Neanderthal weaning

July 14th, 2013

According to a new article in Nature, the weaning of Neanderthal happened eariler than in both other prmates and human populations. Link: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v498/n7453/full/nature12169.html

This is one of several other studies that claim Neanderthal developped faster than modern humans.

However, in the Neanderthal theory, based on radiometric data collected by Jack Cuozzo, it is indicated that the datings of Neanderthal teeth are 1.8 times off.

In the current article, it is claimed there are two distinct happenings in the Neanderthal studied, at 227 days and 435 days. Multiplying these figures with  1.8 to compensate for dating problems, give 408 and 783 days, which roughly is one and two years. That means that Neanderthal infants were exclusively on breast milk for the first season, on a transitionary diet during the second season, and then abruptly weaned.

Thus, this study provides more support for the idea that the dating of Neanderthals is wrong, and that the model described in the Neanderthal theory can explain the weaning data in this Neanderthal in a much better way, which also puts weaning at a similar age as in modern humans.

Indeed, this should be possible to use in order to provide better age estimates for Neanderthal juveniles.

 

The gene incompability hypothesis proved?

July 12th, 2013

A new study of autistic children indicate they often are born to mothers carrying antibodies that bind to proteins involved in brain development. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/36379/title/Maternal-Antibodies-Linked-to-Autism/

Why would  mothers have these antibodies in the first place if these weren’t produced as a defense? In addition to that, it’s also been found that neurodiversity is related to autoimmune disease, probably for similar reasons. Nothing is mentioned in the news release about autoimmune diseases being related to autism, but they obviously don’t understand the implications of the study. Sure, this might be curable, but the cause is not a disordered immune system of mother or infant, rather points to gene incompabilities between mother and father.

 

Gender bias in the Aspie population

September 29th, 2012

I’ve made a new research project with some promising possibilities. I went through all 1,800 questions that has been in Aspie Quiz looking for gender bias in the Aspie population where there was none in the neurotypical population (or a reversed bias). While there are quite a few questions that have a gender bias in both populations (a rough estimate is at least 10%, or several hundred questions), it was far harder to find a gender bias only in the Aspie population. I ended up with a list of 47 possible questions. Some of these were discarded based on other datasets, while some were already a permanent part of final version 2 of Aspie Quiz. I tested 36 of the questions in Aspie Quiz to try to confirm the gender bias. It turned out that 17 of these did have a gender bias in the new dataset (with a little more than 9,000 answers), a majority of which was related to female Aspies.

The following issues were biased in the male population:

  • Is it harder for you than for others to get over a failed relationship? (Aspie social group)
  • Do you believe in love at first sight? (Aspie social group)

The following issues were biased in the female population:

  • Do you flap your hands (e.g. when excited or upset)? (Aspie communication group)
  • Do you rock back-&-forth or side-to-side (e.g. for comfort, to calm yourself, when excited or overstimulated)? (Aspie communication group)
  • Do you enjoy hanging upside down? (Aspie hunting group)
  • Do you enjoy walking on your toes? (Aspie hunting group)
  • Do you have a fascination for slowly flowing water? (Aspie hunting group)
  • Do you have an urge to observe the habits of animals? (Aspie hunting group)
  • Have you experienced stronger than normal attachments to certain people? (Aspie social group)
  • Do you have an alternative view of what is attractive in the opposite sex compared to most others? (Aspie social group)
  • Do you prefer to have friends of the opposite gender? (Aspie social group)
  • If you have to be touched, do you prefer it to be firmly rather than lightly? (Aspie perception group)
  • Do you dislike being hugged when you haven’t asked for it? (NT social group)
  • Do you have an urge to observe the habits of humans? (Aspie hunting, Aspie social, Aspie communication groups)
  • Do you have an urge to learn the routines of people you know? (Aspie communication, Aspie compulsion, Aspie social groups)
  • Do you naturally fit into the expected gender stereotypes? (reversed, NT compulsion, Aspie social groups)
  • Are you asexual? (Aspie social, NT social, NT communication, Aspie perception groups)

 Basically, all the biased questions are primarily linked to Aspie groups (15 of 17), with the exceptions needing further research in order to find the key trait. For instance, being asexual is related to many different groups, so is probably a result of several factors, but one of them should be a key Aspie trait. Asexual also has a considerable correlation to dislike for touch / hugs, which is also biased in a similar fashion, and relates to both sensory issues and NT social issues.  

