Study links autism and schizophrenia

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  December 15, 2009 11:17 AM

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Researchers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver have found that autism and schizophrenia may be genetic opposites, pointing to the possibility of new treatments for autism spectrum disorders.

According to evolutionary biologist Bernard Crespi and his co-authors, Philip Stead and Michael Elliot, autism and schizophrenia are each caused by anomalies in the same places in the human genome. People without either disorder usually have two copies of these genes; people with autism were found to have a single copy, while those with schizophrenia had extra copies.   

"Autism and schizophrenia have always been regarded as being quite similar, but our data pretty much says the opposite," Crespi told The Vancouver Sun. "The idea of two psychiatric illnesses being opposites is quite a controversial one."

"It's just like what people are actually doing now with cancer," designing drugs to target specific receptors on cancer cells, Crespi explained in the article. "In principle, something very similar can be done with autism and schizophrenia."

Autism and Schizophrenia have long been linked, with researchers testing controversial treatments focused on controlling symptoms rather than addressing possible causes. Studies in the 1960s gave children LSD to combat certain autistic symptoms, which then were thought to be reactions to "the disorganization of schizophrenia." This week, Dr. Chun Wong at Autisable.com suggests that medical marijuana could be used to treat aggressive behavior in autistic children. Other current treatments range from Applied Behavior Analysis to biomedical interventions to following a gluten- and casein-free diet (for a primer on interventions, see my earlier article here).

With autism diagnoses on the rise in the United States -- a recent Department of Health and Human Services report showed that 1 in 91 children are on the autism spectrum, and the rate among boys is a startling 1 in 58 -- the fact that the two disorders may be opposite sides of the same coin brings hope that breakthroughs in treating schizophrenia may result in similar breakthroughs on the autism front.


Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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9 comments so far...
  1. Well ABA and diet have been working pretty good so far, however the thought of having two of our six, who are classic, be Autistic AND high. Yikes! Don't want to go there.

    Posted by John Kirton December 16, 09 12:05 PM
  1. Is the University of Rochester , N.Y. aware of your finding of autism? My grandchild does have autism . Please me any input that may help us. He does not speak. How can we help him?

    Posted by ralph r. roperti December 16, 09 02:48 PM
  1. what is the snp that is involved in this research?

    Posted by Susan Auckland December 17, 09 01:59 AM
  1. I would recommend taking a very large grain of salt from the advice of a chiropractor regarding medical marijuana, or the usage of any medication. As a physician who treats many individuals with intellectual disabilities, I have seen that marijuana often causes significant problems in short- and long-term usage in these individuals. I am certainly in favor of medical marijuana for a variety of uses. However, there are absolutely no studies regarding this, and I would strongly recommend that any family discuss this with a licenced medical doctor prior to even considering what could be very risky experimentation.

    Posted by A. Kaul December 18, 09 08:38 AM
  1. There are some exciting new drug free Autism treatments available. Though ABA has traditionally been very expensive, companies like rethink autism http://bit.ly/6s1G3J are bringing affordable ABA tools to parents. ABA has over 30 years of scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness for treating Autism. Considering that long term marijuana use can negatively effect the brain, http://bit.ly/66kq1S and the lack scientific evidence supporting it's effectiveness for treating autism, wouldn't it be better to explore drug free, affordable treatments that have measurable results?

    Posted by Nick December 18, 09 12:35 PM
  1. Here is a site with huge Information On Pregnancy Diseases And Genetic Testing. You can find information regarding Autism in:
    http://www.geneticsofpregnancy.com/Encyclopedia/Autism_Pervasive_Developmental_Disorder.aspx?pid=62

    Posted by Ali January 20, 10 07:25 AM
  1. I have been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and also catatonic schizophrenia. How do you explain THAT?

    Whoa! All I can think of is that the behavioral extremes are similar to the stimming and echolalia of Asperger's, maybe? And, also, that no one really knows what causes autism? Thanks for sharing, Bethany! -- LMA

    Posted by Bethany February 25, 10 08:57 PM
  1. I have schizophrenia and have tried multiple drugs and am mostly allergic to anti psychotics so my response be prerogative. I currently take 1200 lithium, flexiril for neuralgia pain tardive dyskenisia and grimace facial muscle pain, metoprolol tartrate for hypertension due to inflammation or other, and ambien for sleep terror disorder. I have constant auditory and visual hallucinations with two other personalities that try to takeover my main personality for use of my day to day body and I have found that Ambien and other hypnotic sedatives work better than lithium and all other drugs I have taken, I take ten mg ambien and if I stay awake it causes the voices to fall asleep and become much less responsive and much less hallucinatory, though it increases the persistent sexual arousal syndrome they cause as they move around but even this is less in all at its peak. If they could develop a sedative hypnotic i could take during the daytime that does not cause visual hallucinations I would take it and it would be seventy five percent effective rather than the dull twenty five percent effectiveness of lithium and other antipsychotics that do not cause (in some cases) even worse symptoms than the schizophrenia bacteria by itself without any chemical compounds at all.
    Autism looks like catatonia in some extreme cases

