[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Perceiving others in pain generally leads to empathic concern, consisting of both emotional and cognitive processes. Empathy deficits have been considered as an element contributing to social difficulties in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and short video clips of facial expressions of people experiencing pain to examine the neural substrates underlying the spontaneous empathic response to pain in autism. Thirty-eight adolescents and adults of normal intelligence diagnosed with ASD and 35 matched controls participated in the study. In contrast to general assumptions, we found no significant differences in brain activation between ASD individuals and controls during the perception of pain experienced by others. Both groups showed similar levels of activation in areas associated with pain sharing, evidencing the presence of emotional empathy and emotional contagion in participants with autism as well as in controls. Differences between groups could be observed at a more liberal statistical threshold, and revealed increased activations in areas involved in cognitive reappraisal in ASD participants compared with controls. Scores of emotional empathy were positively correlated with brain activation in areas involved in embodiment of pain in ASD group only. Our findings show that simulation mechanisms involved in emotional empathy are preserved in high-functioning individuals with autism, and suggest that increased reappraisal may have a role in their apparent lack of caring behavior.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Despite the widely-held understanding that the biological changes that lead to autism usually occur during prenatal life, there has been relatively little research into the functional development of the brain during early infancy in individuals later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
This review explores the studies over the last three years which have investigated differences in various brain regions in individuals with ASD or who later go on to receive a diagnosis of ASD.
We used PRISMA guidelines and selected published articles reporting any neurological abnormalities in very early childhood in individuals with or later diagnosed with ASD.
Various brain regions are discussed including; the amygdala; cerebellum; frontal cortex and lateralised abnormalities of the temporal cortex during language processing. This review discusses studies investigating head circumference, electrophysiological markers and inter-hemispheric synchronisation. All the recent findings from the beginning of 2009 across these different aspects of defining neurological abnormalities are discussed in light of earlier findings.
The studies across these different areas reveal the existence of atypicalities in the first year of life, well before ASD is reliably diagnosed. Cross-disciplinary approaches are essential to elucidate the pathophysiological sequence of events that lead to ASD.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This study investigated the utility of adult and infant vocalisation in the prediction of child psychopathology. Families were sampled from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort. Vocalisation patterns were obtained from 180 videos (60 cases and 120 randomly selected sex-matched controls) of parent-infant interactions when infants were one year old. Cases were infants who had been subsequently diagnosed aged seven years, with at least one psychiatric diagnostic categorisation using the Development and Wellbeing Assessment. Psychopathologies included in the case group were disruptive behaviour disorders, oppositional-conduct disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, pervasive development disorder, and emotional disorders. Associations between infant and parent vocalisations and later psychiatric diagnoses were investigated. Low frequencies of maternal vocalisation predicted later development of infant psychopathology. A reduction of five vocalisations per minute predicted a 44% (95%CI: 11-94%; p-value=0.006) increase in the odds of an infant being a case. No association was observed between infant vocalisations and overall case status. In sum, altered vocalisation frequency in mother-infant interactions at one year is a potential risk marker for later diagnosis of a range of child psychopathologies.
Research in developmental disabilities 01/2013; 34(3):985-993. · 4.41 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To establish which social interactive behaviours predict later psychiatric diagnosis, we examined 180 videos of a parent-infant interaction when children were aged one year, from within the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort. Sixty of the videos involved infants who were later diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder at seven years, and 120 were a randomly selected sex-matched control group. Interactive behaviours for both the caregiver and the one year old infant were coded from the videos according to eight holistic categories of interpersonal engagement: Well-being, Contingent Responsiveness, Cooperativeness, Involvement, Activity, Playfulness, Fussiness, and Speech. Lower levels of adult activity and speech in interaction at one year significantly predicted overall diagnosis of child psychiatric disorder.
