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Autism spectrum disorders and autistic like traits: similar etiology in the extreme end and the normal variation.

Journal article
Authors Sebastian Lundström
Zheng Chang
Maria Råstam
Christopher Gillberg
Henrik Larsson
Henrik Anckarsäter
Paul Lichtenstein
Published in Archives of General Psychiatry
Volume 69
Issue 1
Pages 46-52
ISSN 0003-990X
Publication year 2012
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre
Centre for Ethics, Law, and Mental Health
Pages 46-52
Language en
Keywords Child, Child Development Disorders, Pervasive, Epidemiology, Genetics, Psychology, Cohort Studies, Diseases in Twins, Genetics, Psychology, Female, Health Surveys, Humans, Interview, Psychological, Male, Sweden, Epidemiology, Twins, Genetics, Psychology
Subject categories Child and adolescent psychiatry


CONTEXT: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have been suggested to represent the extreme end of a normal distribution of autisticlike traits (ALTs). However, the evidence of this notion is inconclusive. OBJECTIVE: To study whether there are similar genetic and/or environmental etiologies behind ASDs and ALTs. DESIGN: A nationwide twin study. PARTICIPANTS: Consenting parents of all Swedish twins aged 9 and 12 years, born between July 1, 1992, and December 31, 2001 (n = 19 208), were interviewed by telephone to screen for child psychiatric conditions, including ASDs. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Two validated cutoffs for ASDs, 2 cutoffs encompassing the normal variation, and 1 continuous measure of ALTs were used with DeFries-Fulker extreme-end analyses and standard twin study methods. RESULTS: We discerned a strong correlation between the 4 cutoffs and the full variation of ALTs. The correlation was primarily affected by genes. We also found that the heritability for the 4 cutoffs was similar. CONCLUSION: We demonstrate an etiological similarity between ASDs and ALTs in the normal variation and, with results from previous studies, our data suggest that ASDs and ALTs are etiologically linked.

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