    Posted by chaoco June 5, 10 07:28 AM
  1. Children born after complications in delivery are more likely to have Schizophrenia. If there are complications during delivery, this can lead to hypoxia in the neonatal brain resulting in higher possibility of the child getting Schizophrenia when he grows up. This finding was supported by animal model, epidemiological, molecular and genetic studies. Proper care during pregnancy to avoid stress and keep a good diet is an important factor. Studies have shown that mothers who starve or are having malnutrition are likely to give birth to a child suffering from Schizophrenia. Through a study on pregnant ladies during Winter War of 1939, in Finland, it was elucidated that those pregnant women who knew about their husband’s death during pregnancy and hence underwent a lot of stress were more susceptible to give birth to a child with Schizophrenia, than the women who knew about their husband’s death after delivery.

    Posted by Schizophrenia October 8, 10 02:12 AM
 
9 comments so far...
  1. Well ABA and diet have been working pretty good so far, however the thought of having two of our six, who are classic, be Autistic AND high. Yikes! Don't want to go there.

    Posted by John Kirton December 16, 09 12:05 PM
  1. Is the University of Rochester , N.Y. aware of your finding of autism? My grandchild does have autism . Please me any input that may help us. He does not speak. How can we help him?

    Posted by ralph r. roperti December 16, 09 02:48 PM
  1. what is the snp that is involved in this research?

    Posted by Susan Auckland December 17, 09 01:59 AM
  1. I would recommend taking a very large grain of salt from the advice of a chiropractor regarding medical marijuana, or the usage of any medication. As a physician who treats many individuals with intellectual disabilities, I have seen that marijuana often causes significant problems in short- and long-term usage in these individuals. I am certainly in favor of medical marijuana for a variety of uses. However, there are absolutely no studies regarding this, and I would strongly recommend that any family discuss this with a licenced medical doctor prior to even considering what could be very risky experimentation.

    Posted by A. Kaul December 18, 09 08:38 AM
  1. There are some exciting new drug free Autism treatments available. Though ABA has traditionally been very expensive, companies like rethink autism http://bit.ly/6s1G3J are bringing affordable ABA tools to parents. ABA has over 30 years of scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness for treating Autism. Considering that long term marijuana use can negatively effect the brain, http://bit.ly/66kq1S and the lack scientific evidence supporting it's effectiveness for treating autism, wouldn't it be better to explore drug free, affordable treatments that have measurable results?

    Posted by Nick December 18, 09 12:35 PM
  1. Here is a site with huge Information On Pregnancy Diseases And Genetic Testing. You can find information regarding Autism in:
    http://www.geneticsofpregnancy.com/Encyclopedia/Autism_Pervasive_Developmental_Disorder.aspx?pid=62

    Posted by Ali January 20, 10 07:25 AM
  1. I have been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and also catatonic schizophrenia. How do you explain THAT?

    Whoa! All I can think of is that the behavioral extremes are similar to the stimming and echolalia of Asperger's, maybe? And, also, that no one really knows what causes autism? Thanks for sharing, Bethany! -- LMA

    Posted by Bethany February 25, 10 08:57 PM
  1. I have schizophrenia and have tried multiple drugs and am mostly allergic to anti psychotics so my response be prerogative. I currently take 1200 lithium, flexiril for neuralgia pain tardive dyskenisia and grimace facial muscle pain, metoprolol tartrate for hypertension due to inflammation or other, and ambien for sleep terror disorder. I have constant auditory and visual hallucinations with two other personalities that try to takeover my main personality for use of my day to day body and I have found that Ambien and other hypnotic sedatives work better than lithium and all other drugs I have taken, I take ten mg ambien and if I stay awake it causes the voices to fall asleep and become much less responsive and much less hallucinatory, though it increases the persistent sexual arousal syndrome they cause as they move around but even this is less in all at its peak. If they could develop a sedative hypnotic i could take during the daytime that does not cause visual hallucinations I would take it and it would be seventy five percent effective rather than the dull twenty five percent effectiveness of lithium and other antipsychotics that do not cause (in some cases) even worse symptoms than the schizophrenia bacteria by itself without any chemical compounds at all.
    Autism looks like catatonia in some extreme cases

    Posted by chaoco June 5, 10 07:28 AM
  1. Children born after complications in delivery are more likely to have Schizophrenia. If there are complications during delivery, this can lead to hypoxia in the neonatal brain resulting in higher possibility of the child getting Schizophrenia when he grows up. This finding was supported by animal model, epidemiological, molecular and genetic studies. Proper care during pregnancy to avoid stress and keep a good diet is an important factor. Studies have shown that mothers who starve or are having malnutrition are likely to give birth to a child suffering from Schizophrenia. Through a study on pregnant ladies during Winter War of 1939, in Finland, it was elucidated that those pregnant women who knew about their husband’s death during pregnancy and hence underwent a lot of stress were more susceptible to give birth to a child with Schizophrenia, than the women who knew about their husband’s death after delivery.

    Posted by Schizophrenia October 8, 10 02:12 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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