In summary, it seems like the traits are related to three different domains:

  1. Gender bias in hunting adaptations (Aspie hunting group)
  2. Gender bias in mating behavior (Aspie social group)
  3. Gender bias in nonverbal communication (Aspie communication group)

The gender biases in hunting behavior might mean that Neanderthal females had some specific hunting roles, namely to keep track of animals and their behavior.

The gender bias in mating behavior needs further research. It is clear that both genders experience stronger attachments than normal, and that this seems to give different outcomes with males bonding quicker and having more failures in relationships. A key research area is to elaborate on why asexuality is biased only in the female Aspie population.

The gender bias in nonverbal communication provide key traits that might be used to signal interest. Research on this in the neurotypical population seems to show that females have some unique courtship behaviors, which might have some parallels in the Aspie population, but the two would probably be largely incompatible.

 

Evaluating the Neanderthal theory with 23andme

April 29th, 2012

23andme, a company that sells genetic tests to individuals, has developped a Neanderthal heritage estimator: http://spittoon.23andme.com/2011/12/15/find-your-inner-neanderthal/. This estimator uses factor analysis on all the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, currently almost 1 million) that are part of their genetic test. This means we would expect the estimator to give a good indication of the SNPs that were introduced from Neanderthal after they met modern humans some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. They use native Africans as a control group, so any SNPs that have spread to the whole world would be discarded. Any SNPs that were introduced earlier would also be discarded.

So how does this estimator correlate to neurodiversity (Aspie) score in Aspie Quiz? We would expect a large correlation if recently introduced SNPs from Neanderthal could explain most of today’s human diversity, but this is not the case. With a material of 167 people of European descent (out of totally 94,000) that did both Aspie Quiz and 23andme, there is a correlation of 0.12. That means that p < 0.07 that there is no relation between 23andme Neanderthal heritage percentage and Aspie Quiz scores (and that there is 93% probability that they are related).

So it does seem like 23andme Neanderthal heritage estimator does support the Neanderthal theory, but the correlation is much smaller than what we would expect. There could be many reasons for this low correlation, but the major reason is probably that science has not found any single SNP that could explain more than 1% of ASD. Since ASDs have no large relation to SNPs, we would not expect it to have a large correlation to any SNP-based genetic data. The largest genetic correlation is with Copy Number Variation (CNVs), but the Neanderthal genome does not include CNVs, and is composed of many small fragments that could prove hard to analyse in the context of CNVs.

Some further break-down of the data reveal other interesting insights. It seems like some questions in Aspie Quiz have larger correlation to 23andme than others. It is especially notable that questions related to Neurotypical compulsions and Aspie hunting seem to have considerably higher correlations to 23andme than others. These issues are atypical in the analysis of Aspie Quiz since they have too low diversity in relation to the number of different issues they cover. They seem to be recent evolution in modern humans (Neurotypical compulsion) and Neanderthal (Aspie hunting). This can explain why the correlation is lower than expected. What the 23andme estimator calculate is recent evolution in modern humans and Neanderthal, but most of the diversity in Aspie Quiz is much older than the 250,000 years that Neanderthal existed. In fact, Aspie Quiz suggests that neurodiversity is close to 2 million years old, meaning that only 10-15% of neurodiversity would be anticipated to have evolved in Neanderthal, while the other traits evolved in their ancestors in Eurasia.

But why then do 23andme mainly detect recent human evolution, and not the more ancient evolution of neurodiversity in Eurasia? Most likely because some of this diversity has spread one way or another back to Africa during the last two million years, and when the SNPs already exist in some (possibly low) proportion among Africans, 23andme would discard them as not of Neanderthal origin.