Research in developmental disabilities 10/2012; 34(1):562-572. · 4.41 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: One of the challenges of developmental psychopathology is to determine whether identifiable pathways to developmental disorders exist in the first months or years of life. Early identification of such disorders poses a similar challenge for clinical services. Using data from a large contemporary birth cohort, we examined whether psychopathology at age seven can be predicted from clinician observation at one year. Two groups of clinical raters observed videos of caregiver-infant interaction. Neither group of raters could reliably identify any precursors of later development of psychopathology in the one-year-old infants in this setting.
Research in developmental disabilities 07/2012; 33(6):2292-300. · 4.41 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Disruptive behaviour disorders (DBDs), including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD) are chronic disorders with significant overlap in aetiology and presentation. An integrative examination of environmental risk factors is lacking. Six literature searches of web-based bibliographic databases were completed to identify literature on DBDs in general and five disorders in particular: CD, ODD, ADHD, deficits of attention, motor control and perception, and reactive attachment disorder. Searches were filtered to focus on studies including diagnostic assessment, focussing on environmental risk and protective factors in the first 4 years of life. The database searches generated 9806 papers of which 47 were reviewed after filters had been applied. The evidence suggests links between a number of early life risk factors and DBDs, including prenatal cigarette smoking and alcohol use, prenatal viral illness, maternal stress and anxiety, low birthweight, peri-partum and early neonatal complications, parental stress and parenting styles in infancy, early deprivation, adoption and separation. Despite the understanding that there is sharing of risk factors between the DBDs, there has been a disproportionate focus on the role of certain risk factors at the expense of others and the field is weakened by difficulties in controlling for all potential confounding variables.
Child Care Health and Development 02/2012; 38(5):611-28. · 1.70 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The striking excess of affected males in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) suggests that genes located on chromosome X contribute to the etiology of these disorders. To identify new X-linked genes associated with ASD, we analyzed the entire chromosome X exome by next-generation sequencing in 12 unrelated families with two affected males. Thirty-six possibly deleterious variants in 33 candidate genes were found, including PHF8 and HUWE1, previously implicated in intellectual disability (ID). A nonsense mutation in TMLHE, which encodes the ɛ-N-trimethyllysine hydroxylase catalyzing the first step of carnitine biosynthesis, was identified in two brothers with autism and ID. By screening the TMLHE coding sequence in 501 male patients with ASD, we identified two additional missense substitutions not found in controls and not reported in databases. Functional analyses confirmed that the mutations were associated with a loss-of-function and led to an increase in trimethyllysine, the precursor of carnitine biosynthesis, in the plasma of patients. This study supports the hypothesis that rare variants on the X chromosome are involved in the etiology of ASD and contribute to the sex-ratio disequilibrium.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A subgroup of persons with anorexia nervosa (AN) have been proposed to have sociocommunicative problems corresponding to autism spectrum disorders [ASDs, i.e. DSM-IV pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs): autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, PDD not otherwise specified (NOS)]. Here, clinical problems, personality traits, cognitive test results and outcome are compared across 16 subjects (32%) with teenage-onset AN who meet or have met ASD criteria (AN+ASD), 34 ASD-negative AN subjects and matched controls from a longitudinal Swedish study including four waves of independent assessments from the teens to the early thirties.
The fourth wave included the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID)-I and the SCID-II (cluster C, i.e. 'anxious' PDs) interviews, the Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Interview, self-assessments by the Autism Spectrum Quotient and the Temperament and Character Inventory, neurocognitive tests by subscales from the Wechsler scales, continuous performance tests, Tower of London, and Happé's cartoons.
The ASD assessments had substantial inter-rater reliability over time (Cohen's κ between 0.70 and 0.80 with previous assessments), even if only six subjects had been assigned a diagnosis of an ASD in all four waves of the study, including retrospective assessments of pre-AN neurodevelopmental problems. The AN+ASD group had the highest prevalence of personality disorders and the lowest Morgan-Russell scores. The non-ASD AN group also differed significantly from controls on personality traits related to poor interpersonal functioning and on neurocognitive tests.
A subgroup of subjects with AN meet criteria for ASDs. They may represent the extreme of neurocognitive and personality problems to be found more generally in AN.
