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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Sep 19;7:606. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00606. eCollection 2013.

A "bottom-up" approach to aetiological research in autism spectrum disorders.

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1
School of Psychology, The University of Western Australia , Perth, WA , Australia ; Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia , Perth, WA , Australia.

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are currently diagnosed in the presence of impairments in social interaction and communication, and a restricted range of activities and interests. However, there is considerable variability in the behaviors of different individuals with an ASD diagnosis. The heterogeneity spans the entire range of IQ and language abilities, as well as other behavioral, communicative, and social functions. While any psychiatric condition is likely to incorporate a degree of heterogeneity, the variability in the nature and severity of behaviors observed in ASD is thought to exceed that of other disorders. The current paper aims to provide a model for future research into ASD subgroups. In doing so, we examined whether two proposed risk factors - low birth weight (LBW), and in utero exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - are associated with greater behavioral homogeneity. Using data from the Western Australian Autism Biological Registry, this study found that LBW and maternal SSRI use during pregnancy were associated with greater sleep disturbances and a greater number of gastrointestinal complaints in children with ASD, respectively. The findings from this "proof of principle" paper provide support for this "bottom-up" approach as a feasible method for creating homogenous groups.

KEYWORDS:

autism phenotype; autism spectrum disorders; heterogeneity

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