 

Neanderthal brain development

November 17th, 2010

There is a new study comparing modern human and Neanderthal brain cases. Link: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/11/neandertal-brains-developed-more.html?etoc

The study concludes that Neanderthal did not have the same development regarding language and complex social networks. They speculate that they were less good at language and trade.

Regarding trade, this is supported in the book “Desolate landscapes” that concludes that Neanderthal seemed to use raw materials from their surroundings while modern humans seem to have traded a lot more as evidenced by long distance movements of raw materials. So, this notion is supported by archeology.

Regarding language, it could very well be that Neanderthal had differences in language and language acquisition. It is quite possible that their language use were related to imitiation of animal sounds rather than social learning of language. As previously posted, autistics do not acquire language the same way as neurotypicals do. Small isolated groups also do not lend themselves to the same type of language use that is typical for modern humans.

It is evident that these findings fits perfectly well into the Neanderthal theory. It is in the areas of language and social networks that Aspies lack adaptations that neurotypicals have. Neanderthals instead had a different set of social adaptations for living in small groups.

Diagnosing ASDs based on brain anatomy

August 12th, 2010

Similiarily as the physical traits, it should be possible to discriminate Aspies from neurotypicals based on brain anatomy. There is a recent study on this subject here: http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/full/30/32/10612.

The popular press makes it sound like psychiatry has finally found the brain defect that will enable us to diagnose ASDs on physical  traits, and in the end identify the defect and dispose of it. This is hardly what the study found.

The study found that if 20 people with ASDs and 20 neurotypicals where mass-surveyed for every possible anatomical difference, they were able to place them in the correct category with very high confidence.

The method used looks an awfully lot like the factor-analysis method that Aspie-quiz used to obtain weight factors for being Aspie and neurotypical, and which made it possible to classify people without a maunal scoring algorithm. The researchers have basically replicated the Aspie-quiz method, albeit with a data-set of 40 where Aspie-quiz used 150,000.

The results seems similar as well. They found that no single difference can provide good discrimination between groups, but instead there is a need to use many different meassures. These were related to volume and  geometry, and existed in many different areas of the brain  and in both hemispheres  (even if one were more relevant than the other). This is what Aspie-quiz found as well. There was a need for about 150 diverse personality-traits in order to make good judgements for people’s Aspie-NT profile.

The study also found that ADHD was less well defined, which is expected when ADHD is mostly related to a single dimension in the Aspie profile (Aspie social).

This kind of distribution of many different brain differences being related to ASCs is what the Neanderthal theory expects us to see. The authors provide no real theory for how their findings could be explained, but the Neanderthal theory explains it very well.

It is necesary to point out that the small sample size and large amount of differences tested makes this a data-mining project with many possible problems. In the worse scenario, a new sample of 20+20 individuals might fail totally in placing participants in the correct groups if the differences found are only particular to the subjects used.

Aspie language development

July 23rd, 2010

There is a new, interesting, study on ASD (mostly autism) and language development (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/07/08/1003882107.full.pdf and http://www.pnas.org/content/suppl/2010/07/09/1003882107.DCSupplemental/sapp.pdf).

The study does a good job in differentiating ASDs from typically developing infants / children, as well as language delayed children. It does this with the help of child developmental theories and automatic classification of sounds in natural settings. It finds three acoustic factors belived to be involved in typical language acquisition, and medium length of utterances, to cluster together and discriminate ASDs from typical development pretty well. It finds that the these same factors show good age-correlation for typically developping children, but not for autistics.

This is all very good, but what does this say about language acquistion in ASDs? I’m afraid it has nothing at all to say about how language acquisition occurs in autism, and even more problematic, it might lead to ASD infants being subjected to intensive ABA programs in order to acquire language like typically developing children.

So, how do autistics acquire language? If they lack babbling, cooing, and largely innate language acqusition traits that just need some parameter adjustments, how exactly do they acquire language? If they largely lack the whole packet of specific adaptations, it seems more like a miracle that any autistic child could acquire language, when the fact is that most eventually do. It seems like they would need some powerful alternative.

