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Autism Res. 2012 Apr;5(2):137-47. doi: 10.1002/aur.1226. Epub 2012 Mar 17.

Cluster analysis of autistic patients based on principal pathogenetic components.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Psychiatry and Neurogenetics, University Campus Bio-Medico, Rome, Italy.


We have recently described four principal pathogenetic components in autism: (I) circadian and sensory dysfunction, (II) immune abnormalities, (III) neurodevelopmental delay, and (IV) stereotypic behaviors. Using hierarchical and k-means clustering, the same 245 patients assessed in our principal component analysis can be partitioned into four clusters: (a) 43 (17.6%) have prominent immune abnormalities accompanied by some circadian and sensory issues; (b) 44 (18.0%) display major circadian and sensory dysfunction, with little or no immune symptoms; (c) stereotypies predominate in 75 (31.0%); and (d) 83 (33.9%) show a mixture of all four components, with greater disruptive behaviors and mental retardation. The "immune" component provides the largest contributions to phenotypic variance (P = 2.7 x 10(-45)), followed by "stereotypic behaviors." These patient clusters may likely differ in genetic and immune underpinnings, developmental trajectories, and response to treatment.

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