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Examining the Association Between Autistic Traits and Atypical Sensory Reactivity : A Twin Study

Taylor, Mark J.; Gustafsson, Peik LU ; Larsson, Henrik; Gillberg, Christopher; Lundström, Sebastian LU and Lichstenstein, Paul (2018) In Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 57(2). p.96-102
Abstract

Objective: Atypical responses to sensory stimuli are common features of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Consequently, atypical sensory reactivity (SR) is now a diagnostic feature of ASD. Quantitative genetic research on ASD has overlooked these symptoms, however. We therefore investigated the association between autistic traits and SR using twin methods. Method: Autistic traits and SR were assessed by 2 separate scales in 12,419 Swedish twin pairs (n = 3,586 monozygotic [MZ], n = 8,833 dizygotic [DZ]) when the twins were 9 or 12 years of age. The classic twin design estimated the degree to which etiological factors associated with autistic traits were also associated with SR, and the degree to which such shared factors explained the... (More)

Objective: Atypical responses to sensory stimuli are common features of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Consequently, atypical sensory reactivity (SR) is now a diagnostic feature of ASD. Quantitative genetic research on ASD has overlooked these symptoms, however. We therefore investigated the association between autistic traits and SR using twin methods. Method: Autistic traits and SR were assessed by 2 separate scales in 12,419 Swedish twin pairs (n = 3,586 monozygotic [MZ], n = 8,833 dizygotic [DZ]) when the twins were 9 or 12 years of age. The classic twin design estimated the degree to which etiological factors associated with autistic traits were also associated with SR, and the degree to which such shared factors explained the covariance between these phenotypes. DeFries–Fulker analysis estimated the genetic correlation between screening diagnoses of ASD, defined broadly and strictly, and SR. Results: Autistic traits and SR were both highly heritable (62%–75% and 66%–71%, respectively). There was a moderate phenotypic correlation between autistic traits and SR (r = 0.47). Genetic influences on these phenotypes correlated moderately (genetic correlation = 0.60). These overlapping genetic factors explained most of the correlation between autistic traits and SR. Genetic correlations with SR increased for broad ASD (genetic correlation = 0.72) and strict ASD (genetic correlation = 0.80). Conclusion: The genetic overlap observed between autistic traits and SR lends quantitative genetic support to the notion that ASD and SR are strongly linked. Such symptoms may thus comprise part of the ASD genotype, as well as phenotype. Associations persisted across all definitions of ASD, indicating a genetic link between the broader ASD phenotype and SR.

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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
autism, genetics, sensory reactivity, twin study
in
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
volume
57
issue
2
pages
7 pages
publisher
Lippincott Williams and Wilkins
external identifiers
  • scopus:85041181247
ISSN
0890-8567
DOI
10.1016/j.jaac.2017.11.019
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
3e165b05-3094-47ae-8f0f-22dcb8fa8750
date added to LUP
2018-03-06 13:07:48
date last changed
2018-05-29 09:56:27
@article{3e165b05-3094-47ae-8f0f-22dcb8fa8750,
  abstract     = {<p>Objective: Atypical responses to sensory stimuli are common features of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Consequently, atypical sensory reactivity (SR) is now a diagnostic feature of ASD. Quantitative genetic research on ASD has overlooked these symptoms, however. We therefore investigated the association between autistic traits and SR using twin methods. Method: Autistic traits and SR were assessed by 2 separate scales in 12,419 Swedish twin pairs (n = 3,586 monozygotic [MZ], n = 8,833 dizygotic [DZ]) when the twins were 9 or 12 years of age. The classic twin design estimated the degree to which etiological factors associated with autistic traits were also associated with SR, and the degree to which such shared factors explained the covariance between these phenotypes. DeFries–Fulker analysis estimated the genetic correlation between screening diagnoses of ASD, defined broadly and strictly, and SR. Results: Autistic traits and SR were both highly heritable (62%–75% and 66%–71%, respectively). There was a moderate phenotypic correlation between autistic traits and SR (r = 0.47). Genetic influences on these phenotypes correlated moderately (genetic correlation = 0.60). These overlapping genetic factors explained most of the correlation between autistic traits and SR. Genetic correlations with SR increased for broad ASD (genetic correlation = 0.72) and strict ASD (genetic correlation = 0.80). Conclusion: The genetic overlap observed between autistic traits and SR lends quantitative genetic support to the notion that ASD and SR are strongly linked. Such symptoms may thus comprise part of the ASD genotype, as well as phenotype. Associations persisted across all definitions of ASD, indicating a genetic link between the broader ASD phenotype and SR.</p>},
  author       = {Taylor, Mark J. and Gustafsson, Peik and Larsson, Henrik and Gillberg, Christopher and Lundström, Sebastian and Lichstenstein, Paul},
  issn         = {0890-8567},
  keyword      = {autism,genetics,sensory reactivity,twin study},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {02},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {96--102},
  publisher    = {Lippincott Williams and Wilkins},
  series       = {Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry},
  title        = {Examining the Association Between Autistic Traits and Atypical Sensory Reactivity : A Twin Study},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2017.11.019},
  volume       = {57},
  year         = {2018},
}