Objectives: The present study aimed to investigate the role of AVP, BDNF and OXT as potential biochemical correlates of subclinical autistic traits in a cohort of healthy young adults.
Methods: One hundred and twenty-three subjects (64 males, 59 females) were recruited who were between 20 and 37 years old (M=23.17, SD=3.97). All participants were screened by a senior psychiatrist to exclude the presence of psychiatric disorders. Participants completed the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), a widely used measure for the identification of autistic traits in the general population. Blood samples were obtained from all participants at the same time of the day to allow for circadian variation. All women in the study were taking oral contraceptives and thus we considered their sexual hormone levels as stable. Analyses were conducted using commercially available ELISA kits (R&D Systems, Minneapolis, MN) according to the manufacturer’s instruction.
Results: We conducted a multiple regression analysis using the AQ score as the dependent variable and sex, vasopressin, oxytocin and BDNF levels as the independent variables. The model was significant (p<0.01), explaining the 46% of the variance of the AQ score. Among the parameters included in the analysis, vasopressin levels (p=0.01) and BDNF levels (p<0.006) were independent predictors of AQ score.
Conclusions: The association between a gradient of autistic traits and AVP, BDNF and OXT levels in healthy adults and patients with autism will be discussed. These preliminary results support the hypothesis of a continuum underlying autistic traits in the general population.
See more of: Clinical Phenotype
See more of: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Phenotype