Researchers at UC Davis have been studying geographic patterns that correlate to autism perhaps in hopes of coming up with an environmental link. On that front, they came up blank. But the school's recent findings are interesting nonetheless: For the greater Los Angeles region, the academics uncovered five “clusters” where reports of autism are higher than average.

They include the Westside (including Culver City, Inglewood, Palms, Sawtelle and Santa Monica), the South Bay (including Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance and Palos Verdes Estates), South Los Angeles (including parts of Compton and Gardena), Northwestern Los Angeles and southeastern Ventura County (including parts of Hidden Hills, Westlake Village and the West Valley), and coastal Orange County (including parts of Newport Beach, Aliso Viejo and Laguna Beach).

The UC Davis MIND Institute explains that the clusters clearly correlate with autism treatment and diagnostic centers:

“Most of the areas, or clusters, are in locations where parents have higher-than-average levels of educational attainment,” states the Institute. “Because children with more educated parents are more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, one need look no further for a cause, the authors say. The other clusters are located close to major autism treatment centers.”

The study, which looked at nearly 2.5 million births in California from 1996 through 2000, was published this week in the journal Autism Research. About 10,000 cases of autism were diagnosed statewide during the study's time frame.

“What we found with these clusters was that they correlated with neighborhoods of high education or neighborhoods that were near a major treatment center for autism,” stated senior author Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor of public health sciences and a researcher with the UC Davis MIND Institute.

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