Asperger’s Man- The Search for Multi-Regional Human Speciation Part 1

 

Introduction

My first love will always be archaeology and the study of what makes us human.This article is speculation. This is my personal musing on the development of certain psychological and physiological human traits. This is not to be taken as anything but my personal opinion. I have no evidence that there was an Asperger’s man. This article was also written several years ago and since then more evidence for the possibility of interbreeding with other hominids has come to light in Russia and in Africa that may support my original idea.

Multiregional Theory

The current  model of Homo sapiens evolution is that all modern humans evolved in Africa and spread out from there displacing, destroying, or even out competing all those other hominids they encountered. Multiregional theory has been set aside because it postulated that Homo sapiens evolved in more than one place and there were regional variations. We now know that in at least one case that of the Neanderthal that there was an evolutionary event that created what has been considered a separate species of Human but one capable of interbreeding successfully with Homo sapiens sapien.

So we now know that 3-4% of our genome at least in Asian and European populations contains Neanderthal DNA. This means that Homo sapiens were able to breed with Neanderthals and produce viable offspring. Which means that Neanderthals are most likely regionally evolved Homo sapiens adapted to their unique environment. This would seem to bode well for a reexamination of multiregional theory.

 

Multiregional Speciation?

What if there are other regional human variants that have bone structure so similar to Homo sapiens that they are classified as such, but they have evolved to exist in a different environment?

Imagine that a group of Homo Sapiens evolved separately from other Homo sapiens groups possibly somewhere in the mountains of Central Asia. Neanderthal developed to hunt game in open areas in large family groups growing large bone structures and musculature, while this unknown species evolved in a more rugged forest or mountainous environment. Instead of evolving cooperative hunting and social structures like early modern humans, this unknown species developed a different more isolated way of dealing with the environment and unique ways of thinking. This unknown group is less social because they don’t hunt large herd animals cooperatively like both early modern humans and Neanderthal. Instead they hunt in rugged mountains or deep forests adopting a more singular hunting experience with one or maybe two hunters leaving for days or weeks at a time.
This group of hominids develop heightened senses. They are more sensitive to light because they hunt diurnally at dusk and dawn. Their others senses become heightened as well to make them more aware of danger. This is a dangerous time and while other hominids hunt in large groups our hypothetical people work alone. Their sense of smell and taste are stronger so they become somewhat picky eaters. Their sense of touch becomes more acute and along with that they would seem to have less tolerance to pain. While they are more sensitive to touch they are often more tolerant to temperature variations because they have evolved to live in smaller groups or alone and don’t have group body heat to fall back on. These heightened senses have a trade off. These people are less agile than their homo sapiens cousins because the brain and ear are working overtime on the other senses so these people may seems clumsier.
They are likely to sleep less soundly because they don’t have a large group to protect them. This group would experience more sleeping disorders as a result. Because they are less social they don’t develop as much social interplay or social understanding. They don’t require the ability to read the facial language used by other hominids when hunting in groups. They hunt in dense forests or mountains so this silent facial language would have no meaning to them. They have emotions but have no real evolutionary need to express these emotions because most of their time is spend outside of the main group or in very small groupings.
These people are also more intelligent on average than either Neanderthal or the other Homo sapiens branch. The are individual hunters so they can’t rely on the group dynamic to solve problems. This intelligence allows them to subsist in areas not suited to hunting large animals in groups. They become intensely focused on the task at hand and block out almost anything else. This would prove very useful when stalking prey animals and we see this behavior in many large cats. Their heightened senses have another advantage, they are much better at seeing patterns in their environment. They can discern the smallest detail that may be out of place this would make them excellent trackers, again an adaptation to hunting smaller game animals in a rugged environment.

Could this unknown race of man exist? Is there any evidence for him? Is he hidden somewhere in our genome? Yes, I would suggest that people with Aspergers fit this description. While there are some disabling factors in Aspergers most of those are stress related (fits of anger, depression, facial and body ticks). These stress related problems are almost entirely due to not fitting in properly in a non-Aspergers world. In an all Aspergers world those would probably not even exist.

What is Aspergers

The current belief is that Aspergers is a subset of Autism- The reasoning is that people with HFA (high functioning Autism) mimic Aspergers in many ways. I disagree and I believe that further study of the genetic component of both Autism and Aspergers will bear that the two are separate “disorders”.

