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Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and psychosis share deficits in social cognition. The insular region has been associated with awareness of self and reality, which may be basic for proper social interactions.
Total and regional insular volume and thickness measurements were obtained from a sample of 30 children and adolescents with ASD, 29 with early onset first-episode psychosis (FEP), and 26 healthy controls (HC). Total, regional, and voxel-level volume and thickness measurements were compared between groups (with correction for multiple comparisons), and the relationship between these measurements and symptom severity was explored.
Compared with HC, a shared volume deficit was observed for the right (but not the left) anterior insula (ASD: p = 0.007, FEP: p = 0.032), and for the bilateral posterior insula: (left, ASD: p = 0.011, FEP: p = 0.033; right, ASD: p = 0.004, FEP: p = 0.028). A voxel-based morphometry (VBM) conjunction analysis showed that ASD and FEP patients shared a gray matter volume and thickness deficit in the left posterior insula. Within patients, right anterior (r = −0.28, p = 0.041) and left posterior (r = −0.29, p = 0.030) insular volumes negatively correlated with the severity of insight deficits, and left posterior insular volume negatively correlated with the severity of ‘autistic-like’ symptoms (r = −0.30, p = 0.028).
The shared reduced volume and thickness in the anterior and posterior regions of the insula in ASD and FEP provides the first tentative evidence that these conditions share structural pathology that may be linked to shared symptomatology.
Maternal depression and unhealthy diet are well-known risk factors for adverse child emotional–behavioural outcomes, but their developmental relationships during the prenatal and postnatal periods are largely uncharted. This study sought to examine the inter-relationships between maternal depression symptoms and unhealthy diet (assessed during pregnancy and postnatal periods) in relation to child emotional–behavioural dysregulation (assessed at the ages of 2, 4 and 7 years).
In a large prospective birth cohort of 7814 mother–child pairs, path analysis was used to examine the independent and inter-related associations of maternal depression symptoms and unhealthy diet with child dysregulation.
Higher prenatal maternal depression symptoms were prospectively associated with higher unhealthy diet, both during pregnancy and the postnatal period, which, in turn, was associated with higher child dysregulation up to the age of 7 years. In addition, during pregnancy, higher maternal depression symptoms and unhealthy diet were each independently associated with higher child dysregulation up to the age of 7 years. These results were robust to other prenatal, perinatal and postnatal confounders (such as parity and birth complications, poverty, maternal education, etc.).
Maternal depression symptoms and unhealthy diet show important developmental associations, but are also independent risk factors for abnormal child development.
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