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J Autism Dev Disord. 2003 Aug;33(4):435-42.

Features of autism in Rett syndrome and severe mental retardation.

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Behavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, UK.


It has long been recognized that there is phenotypic overlap between Rett syndrome (RS) and autism. Advances in our clinical and genetic understanding of RS over the past decade have made clear that the cause and course of RS and autism are distinct (except perhaps in a few cases). Despite this, further delineation of the phenotypic overlap between RS and autism is warranted to enhance clinical decision-making and to further understanding of neuropathological development in both disorders. The present study measured autistic symptoms using the Autism Behavior Checklist (ABC) in a sample of girls with RS and a comparison group of girls with severe and profound mental retardation (SMR). Controlling for developmental level and motor ability, girls with RS scored more highly than those with SMR on the Sensory and Relating subscales. In contrast, there were no group differences on the Body and Object use, Language and Social and Self-help subscales. Further work on the characterisation of the behavioral phenotype of genetic disorders such as RS and autism may aid in identifying the neuropathogenic processes that lead from gene-to-brain-to-behavior.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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