Aspergers has a list of traits associated with it including

1. inability to “read” the emotions of other people through facial expression (this can be learned)This has often been mistaken for inability to show empathy.
2. Higher sensory sensitivity (light, taste, touch, hearing etc)
3. Lower sensitivity to temperature extremes
4. clumsiness
5. Intelligence level is always from normal to advanced (basically lower intelligent individuals do not fit into the criteria
6. ability to focus intensely on subjects (these are generally considered to be subjects of interest to the individual)

I’ll quote from wiki on the sensory aspect.

“Individuals with AS often have excellent auditory and visual perception.[33] Children with ASD often demonstrate enhanced perception of small changes in patterns such as arrangements of objects or well-known images; typically this is domain-specific and involves processing of fine-grained features”

If these are evolutionary traits then they fit well a hunter who spends much of his time focusing on prey in a very diverse environment. These hunters would by necessity and prey scarcity hunt and live in smaller groups and focus more on elusive smaller prey animals.

Yes this is all conjecture at this point, but all knowledge starts from someone asking a question. I am asking could there be an evolutionary component to Aspergers?

 

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jellybelly123 says:

Frankly speaking i didn’t read your other stories about what makes us human, but randomly i found your this post and i really liked it very much.
I am an Aspergers expert, and reading this type of posts really amazed me. Your post is very much different and very interesting.
Keep it up!!
Reference: http://cluas.ie/children/aspergers-syndrome/

Robert Dole says:

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.

A short video introduction

The full 2-hour video presentation

Note:

Evidence of transgenerational epigenetic effects due to recent environmental exposures to novel complex molecules also supports this hypothesis. Atavism may be advantageous when it’s restricted to a small number of individuals, but deleterious when the mechanisms maintaining this subpopulation are altered in a way that isn’t immediately apparent in the genome.

The puzzlingly heterogeneous (yet statistically undeniable) components of autism might thus be united through a better understanding of epigenetics.

You are taking some of the thunder out of Part 2 where I discuss genetic evidence for Asperger’s man. However I will still post as I am trying to lay this out in an approach that is much more understandable to the layman. I feel that Autism and Aspergers stem from two separate archaic hominids interbreeding with early modern man. I believe autism may have developed from Neanderthal DNA inclusion but I think we need to look towards a different or unknown Archaic Human for Asperger syndrome.

Winston says:

Autism, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia share common genetic etiology. Autism and schizophrenia have opposing genetic relationships where an extra copy of a gene will produce one phenotype and a deletion will produce the other. Both may have originated in the same hominid. If the two are plotted as axes on a graph the diagonal might contain aspies as well as NTs. NTs would just tend to cluster in one area, while aspies would vary more.

Jamie W. says:

This is interesting, especially since my son is one tick away from Aspergers (officially PDD/NOS because of one ambiguous measure; another therapist may well have ruled him Aspy) and I share enough of the traits that I might have been diagnosed with it as a child if the therapeutic atmosphere had been the same as today’s. Let me throw a couple other things in:

1. Asperger’s typically runs in families; even if other family members don’t have the full-blown disease, it is common for them to have enough traits to make them odd or geeky to others. There is definitely a genetic component.

2. Females find it easier to overcome social problems related to Asperger’s – which makes sense as females, evolutionarily, would have needed to be more social to at minimum raise children.

3. This is pure observation: other kids with Asperger’s who have been around my own son all have a common “look” about them, to the point that my son’s first girlfriend, we all agreed, was a female version of him. (and that reminds me of The Big Bang Theory and Sheldon’s girlfriend.)

Now something I have noticed about myself: if I get drunk just exactly to a certain point, I retain the acuity Asperger’s often provides, but instead of being drunk like other people I *gain* a number of social skills and eliminate problems like background noise interfering with hearing comprehension. (No, this is not self-deception; the social part, at least, is true to the point that friends and family would keep me drunk all the time if they could!) Do you suppose this might support your evolutionary theory, considering the populations you are probably considering are also known for high alcohol consumption?

I also wonder about the prevalence of Asperger’s among descendants of the more lone-hunter type populations. Hard to gauge at this point, since yes, an awful lot of things seem to be misdiagnosed as both Asperger’s and autism.

Hm, now I’m wondering if two disparate conditions with very similar presentation are both being lumped under Asperger’s. I could see an argument for that.