Genetic links to impaired social behavior in autism

May 13, 2008

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) show profound deficits in social interactions and communications, and display repetitive behaviors and abnormal responses to sensory experiences. One aspect of an autistic child’s impaired social abilities is their lack of affiliative behaviors, i.e., behaviors such as touching and hugging that strengthen social bonds. On May 15th, Biological Psychiatry is publishing an article that reports new findings on genetic bases of these behaviors.

In this study, Yale University researchers recruited, genotyped, and clinically assessed a large sample of autistic children and their families. They specifically examined the genetic variants in six genes known to be involved in maternal and affiliative behaviors.

Dr. Elena Grigorenko, the senior author, discusses their study, “Animal studies have taught us that genetic factors can play a crucial role in the development of close affiliative ties. With the help of Yale's Autism Center of Excellence, led by Drs. Ami Klin and Fred Volkmar, and many families of individuals with ASD, we have registered a possible association between some of the genes identified in animal studies as controlling affiliative behaviors in ASD.”

The strongest statistical findings of the study implicate the prolactin gene, the prolactin receptor gene, and the oxytocin receptor gene in these affiliative behavior deficits.

John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, comments, “We are beginning to see that molecular genetics research is creating exciting new links between research in animal models and clinical disorders. The paper by Carolyn Yrigollen and colleagues suggests that two neurohormones that have been linked to affiliative behavior in animals, prolactin and oxytocin, are linked to deficits in affiliative behaviors associated with autism.”

Dr. Grigorenko adds, “This work builds on the most recent advances in genomics and the developmental neurosciences, and it sets the stage for a more extensive examination of our initial hypothesis. A clearer understanding of the genetic factors involved in ASD should result in new and better interventions for these devastating disorders.”

Source: Elsevier

Explore further: Presence of peers ups health workers' hand hygiene

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How are hybridized species affecting wildlife?

11 minutes ago

Researchers who transplanted combinations of wild, domesticated, and domesticated-wild hybridized populations of a fish species to new environments found that within 5 to 11 generations, selection could remove ...

Habitual Facebook users: Suckers for social media scams?

15 minutes ago

A new study finds that habitual use of Facebook makes individuals susceptible to social media phishing attacks by criminals, likely because they automatically respond to requests without considering how they are connected ...

When casualties increased, war coverage became more negative

15 minutes ago

As the number of U.S. casualties rose in Afghanistan, reporters filed more stories about the conflict and those articles grew increasingly negative about both the war effort and the military, according to a Penn State researcher. ...

Recommended for you

Presence of peers ups health workers' hand hygiene

14 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The presence of other health care workers improves hand hygiene adherence, according to a study published in the October issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Sierra Leone streets deserted as shutdown begins

22 hours ago

Sierra Leone's normally chaotic capital resembled a ghost town on Friday as residents were confined to their homes for the start of a three-day lockdown aimed at halting the deadly Ebola epidemic.

Sierra Leone launches controversial Ebola shutdown

Sep 19, 2014

Sierra Leone on Friday launched a controversial three-day shutdown to contain the deadly spread of the Ebola virus, as the UN Security Council declared the deadly outbreak a threat to world peace.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bbrhuft
not rated yet May 13, 2008
As a person with an ASD, I can reveal in interesting snippet of insider info - most adults with Asperger's are Libertarian. No Joke. I'm a typical example, I did the "political compass" quiz and I plot extreme left-wing libertarian (i.e. an individual).

Seriously, it just shows what unexpected ethical considerations are involved when you begin to investigate genes that appear to code for personality and perhaps even political sentiment.