Psychological Medicine 12/2011; 42(9):1957-67. · 5.59 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autistic-like traits (ALTs), that is restrictions in intuitive social interaction, communication and flexibility of interests and behaviors, were studied in two population-based Swedish twin studies, one in children and one in adults: (1) to examine whether the variability in ALTs is a meaningful risk factor for concomitant attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, conduct problems, depression and substance abuse, and (2) to assess whether common genetic and environmental susceptibilities can help to explain co-existence of ALTs and traits associated with such concomitant problems.
Two nationwide twin cohorts from Sweden (consisting of 11 222 children and 18 349 adults) were assessed by DSM-based symptom algorithms for autism. The twins were divided into six groups based on their degree of ALTs and the risk for concomitant mental health problems was calculated for each group. Genetic and environmental susceptibilities common to ALTs and the other problem types were examined using bivariate twin modeling.
In both cohorts, even the lowest degree of ALTs increased the risk for all other types of mental health problems, and these risk estimates increased monotonically with the number of ALTs. For all conditions, common genetic and environmental factors could be discerned. Overall, the phenotypic correlation between ALTs and the traits examined were less pronounced in adulthood than in childhood and less affected by genetic compared with environmental factors.
Even low-grade ALTs are relevant to clinical psychiatry as they increase the risk for several heterotypical mental health problems. The association is influenced partly by common genetic and environmental susceptibilities. Attention to co-existing ALTs is warranted in research on a wide range of mental disorders.
Psychological Medicine 03/2011; 41(11):2423-33. · 5.59 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To compare telephone interview screening for child psychiatric/neuropsychiatric disorders using the inventory of Autism-Tics, Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) and other Comorbidities (A-TAC) with results from the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).
The A-TAC is a parent telephone interview focusing on autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and co-existing problems, developed for lay interviewers.
A-TAC telephone interviews and CBCL questionnaires were obtained from parents of 106 Swedish twin pairs aged 9 and 12 years.
Correlations between A-TAC modules and CBCL scales aimed at measuring similar concepts were generally significant albeit modest, with correlation coefficients ranging from 0.30 through 0.55.
The A-TAC has convergent validity with the CBCL in several problem areas, but the A-TAC also provides more detailed and specific assessments of ASD symptoms and related neuropsychiatric problems.
Nordic journal of psychiatry 03/2010; 64(3):218-24. · 0.99 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Reliable, valid, and easy-to-administer instruments to identify possible caseness and to provide proxies for clinical diagnoses are needed in epidemiological research on child and adolescent mental health.The aim of this study is to provide further validity data for a parent telephone interview focused on Autism--Tics, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), and other Comorbidities (A-TAC), for which reliability and preliminary validation data have been previously reported.
Parents of 91 children clinically diagnosed at a specialized Child Neuropsychiatric Clinic, 366 control children and 319 children for whom clinical diagnoses had been previously assigned were interviewed by the A-TAC over the phone. Interviewers were blind to clinical information. Different scores from the A-TAC were compared to the diagnostic outcome.
Areas under ROC curves for interview scores as predictors of clinical diagnoses were around 0.95 for most disorders, including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), tic disorders, developmental coordination disorders (DCD) and learning disorders, indicating excellent screening properties. Screening cut-off scores with sensitivities above 0.90 (0.95 for ASD and AD/HD) were established for most conditions, as well as cut-off scores to identify proxies to clinical diagnoses with specificities above 0.90 (0.95 for ASD and AD/HD).
