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Autism and early development in adults with schizophrenia

Participants: Maria Unenge Hallerbäck, Tove Lugnegård & Christopher Gillberg.

Background: Typical symptoms of schizophrenia usually appear in young adult life, but problems with social interaction, activity control, motor performance, and cognition have often been noted in childhood. This thesis explores similarities and differences regarding early development between indi-viduals with clinical diagnoses of schizophrenia and Asperger syndrome

Study: In this study, 46 individuals (29 men, 17 women) with a clinical diagnosis of schizophrenic psychosis (SP) and 54 individuals (26 men, 28 women) with a clinical diagnosis of Asperger syndrome (AS) were included. In 70% of those with SP and 83% of those with AS, collateral information was provided by parents. The Diagnostic Interview for Social and COmmunication disorders – eleventh version (DISCO-11) – was used when interviewing these relatives. This instrument covers childhood development, adaptive functioning, and symptoms of ASD – current and lifetime. There is a strict al-gorithm for ASD diagnosis. The clinical schizophrenia diagnoses were confirmed or rejected using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders (SCID-I).

Results: 13 of the 32 cases with SP examined had a DISCO-algorithm diagnosis of ASD. Focusing only on those for whom a schizophrenic psychosis (schizophrenia paranoid or undifferentiated subtype, schizoaffective disorder or schizophreniform disorder) was confirmed by SCID and for whom a DISCO-interview was obtained, 52% met criteria for an ASD diagnosis. The deficits in quality of friendship and social interaction as well as the restricted interests were similar/identical to those found in individuals with AS. These deficits were present prior to the psychosis according to the parental in-terviews.


Hallerbäck, M.U., Lugnegård, T., & Gillberg, C. (2012). ADHD and Nicotine Use in Schizophrenia and Asperger syndrome: A Controlled Study. Journal of Attention Disorders, doi: 10.1177/1087054712439099

Unenge Hallerbäck, M., Lugnegård, T. & Gillberg, C. (2012). Is autism spectrum disorder common in schizophrenia? Psychiatry Research, 198, 12-17.

Hallerbäck, M.U., Lugnegård, T., & Gillberg, C. Childhood impairments in social interaction: a con-trolled study of young adults with schizophrenic psychosis or Asperger syndrome. (Submitted).

Hallerbäck, M.U., Lugnegård, T., Hjärthag, F., & Gillberg, C. (2009). The Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test: test-retest reliability of a Swedish version. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 14, 127-143.


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