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The importance of recognizing different kinds of autism spectrum presentations among adults, including subthreshold forms and the broad autism phenotype (BAP), has been increasingly highlighted in recent studies. Meanwhile, the possible involvement of immune system deregulation and altered methylation/trans-sulfuration processes in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is gaining growing attention, but studies in this field are mainly focused on children. In this framework, the aim of this study was to compare plasmatic concentrations of IL-6 and homocysteine (HCY) among adults with ASD, their first-degree relatives, and healthy controls (CTLs), investigating also possible correlations with specific autism symptoms.
Plasma concentrations of IL-6 and HCY were measured in a group of adult subjects with ASD, their first-degree relatives (BAP group), and healthy controls (CTL). All participants were also evaluated with psychometric instruments.
IL-6 and HCY concentrations were significantly higher in the ASD group than in CTLs, while BAP subjects reported intermediate results. Significant correlations were reported between biochemical parameters and psychometric scales, particularly for the dimension of ruminative thinking.
These findings support the hypothesis of a key involvement of HCY-related metabolism and immune system alteration in autism spectrum pathophysiology. HCY and IL-6 seem to show different associations with specific autism dimensions.
Increasing literature highlighted alterations of tryptophan (TRP) metabolism and kynurenine (KYN) pathway in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, no study specifically focused on adult samples. Meanwhile, several authors stressed the relevance of investigating neurobiological correlates of adult forms of ASD and of those subthreshold ASD manifestations frequently found in relatives of ASD probands, known as broad autism phenotype (BAP). This work aimed to evaluate circulating levels of TRP and metabolites of KYN pathway in a sample of ASD adults, their first-degree relatives and controls (CTLs), investigating also the correlations between biochemical variables’ levels and ASD symptoms.
A sample of ASD adults, together with a group of first-degree relatives (BAP group) and unrelated CTLs were assessed by means of psychometric scales. Circulating levels of TRP, KYN, quinolinic acid (QA), and kynurenic acid (KYNA) were assessed in all subjects.
ASD patients reported significantly higher total scores than the other groups on all psychometric scales. BAP subjects scored significantly higher than CTLs. ASD patients reported significantly lower TRP levels than BAP and CTL groups. Moreover, significantly lower levels of KYNA were reported in both ASD and BAP groups than in CTLs. Specific patterns of associations were found between autism symptoms and biochemical variables.
Our findings confirm in adult samples the presence of altered TRP metabolism through KYN pathway. The intermediate alterations reported among relatives of ASD patients further stress the presence of a continuum between subthreshold and full-threshold ASD phenotypes also from a biochemical perspective.
Increasing research is stressing the importance of identifying autistic traits (ATs) in clinical and general populations. University students may be a group at higher risk for the presence of ATs. Recently, specific attention has been paid to camouflaging strategies used by subjects in the autism spectrum in order to cope with the social environment. The aim of this work was to evaluate the prevalence of ATs and camouflaging behaviors in a population of University students.
Subjects were requested to anonymously fill out through an online form the Adult Autism Subthreshold Spectrum and the Camouflaging AT Questionnaire.
ATs were more represented among males and among students of specific fields of study. Camouflaging behaviors were significantly more frequent among subjects with more severe autism spectrum symptoms, without differences depending from sex.
Our study confirms the strong association between ATs and camouflaging behaviors and the relationship between ATs, sex, and specific fields of study.
Orthorexia nervosa (ON) is an emerging condition featuring restrictive eating behaviors on the basis of subjective beliefs about food healthiness. Many authors have stressed the similarities between ON and anorexia nervosa (AN) in both cognitive and behavioral patterns. Despite that, while the link between AN and female autism presentations is well known in the literature, no study has yet investigated the relationship between ON and autism spectrum. This work aims to investigate the relationship between ON and autistic traits in a university population.
An e-mail invitation was sent to all the students and University workers of University of Pisa. Subjects were asked to fulfill the ORTO-15 and the Adult Autism Subthreshold spectrum (AdAS spectrum) questionnaires.
A total of 2426 subjects joined the survey: 623 subjects (26.3%) reported a score associated with significant orthorexic symptoms according to ORTO-15 (ON group), while 1789 subjects (73.7%) did not report ON symptomatology and were considered as healthy controls (HC). The ON group scored significantly higher on almost all AdAS spectrum domains. Moreover, being female and scoring higher on AdAS spectrum were statistically predictive factors for the presence of ON symptomatology. Among AdAS spectrum domains, higher scores on AdAS spectrum inflexibility and adherence to routine and restricted interests and rumination domains, as well as lower scores on verbal communication domain, were statistically predictive of orthorexic symptoms.
Our findings highlight an overlap between ON and autism spectrum psychopathology. Further studies are needed to clarify the relationship between restrictive eating disorders and female autism phenotypes.
