Tel Aviv University campus

A new Tel Aviv University and Sheba Medical Center study has demonstrated that autism spectrum disorders share a common root cause with psychiatric illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar, the Jerusalem Post reported. Dr. Mark Weiser of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sheba Medical Center has discovered that a family history of psychiatric diseases such as bipolar and schizophrenia is a risk factor for autism.

Based on studies conducted in both Israel and Sweden, children whose parent or sibling had schizophrenia were 2.6 to 2.9 more likely to have autism, while children whose parent or sibling had bipolar were 1.6 to 1.9 more likely to have autism, Fox News reported. Three data sets, two based in Sweden and one based in Israel, were used for this study to uncover the link between these mental illnesses. “We found the same results in all three data sets,” Weiser noted.

Weiser believes that this study sheds new light on the genetics of these disorders and may lead to further research on this topic. He thinks that the connection between these illnesses could be the “missing link” regarding our knowledge of autism spectrum disorders. “It’s been questioned for many years, whether there’s a relationship” between schizophrenia and autism, said Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, a neurologist from the Lurie Center for Autism at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Lexington, Massachusetts. This Israeli study has succeeded to answer this question to some extent.

Fox News reported that “The number of autism diagnoses in the United States has been rising, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates” that “one in 88 kids has an autism spectrum disorder. That’s up from one in 150 a decade ago.” According to Alut: The Israeli Society for Autistic Children; over 5,000 individuals in Israel have been diagnosed with autism, 250 Israeli infants are identified as autistic annually, autism occurs in 1 out of every 250 births in Israel, and autism is four times more likely in males than females.

Alut claims that autism “is a lifelong neuro-developmental disorder, which typically appears during the first three years of a child’s life. […] Autism affects a person’s ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the surrounding environment. [….] It is a complex developmental disability that typically results in a neurological disorder which affects the functioning of the brain. It impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills, resulting typically in difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. Some people with autism exhibit repeated body movements, unusual responses to people or attachments to objects, and resistance to changes in routine. They may experience sensitivities in the five senses. There are currently no therapeutic cures for autism, although early behavioral intervention dramatically improves outcome.”

Reported by: Rachel Avraham for United with Israel

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