The previously reported validity of the A-TAC was supported by this larger replication study using broader scales from the A-TAC-items and a larger number of diagnostic categories. Short versions of algorithms worked as well as larger. Different cut-off levels for screening versus identifying proxies for clinical diagnoses are warranted. Data on the validity for mood problems and oppositional defiant/conduct problems are still lacking. Although the A-TAC is principally intended for epidemiological research and general investigations, the instrument may be useful as a tool to collect information in clinical practice as well.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and a synchronizer of many physiological processes. Alteration of the melatonin pathway has been reported in circadian disorders, diabetes and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, very little is known about the genetic variability of melatonin receptors in humans. Here, we sequenced the melatonin receptor MTNR1A and MTNR1B, genes coding for MT1 and MT2 receptors, respectively, in a large panel of 941 individuals including 295 patients with ASD, 362 controls and 284 individuals from different ethnic backgrounds. We also sequenced GPR50, coding for the orphan melatonin-related receptor GPR50 in patients and controls. We identified six non-synonymous mutations for MTNR1A and ten for MTNR1B. The majority of these variations altered receptor function. Particularly interesting mutants are MT1-I49N, which is devoid of any melatonin binding and cell surface expression, and MT1-G166E and MT1-I212T, which showed severely impaired cell surface expression. Of note, several mutants possessed pathway-selective signaling properties, some preferentially inhibiting the adenylyl cyclase pathway, others preferentially activating the MAPK pathway. The prevalence of these deleterious mutations in cases and controls indicates that they do not represent major risk factor for ASD (MTNR1A case 3.6% vs controls 4.4%; MTNR1B case 4.7% vs 3% controls). Concerning GPR50, we detected a significant association between ASD and two variations, Delta502-505 and T532A, in affected males, but it did not hold up after Bonferonni correction for multiple testing. Our results represent the first functional ascertainment of melatonin receptors in humans and constitute a basis for future structure-function studies and for interpreting genetic data on the melatonin pathway in patients.
PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(7):e11495. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To explore attachment narratives in children diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder (RAD).
We compared attachment narratives, as measured by the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task, in a group of 33 children with a diagnosis of RAD and 37 comparison children.
The relative risk (RR) for children with RAD having an insecure attachment pattern was 2.4 (1.4-4.2) but 30% were rated as securely attached. Within the RAD group, children with a clear history of maltreatment were more likely to be Insecure-Disorganised than children without a clear history of maltreatment.
Reactive attachment disorder is not the same as attachment insecurity, and questions remain about how attachment research informs clinical research on attachment disorders.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 05/2009; 50(8):931-42. · 5.42 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Life-course persistent conduct disorder is a major public health problem with implications for individual health and for society at large. Recent evidence has shown that treatment can be cost-effective, and early symptom detection is improving. We weigh the evidence for and against the introduction of population screening for conduct disorder in early childhood using Wilson and Jungner's criteria.
Archives of Disease in Childhood 05/2009; 94(10):812-6. · 3.05 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autism is a highly heritable disorder but the specific genes involved remain largely unknown. The higher prevalence of autism in men than in women, in conjunction with a number of other observations, has led to the suggestion that prenatal brain exposure to androgens may be of importance for the development of this condition. Prompted by this hypothesis, we investigated the potential influence of variation in the androgen receptor (AR) gene on the susceptibility for autism. To this end, 267 subjects with autism spectrum disorder and 617 controls were genotyped for three polymorphisms in exon 1 of the AR gene: the CAG repeat, the GGN repeat and the rs6152 SNP. In addition, parents and affected siblings were genotyped for 118 and 32 of the cases, respectively. Case–control comparisons revealed higher prevalence of short CAG alleles as well as of the A allele of the rs6152 SNP in female cases than in controls, but revealed no significant differences with respect to the GGN repeat. Analysis of the 118 families using transmission disequilibrium test, on the other hand, suggested an association with the GGN polymorphism, the rare 20-repeat allele being undertransmitted to male cases and the 23-repeat allele being overtransmitted to female cases. Sequencing of the AR gene in 46 patients revealed no mutations or rare variants. The results lend some support for an influence of the studied polymorphisms on the susceptibility for autism, but argue against the possibility that mutations in the AR gene are common in subjects with this condition.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The objective of the study was to determine the prevalence and comorbidity of persisting attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adult psychiatric outpatients. Consecutive patients, first visits excluded, at a general psychiatric outpatient clinic were offered a screening for childhood ADHD with the Wender Utah Rating Scale (WURS). One hundred and forty-one patients out of 398 (35%) completed and returned the scale. Patients above or near cut-off for ADHD (n=57) were offered an extensive clinical evaluation with psychiatric as well as neuropsychological examination. The attrition was analysed regarding age, sex and clinical diagnoses. Out of the screened sample, 40% had scores indicating possible childhood ADHD. These 57 patients were invited to the clinical part of the study, but 10 declined assessment, leaving 47 (37 women and 10 men) who were actually examined. Thirty of these (21 women and nine men) met diagnostic criteria for ADHD at the time of examination. Among the patients with ADHD, affective disorders were the most common psychiatric diagnoses. The rate of alcohol and/or substance abuse, as noted in the medical records, was also high in the ADHD group. In the WURS-screened group, 22% (30 patients assessed as part of this study and one person with ADHD previously clinically diagnosed) were shown to have persisting ADHD. Therefore, it is clearly relevant for psychiatrists working in general adult psychiatry to have ADHD in mind as a diagnostic option, either as the patient's main problem or as a functional impairment predisposing for other psychiatric disorders.
