The co-occurrence of autistic and ADHD dimensions in adults: an etiological study in 17 770 twins

Polderman, T. J. C.; Hoekstra, R. A.; Posthuma, D. and Larsson, H. (2014). The co-occurrence of autistic and ADHD dimensions in adults: an etiological study in 17 770 twins. Translational Psychiatry, 4(9), article no. e435.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/tp.2014.84

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often occur together. To obtain more insight in potential causes for the co-occurrence, this study examined the genetic and environmental etiology of the association between specific ASD and ADHD disorder dimensions. Self-reported data on ASD dimensions social and communication difficulties (ASDsc), and repetitive and restricted behavior and interests (ASDr), and ADHD dimensions inattention (IA), and hyperactivity/impulsivity (HI) were assessed in a community sample of 17 770 adult Swedish twins. Phenotypic, genetic and environmental associations between disorder dimensions were examined in a multivariate model, accounting for sex differences. ASDr showed the strongest associations with IA and HI in both sexes (rp 0.33 to 0.40). ASDsc also correlated moderately with IA (females rp 0.29 and males rp 0.35) but only modestly with HI (females rp 0.17 and males rp 0.20). Genetic correlations ranged from 0.22 to 0.64 and were strongest between ASDr and IA and HI. Sex differences were virtually absent. The ASDr dimension (reflecting restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities) showed the strongest association with dimensions of ADHD, on a phenotypic, genetic and environmental level. This study opens new avenues for molecular genetic research. As our findings demonstrated that genetic overlap between disorders is dimension-specific, future gene-finding studies on psychiatric comorbidity should focus on carefully selected genetically related dimensions of disorders.

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