In the largest study of its kind, researchers are reporting that autism may be more closely tied to a handful of other psychiatric disorders than previously thought.
Scientists analyzed the genomes of more than 60,000 people finding that those with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia may all share genetic risk factors.
For the study published online this week in the journal The Lancet, researchers looked at the genomes of 33,332 people, each of whom had one of the five psychiatric disorders targeted, and 27,888 people with no mental health issues. They found four areas of genetic code with variations seen in people with all five psychiatric conditions.
The discovery could help improve understanding of the psychiatric disorders, researchers said, and may lead to more accurate ways to diagnose the conditions.
“Our results provide new evidence that may inform a move beyond descriptive syndromes in psychiatry and towards classification based on underlying causes,” said Jordan Smoller of Massachusetts General Hospital who worked on the study.