Nordic journal of psychiatry 12/2008; 63(1):64-71. · 0.99 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Autism – Tics, AD/HD, and other Comorbidities inventory (A-TAC) is a comprehensive interview for evaluating problems related to autism spectrum disorders (ASD), tic disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), and common comorbid conditions in children and adolescents. A-TAC telephone interviews were administered to parents of 2,957 children aged nine-or twelve-years, representing one in each twin pair included in the population-based Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden (CATSS). A total of 16.4% were screen-positive for one or several of the targeted disorder, 1.3% for ASD and 5.6% for AD/HD. All types of problems were more common among boys, with the exception of those related to "eating habits". They were all dimensionally/continuously distributed, highly inter-correlated, and overlapped across types. They aggregated in three ba-sic factors corresponding to externalizing/disruptiveness, socio-communicative problems, and compulsiveness. Population-based data on problems in children thus challenge current categorical diagnostic definitions, calling for dimen-sional and complementary models of problem descriptions.
The Open Psychiatry Journal 06/2008; 2(1874-3544).
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is strong evidence for the importance of genetic factors in idiopathic autism. The results from independent twin and family studies suggest that the disorder is caused by the action of several genes, possibly acting epistatically. We have used cDNA microarray technology for the identification of constitutional changes in the gene expression profile associated with idiopathic autism. Samples were obtained and analyzed from 6 affected subjects belonging to multiplex autism families and from 6 healthy controls. We assessed the expression levels for approximately 7,700 genes by cDNA microarrays using mRNA derived from Epstein-Barr virus-transformed B lymphocytes. The microarray data were analyzed in order to identify up- or downregulation of specific genes. A common pattern with nine downregulated genes was identified among samples derived from individuals with autism when compared to controls. Four of these nine genes encode proteins involved in biological processes associated with brain function or the immune system, and are consequently considered as candidates for genes associated with autism. Quantitative real-time PCR confirms the downregulation of the gene encoding SEMA5A, a protein involved in axonal guidance. Epstein-Barr virus should be considered as a possible source for altered expression, but our consistent results make us suggest SEMA5A as a candidate gene in the etiology of idiopathic autism.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Reliable, valid and easily administered screening instruments would greatly facilitate large-scale neuropsychiatric research.
To test a parent telephone interview focused on autism - tics, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other comorbidities (A-TAC).
Parents of 84 children in contact with a child neuropsychiatric clinic and 27 control children were interviewed. Validity and interrater and test - retest reliability were assessed.
Interrater and test - retest reliability were very good. Areas under receiver operating characteristics curves between interview scores and clinical diagnoses were around 0.90 for ADHD and autistic spectrum disorders, and above 0.70 for tics, learning disorders and developmental coordination disorder. Using optimal cut-off scores for autistic spectrum disorder and ADHD, good to excellent kappa levels for interviews and clinical diagnoses were noted.
The A-TAC appears to be a reliable and valid instrument for identifying autistic spectrum disorder, ADHD, tics, learning disorders and developmental coordination disorder.
The British Journal of Psychiatry 10/2005; 187:262-7. · 6.61 Impact Factor