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Evidence for Shared Genetic Influences on Self-Reported ADHD and Autistic Symptoms in Young Adult Australian Twins

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2012

Angela M. Reiersen*
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, United States of America. reiersea@psychiatry.wustl.edu
John N. Constantino
Affiliation:
Departments of Psychiatry & Pediatrics, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, United States of America.
Marisa Grimmer
Affiliation:
Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia.
Nicholas. G. Martin
Affiliation:
Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia.
Richard D. Todd
Affiliation:
Departments of Psychiatry & Genetics, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, United States of America.
*
*Address for correspondence: Angela M. Reiersen, MD, MPE. Department of Psychiatry, Box 8134, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, 660 S. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, Missouri, 63110, USA.

Abstract

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Recent clinic-based and population-based studies have shown evidence of association between ADHD and autistic symptoms in children and adolescents as well as evidence for genetic overlap between these disorders. The objective of the current study was to confirm the association between autistic and ADHD symptoms in a young adult twin sample assessed by self-report, and investigate whether shared genetic and/or environmental factors can explain the association. We performed twin-based structural equation modeling using self-report data from 11 Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) items and 12 DSM-IV ADHD inattentive and impulsive symptom items obtained from 674 young adult Australian twins. Phenotypic correlation between autistic and ADHD symptoms was moderate. The most parsimonious univariate models for SRS and ADHD included additive genetic effects and unique environmental effects, without sex differences. ADHD and autistic traits were both moderately heritable. In a bivariate model, genetic correlation (rg) between SRS and ADHD was 0.72. Our results suggest that in young adults, a substantial proportion of the genetic influences on self-reported autistic and ADHD symptoms may be shared between the two disorders.

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