Previous researches highlighted among patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) a significant presence of autistic traits, which seem to influence clinical and functional outcomes. The aim of this study was to further deepen the investigation, evaluating how patients with SSD with or without autistic traits may differ with respect to levels of functioning, self-esteem, resilience, and coping profiles.
As part of the add-on autism spectrum study of the Italian Network for Research on Psychoses, 164 outpatients with schizophrenia (SCZ) were recruited at eight Italian University psychiatric clinics. Subjects were grouped depending on the presence of significant autistic traits according to the Adult Autism Subthreshold Spectrum (AdAS Spectrum) instrument (“AT group” vs “No AT group”). Other instruments employed were: Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Specific Levels of Functioning (SLOF), Self-Esteem Rating scale (SERS), Resilience Scale for Adults (RSA), and brief-COPE.
The “AT group” reported significantly higher scores than the “No AT group” on SLOF activities of community living but significantly lower scores on work skills subscale. The same group scored significantly lower also on SERS total score and RSA perception of the self subscale. Higher scores were reported on COPE self-blame, use of emotional support and humor domains in the AT group. Several correlations were found between specific dimensions of the instruments.
Our findings suggest the presence of specific patterns of functioning, resilience, and coping abilities among SSD patients with autistic traits.
In the last decades, increasing attention has been provided to socio-cultural and neurobiological factors involved in the psychopathology of feeding and eating disorders (FED), encouraging a multifactorial approach. In this framework, several authors stressed an association between FED and other kinds of psychiatric disorders from both a psychopathological and a neurobiological point of view. In particular, many promising contributions are focusing on the possible link between FED and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Growing interest about this association rose from the frequently reported evidence of ASD-like traits amongst FED patients and abnormal eating behaviors amongst patients with ASD. This narrative review overview aims to summarize the most relevant findings about the overlap between different kinds of FED and the autism spectrum, taking into account the most recent hypotheses about the psychopathology of both these conditions. While most of the studies focused on anorexia nervosa, both ASD and autistic traits seem to be detectable also in other kinds of FED. In addition, the recently increased interest toward a dimensional approach to psychopathology led to progressively broadening the concept of ASD, focusing on its subthreshold and gender-specific manifestations and on its link with other psychiatric conditions, including FED. Globally the studies summarized here provide further support to theoretical models featuring a neurodevelopmental approach for mental disorders. In particular, FED have been conceptualized as a possible psychopathological trajectory of a neurodevelopmental alteration, toward which female gender would act as one of many predisposing factors.
To provide evidence to the link between serotonin (5-HT), energy metabolism, and the human obese phenotype, the present study investigated the binding and function of the platelet 5-HT transporter (SERT), in relation to circulating insulin, leptin, and glycolipid metabolic parameters.
Seventy-four drug-free subjects were recruited on the basis of divergent body mass index (BMIs) (16.5-54.8 Kg/m2). All subjects were tested for their blood glycolipid profile together with platelet [3H]-paroxetine ([3H]-Par) binding and [3H]-5-HT reuptake measurements from April 1st to June 30th, 2019.
The [3H]-Par Bmax (fmol/mg proteins) was progressively reduced with increasing BMIs (P < .001), without changes in affinity. Moreover, Bmax was negatively correlated with BMI, waist/hip circumferences (W/HC), triglycerides (TD), glucose, insulin, and leptin, while positively with high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (P < .01). The reduction of 5-HT uptake rate (Vmax, pmol/min/109 platelets) among BMI groups was not statistically significant, but Vmax negatively correlated with leptin and uptake affinity values (P < .05). Besides, [3H]-Par affinity values positively correlated with glycemia and TD, while [3H]-5-HT reuptake affinity with glycemia only (P < .05). Finally, these correlations were specific of obese subjects, while, from multiple linear-regression analysis conducted on all subjects, insulin (P = .006) resulting negatively related to Bmax independently from BMI.
Present findings suggest the presence of a possible alteration of insulin/5-HT/leptin axis in obesity, differentially impinging the density, function, and/or affinity of the platelet SERT, as a result of complex appetite/reward-related interactions between the brain, gut, pancreatic islets, and adipose tissue. Furthermore, they support the foremost cooperation of peptides and 5-HT in maintaining energy homeostasis.
In the last decade, increasing literature focused on camouflaging as a strategy adopted to cope with social environment by patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A better understanding of this phenomenon may shed more light on cognitive mechanisms and coping strategies of patients in the autism continuum, eventually leading to reconsider some previous “dogmas” in this field, such as the gender discrepancy in ASD diagnosis. Moreover, shared features can be observed in the camouflaging strategies adopted among the general population, among patients of the autism spectrum, and among patients with different kinds of psychiatric disorders, further challenging our perspectives. Camouflaging behaviors might be considered as a transdiagnostic element, closely associated with the continuous distribution of the autism spectrum among the general and the clinical population.
While both depression and aging have been associated with oxidative stress and impaired immune response, little is known about redox patterns in elderly depressed subjects. This study investigates the relationship between redox/inflammatory patterns and depression in a sample of elderly adults.
