Evidence for overlapping genetic influences on autistic and ADHD behaviours in a community twin sample.
ABSTRACT High levels of clinical comorbidity have been reported between autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This study takes an individual differences approach to determine the degree of phenotypic and aetiological overlap between autistic traits and ADHD behaviours in the general population.
The Twins Early Development Study is a community sample born in England and Wales. Families with twins born in 1994-6 were invited to join; 6,771 families participated in the study when the twins were 8 years old. Parents completed the Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test and the Conners' DSM-IV subscales. Teacher data were also collected on a sub-sample. High scores on the Conners' subscales were used to identify possible ADHD cases. Potential ASD cases were interviewed using the Development and Well-Being Assessment. Multivariate structural equation model-fitting was employed, as well as DeFries Fulker extremes analysis and liability threshold model-fitting.
Significant correlations were found between autistic and ADHD traits in the general population (.54 for parent data, .51 for teacher data). In the bivariate models, all genetic correlations were >.50, indicating a moderate degree of overlap in genetic influences on autistic and ADHD traits, both throughout the general population and at the quantitative extreme. This phenotypic and genetic overlap still held when sex, IQ and conduct problems were controlled for, for both parent and teacher data. There was also substantial overlap in suspected cases (41% of children who met criteria for an ASD had suspected ADHD; 22% with suspected ADHD met criteria for an ASD).
These results suggest there are some common genetic influences operating across autistic traits and ADHD behaviours throughout normal variation and at the extreme. This is relevant for molecular genetic research, as well as for psychiatrists and psychologists, who may have assumed these two sets of behaviours are independent.
- SourceAvailable from: Nahit Motavalli Mukaddes56th Meeting of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry;
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ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum conditions (ASC) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) regularly co-occur. Twin studies increasingly indicate that these conditions may have overlapping genetic causes. Less is known about the degree to which specific autistic traits relate to specific behaviours characteristic of ADHD. We hence tested, using the classical twin design, whether specific dimensional autistic traits, including social difficulties, communication atypicalities and repetitive behaviours, would display differential degrees of aetiological overlap with specific traits of ADHD, including hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention. Parents of approximately 4,000 pairs of 12-year-old twins completed the Childhood Autism Spectrum Test and Conners' Parent Rating Scale. These measures were divided into subscales corresponding to different types of autistic and ADHD behaviours. Twin model fitting suggested that the degree of genetic overlap was particularly strong between communication difficulties and traits of ADHD (genetic correlations = .47-.51), while repetitive behaviours and social difficulties showed moderate (genetic correlations = .12-.33) and modest (.05-.11) genetic overlap respectively. Environmental overlap was low across all subscales (correlations = .01-.23). These patterns were also apparent at the extremes of the general population, with communication difficulties showing the highest genetic overlap with traits of ADHD. These findings indicate that molecular genetic studies seeking to uncover the shared genetic basis of ASC and ADHD would benefit from taking a symptom-specific approach. Furthermore, they could also help to explain why studies of the communication abilities of individuals with ASC and ADHD have produced overlapping findings.European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 01/2015; · 3.70 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Background The genetic architecture of ADHD is complex, with rare and common variants involved. Common genetic variants (as indexed by a composite risk score) associated with clinical ADHD significantly predict ADHD and autistic-like behavioural traits in children from the general population, suggesting that ADHD lies at the extreme of normal trait variation. ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders share neurocognitive difficulties in several domains (e.g. impaired cognitive ability and executive functions). We hypothesised that ADHD composite genetic risk scores derived from clinical ADHD cases would also contribute to variation in neurocognitive abilities in the general population.Methods Children (N = 6,832) from a UK population cohort, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), underwent neurocognitive testing. Parent-reported measures of their children's ADHD and autistic-like traits were used to construct a behavioural latent variable of ‘neurodevelopmental traits’. Composite genetic risk scores for ADHD were calculated for ALSPAC children based on findings from an independent ADHD case–control genome-wide association study. Structural equation modelling was used to assess associations between ADHD composite genetic risk scores and IQ, working memory, inhibitory control and facial emotion recognition, as well as the latent ‘neurodevelopmental trait’ measure.ResultsThe results confirmed that neurocognitive and neurodevelopmental traits are correlated in children in the general population. Composite genetic risk scores for ADHD were independently associated with lower IQ (β = −.05, p < .001) and working memory performance (β = −.034, p = .013), even after accounting for the relationship with latent neurodevelopmental behavioural trait scores. No associations were found between composite genetic risk scores and inhibitory control or emotion recognition (p > .05).Conclusions These findings suggest that common genetic variants relevant to clinically diagnosed ADHD have pleiotropic effects on neurocognitive traits as well as behavioural dimensions in the general population. This further suggests that the well-recognised association between cognition and neurodevelopmental behavioural traits is underpinned at a biological level.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 10/2014; · 5.42 Impact Factor