Aspie-quiz has a possible clue. Even adult Aspies have a preference to mimick animal sounds. This is part of the Aspie hunting adaptations, that are largely shared with Aspie communication traits. Having absolute pitch is also related to the Aspie phenotype. It seems reasonable that Neanderthal infants would be experimenting with animal vocalizations, as this was a key survival trait. Thus, it could be that Aspie infants have natural predispositions to imitate and exeriment with animal vocalizations. This could provide a way into language acquisition as well. The child could crack the code of language by utilizing it’s expert abilities to dechiffer animal communications.

An additional common difference between neurotypicals and Aspies is how memories are organized. Neurotypicals typically use verbal memories in the left hemisphere while Aspies often use non-verbal memories in the right hemisphere. With non-verbal memories, there is a need for a translator into verbal representation, and finally into utterances. It could be that the whole transformation from non-verbal representation to utterances is learned mechanically by Aspies.

What we would need in a future study is new parameters that are related to mimicking animal sounds, rather than typical language acqusition. Without some parameters in the Aspie populations that show correlation with age, we have no idea how Aspies acquire language.

Aspies seems to have inherited Neanderthal physical traits

June 28th, 2010

There is a relatively large study in the Netherlands about physical characteristics of non-mentally retarded children with ASD.

Link: http://www.springerlink.com/content/ck441558236x33w7/fulltext.pdf 

While the people behind this study probably didn’t reflect on the traits they have found, many of them seem to be physical Neanderthal traits. 

 

Definite Neanderthal traits

* Eyes deeply set.  Reference: “Close-set small eyes are deeply sunk under the “visor” of the heavy brow ridges”.

* Prominent premaxilla. Reference “Morphologic study of the premaxillary suture at its different borders (i.e. the nasal aspect of the frontal process, nasal and palatal aspects of the palatal process of the maxilla) indicates a persistence of the suture among very young Neandertal children in comparison to the condition in extant ones.”

* Palate high/narrow.  Reference “The palate is narrow and extremely high.”

* Macrodontia/teeth asymmetry/abnormally shaped teeth. Reference “Taurodontism is a condition found in molar teeth where the body of the tooth and pulp chamber is enlarged vertically at the expense of the roots.” “The condition is of anthropological importance as it was seen in Neanderthals.”

* Large nose.  Reference “The Neanderthal’s huge nose is a fluke of evolution, not some grand adaptation, research suggests.”

* Nose bridge prominent. Reference “And heavy supraorbital ridges met across the bridge of the nose.”

* Nose concave. Reference “A concave, angled nasal profile.”

* Lower jaw prominent. Reference “The concept of forceful chewing is also evidenced by the heavy jaw.”

* Toes widely spaced. Reference “a gap of 1.6 cm marks the separation of big and second toes.”

 

Definite non-Neanderthal traits

There are no definite evidence of traits that could not have been of Neanderthal origin.

 

Inconclusive

Brachycephaly. Reference “I believe strongly in neanderthal origins of europeans. Another fact is that we find brachycephal neanderthals exactly where today live dinaric people (Brachycephal); the only brachycephalic neanderthals are those of Crapina and Vindija caves in Croatia.
Others were dolichocephalic, as are the people of the same places today.”

Traits that cannot be assessed

* Face coarse

* Forehead prominent Neanderthal had prominent brow ridges and a low sloping forehead. It is not straight-forward if this means they had prominent forehead or not.

* Macrostomia

* Microstomia

* Short philtrum

* Upper lip cupid bow

* Long uvula

* Ear low-set

* Ear posteriorly rotated

* Ear lobe crease

* Toes syndactyly

* Hypermobile/hyperlax joints

* Multiple nevi

* Hypo-/depigmentation patches

* Open mouth appearance

* Abnormal whorl (non-frontal)

* Full cheeks

* Periorbital fullness

* Eyebrows arched

* Lower lip full

* Upper lip thin

* Prominent philtrum

* Dimpled/grooved chin

* Prominent ear

* Ear lobes attached

* Inverted nipples

* Dry skin

* Nails striped

* Toe proportions

 

Unintersting traits

* Face asymmetry

* Eyes asymmetry

* Mounth asymmetry

* Halluces valgus

* Face expression less/dull

* Clinodactyly

* Pes Planus (flat feet)

Conclusion

Nine of the traits had a definite Neanderthal connection, one was questionable, and 29 could not be assessed due to them not being related to bone structure. None of the traits could be ruled out as definitely not of Neanderthal origin. An additional seven traits are probably related to problems with hybridization (mostly asymmetry).

