As you may have learned from our previous posts, there are many links being discovered connecting autism with other disorders, including ADHD, epilepsy, and now schizophrenia. Dr. Mark Weiser, Sheba Medical Center Chief of Psychiatry, and his collaboration of elite team of researchers at the University of North Carolina, Karolinska Institute in Sweden, King College London, and the Israeli Defense Force Medical Corps, compared three data sets—one in Israel and two in Sweden—to analyze the possible link between autism and schizophrenia, and autism and bipolar disorder. The results showed a strong association indicating that people with a schizophrenic sibling end up being 12 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than those without a schizophrenic sibling. Bipolar disorder showed the same connection, but not as strong as schizophrenia.
Finding the same results across three independent data bases is difficult to accomplish, making this study quite significant for the field of autism.
Dr. Weiser knows that many people do not usually think of autism and schizophrenia as being similar, but in fact,
“The phenomena of schizophrenia and autism are actually quite similar and this shows it might be genetic… My research group and the field in general are trying to understand what the biology is behind the findings. The results will help scientists better understand the genetics of mental illness.”[i]
Both autism and schizophrenia have hallmark characteristics of social disassociation and cognitive deficits. This study is being considered a “scientific leap forward” and is published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
The findings of this study could be the missing link to the study of the etiology of autism, but until further research is done, Dr. Weiser does not want this study to influence the way doctors treat both types of patients.
[i] “Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs” TAU: Autism may be linked to schizophrenia. 01 Sep 2013. Web. < http://mfa.gov.il/mfa/innovativeisrael/sciencetech/pages/autism-may-be-linked-to-schizophrenia-1-september-2013.aspx>