The plasma levels of the advanced products of protein oxidation (AOPP), catalase (CAT), ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP), glutathione transferase (GST), interleukin 6 (IL-6), superoxide dismutase (SOD), total thiols (TT), and uric acid (UA) were evaluated in 30 patients with mood disorders with a current depressive episode (depressed patients, DP) as well as in 30 healthy controls (HC) aged 65 years and over. Subjects were assessed with the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D), the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (HAM-A), the Geriatric Depression Rating Scale (GDS), the Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI), the Reason for Living Inventory (RFL), the Activities of Daily Living (ADL), and the Instrumental Activity of Daily Living (IADL).
DP showed higher levels than HC of AOPP and IL-6, while displaying lower levels of FRAP, TT, and CAT. In the DP group, specific correlations were found among biochemical parameters. SOD, FRAP, UA, and TT levels were also significantly related to psychometric scale scores.
Specific alterations of redox systems are detectable among elderly DP.
Increasing literature reported higher rates of psychiatric disorders in parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as of autistic-like features in social and cognitive functioning. However, little attention has been paid to the association between autistic traits (AT) and global functioning in this population. The aim of the present work was to investigate clinical and functional correlates of AT among parents of ASD children, with a specific focus on ruminative thinking.
One hundred and twenty parents of ASD children were assessed by the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the Adult Autism Subthreshold Spectrum (AdAS Spectrum), the Ruminative Response Scale (RRS), the Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale (SOFAS).
Subjects with at least 1 psychiatric disorder (39.2%) showed significantly higher AdAS Spectrum and RRS scores. Subjects with a history of school difficulties and with language development alterations scored significantly higher on specific AdAS Spectrum domains. A significant negative correlation was found between SOFAS and AdAS Spectrum scores, as well as between SOFAS and RRS scores. AdAS Spectrum nonverbal communication domain score was identified has a statistically predictive variable for the presence of psychiatric disorders and lower SOFAS scores. Finally, we found a significant indirect effect of AdAS total score on SOFAS score, which was fully mediated by RRS total score.
AT in parents of ASD children seem to be associated with a higher vulnerability toward psychopathology and with a lower global functioning. Ruminative thinking may play a role in the relationship between AT and functional outcome.
While the literature frequently highlighted an association between social anxiety disorder (SAD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), few studies investigated the overlapping features of these conditions. The presented work evaluated the relationship between SAD and OCD spectrum in a clinical population and in healthy controls (HC).
Fifty-six patients with OCD, 51 with SAD, 43 with major depressive disorder (MDD), and 59 HC (N = 209) were assessed using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview, the Social Phobia Spectrum (SCI-SHY), and the Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum (SCI-OBS).
SAD patients scored significantly higher than other groups on all SCI-SHY domains and total score; OCD patients scored significantly higher than HC. MDD patients scored significantly higher than HC on the SCI-SHY total, Behavioral inhibition, and Interpersonal sensitivity domains. OCD patients scored significantly higher than other groups on all SCI-OBS domains except Doubt, for which OCD and SAD scored equally high. SAD patients scored significantly higher than HC on the SCI-OBS total, Childhood/adolescence, Doubt, and Hypercontrol domains. MDD patients scored significantly higher than HC on the Hypercontrol domain. SCI-OBS and SCI-SHY were widely correlated among groups, although lower correlations were found among OCD patients. Stronger correlations were observed between SCI-SHY Interpersonal sensitivity and SCI-OBS Doubt, Obsessive-compulsive themes,
and Hypercontrol; between SCI-SHY Specific anxieties/phobic features and SCI-OBS Obsessive-compulsive themes; and between SCI-SHY Behavioral inhibition and SCI-OBS Doubt, with slightly different patterns among groups.
OCD and SAD spectrums widely overlap in clinical samples and in the general population. Interpersonal sensitivity and obsessive doubts might represent a common cognitive core for these conditions.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a condition characterized by pervasiveness and impairment in social functioning, with a prevalence in the general population between 1.9% and 12.1%. The most consistent findings on its neurobiological underpinnings involve a wide range of neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine, glutamate, and GABA) and neuropeptides (oxytocin), but no comprehensive hypothesis is yet available. In particular, oxytocin is becoming increasingly established as a “prosocial neuropeptide” and, as such, is a major focus of current research, with a great range of therapeutic applications including SAD treatment. Specifically, the amygdala plays a pivotal role in conditioning and processing of fear, and exaggerated amygdala responses in SAD patients have been observed during various social-emotional stimuli. In addition to the amygdala, other brain areas of interest in SAD-related circuitry are represented by the medial prefrontal cortex, dorsal raphe, striatum, locus coeruleus, prefrontal cortex, insular cortex, and anterior cingulate cortex. The aim of this review is to provide an update on neurobiological correlates of SAD, with a special focus on neurotransmitters and brain areas possibly involved, and suggestions for future research that could lead to more specific therapeutic interventions.
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