Neanderthal interbreeding

May 11th, 2010

So the first draft of the Neanderthal genome has now been published (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/328/5979/710). The authors  found that Neanderthals contributed 1-4% to the genomes of non-Africans. They use SNPs and five full genomes from different ethnic groups to arrive at this conclusion. Aspie-quiz has also found that all non-Africans have similar levels of Aspie-traits, while people of African descent have much lower levels of Aspie-traits (1/6th for African-Americans), and might even totally lack these traits when unmixed with non-Africans.

 The study claims that admixture most likely occured in Middle  East, but this is not supported by Aspie-quiz. Aspie-quiz instead seems to indicate that East Asians mixed with Neanderthal before Europeans. Aspie-quiz also give native American Indians the highest scores of any population, and thus it seems like they have the largest Aspie rate in the world. South Asians are lower than Europeans and East Asians. There is a cline in Eurasia where the north has much higher Aspie-rates than the south. This could be compatible with interbreeding in the Middle East, and later African migration into south Asia, but it matches the “southern migration route” of modern humans far better. Under this scenario, Africans and south Asians are largely devoid of primary interbreeding with Neanderthal. Interbreeding started in Central Asia, and this population then split into a western part that ended up in Europe and formed Caucasians, and an eastern part that ended up in East Asia and formed Mongoloids and Native Americans. Native Americans then got isolated from further gene-flow from South Asia, and thus today has the world’s highest level of Neanderthal ancestry.

 The 1-4% of Neanderthal ancestry probably refers to neurotypicals only. Typical Aspie scores for neurotypical people are around 40-50. Typical Aspie scores for Aspies are three times larger. We would therefore assume that Aspies perhaps has 5-15% of Neanderthal ancestry using this as an indication. OTOH, if we assume that 1-4% is the average Neanderthal ancestry in Eurasia, and that all of this is attributable to Aspie traits, and the proportion of  Aspie traits is around 10%, it would mean that Aspie traits have 10-40% of Neanderthal ancestry.

Another recently published article on the same theme came to similar conclusions (http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100420/full/news.2010.194.html). Although, here  the authors see two different hybridization events. This scenario in fact is supported in Aspie-quiz. Not only is there a signature of Neanderthal interbreeding leading to the introduction of the Aspie-traits, but there is also a signature of the introduction of “neurotypical compulsion” traits that essentially describes modern humans.

To resolve these issues there is a need to sequence full genomes of Aspies.

Aspie hunting

April 6th, 2010

Ordinary hunting is usually a group activity. Part of the tactic is to scare animals out of their hiding places so strategically placed hunters can throw spears at them (or use fire-arms in the modern variant), wound them, and ultimately, kill them from a distance. This type of hunting is erratic in nature, and usually has rather poor outcome and has to be carried out many times before it is successful. Many of today’s sport games resemble such hunting, especially team-sports.

The Aspie hunting group has caused lots of confusion among people that do Aspie-quiz. This is probably because hunting is usually associated with guns, throwing spears and killing animals at a distance. The questions in this category in Aspie-quiz give no associations at all to this kind of hunting.

So what then is Aspie hunting? The history behind the traits is pretty long. The habitat traits (like liking slowly flowing water) were introduced very early in the evolution of Aspie-quiz, but at that time was not thought to be hunting traits. The main traits, however, are more recent, and were used to evaluate Valerius Geist’s Neanderthal paradigm.

