interactivity during this stage involves all components of the embryo, and as a result mutations that affect one part of the embryo also affect other parts. We hypothesize that a mutation, which gives rise to the development of the positive aspects of the savant syndrome (e.g., an impressive memory capacity), will virtually always have a deleterious effect on the development of other phenotypic traits (e.g., resulting in autism and/or impaired motor coordination). Thus, our hypothesis states that the savant syndrome cannot spread in the population because of this developmental constraint. The finding that children with savant syndrome often have autism and physical anomalies, which are known to be established during early organogenesis, supports our hypothesis.
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