Geist’s Neanderthal paradigm was published in the 1970s and was a novel way to solve several mysteries about Neanderthal tools and why they selected the prey species they did. A central observation by Geist was that all prey species had fur. He therefore presumed that Neanderthal’s had used this property of their prey in their hunting tactics. The Mousterian tool-kit also seem to lack throwing spears, and instead contains larger tools that seems to work a lot better as stabbing spears. The rodeo-like injuries of Neanderthal are also largely unexplained by proponents that like to think that Neanderthals must have been hunting in the same manner as us, only less successfully, and with cruder weapons.

While Valerius Geists hypothesis goes a long way at explaining the archeology, it says little about the psychology and specific adaptations of Neanderthal. These aspects were researched in Aspie-quiz to try to confirm (or disprove) Geists hypothesis. There were a lot of predictions from the hypothesis that could be tested.

The following traits were predictions (listed with their predicted function) that were highly successful (correlated well with Aspie score and each others):

  • Walking on toes – related to sneaking
  • Enjoying spinning in circles – related to an animal trying to get rid of the hunter
  • Enjoying hanging upside-down – yet another way to stay on the animal
  • Having an urge to jump over things – related to jumping up on top of an animal
  • Enjoying digging – related to hiding a large kill
  • Mimicking animal sounds – a way of tricking an animal
  • Enjoying throwing small things – another way of tricking an animal that the hunter is somewhere else
  • Sniffing people or things – related to tracking
  • Enjoying chasing animals or people – close encounter hunting
  • Enjoying biting (people) – a paralysing tactic that Geist proposes
  • Enjoying making traps – this is an obvious addition to Geist’s hypothesis

A few of the physical traits got no relevance to being Aspie, but still correlated with Aspie hunting. Typically, these traits are believed to be part of the motor problems of Aspies, and thus have an inherit bias against them:

  • Being good at climbing
  • Strong grip
  • Strong hands

Some other traits also related to Aspie-hunting

  • Being fearless in dangerous situations
  • Highly variable activity level
  • Naturally communicating feelings with animals

It is notable that perception issues correlate closely to Aspie hunting. The relation here seems to be obvious. Highly sensitive senses is important for passive hunting, especially hearing (sounds that animals make), tactile (vibrations that animals make) and smell (tracking an animal). Acute vision and detail perception are also related to finding signs of an animal that are not required with the usual hunting method that favors getting an whole picture of the environment. These things also extend to paranormal experience.

Additionally, many stims (Aspie-quiz defines these as Aspie communication) are related to Aspie hunting. For instance, spinning in circles, walking on toes and mimicking animal sounds could be characterized as both stims and hunting-related traits. The relation here is probably that Neanderthals adapted their nonverbal communication to their prey animals, and thus gained increased hunting success by being able to better understand their prey. This is also why Aspies today say they can both naturally interpret animals and cannot naturally interpret neurotypical humans. The communication traits are based on a difference, not an absence. There are also nonverbal communication traits that seems to be shared among Aspies, and that can be used to identify Aspies.

The habitat traits (that correlate with the pure hunting adaptations are these):

  • Liking slowly flowing water
  • Liking mist or fog
  • Enjoying woods

From these we can presume that Neanderthals probably selected their ambush places near water. The like for mist and fog could be a hunting preference, or it could be an adaptation to living near glacials, which would produce mist / fog. We can also presume that Neanderthals hunted in forrests, not in open environments. Their tactic would be far more successful in a forrest than on the open plain, and similarily, the modern hunting tactic is more successful in a relatively open terrain.

Other types of traits can also be associated with Aspie hunting. For instance, it is not a long-shot to propose that special interests and the splinter-skills of Savants are related to passive hunting. Passive hunting requires lots of creative talents and persistence for success. Obsessions can also easily be entered into the equation. Once a hunter has found a successful way to bring down a prey, he/she is likely to keep to it, and only modify it slightly to make it more successful. The erratic methods of modern human hunting do not lend  themselves to doing things in the same way, and thus such obsessions are absent in neurotypicals. Neurotypical people instead have people obsessions, as these are central for group-hunting.

In sumary, understanding Aspie/Neanderthal hunting seems to be central for understanding most parts of the autistic spectrum.