Review Finds People with Autism Have a Higher Prevalence of Parkinsonism

March 06, 2023

A Higher Rate of Parkinson’s Disease Also Discovered in Older Adults with ASD

Researchers from the University of Singapore have recently published a systematic review evaluating the clinical and genetic associations between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and parkinsonian features. The team discovered that individuals with ASD have a higher prevalence of parkinsonism, including Parkinson’s disease (PD) for older adults, than age-matched controls. Parkinsonism is a set of brain conditions that cause slowed movements, rigidity (stiffness), and tremors. The researchers identified several genes, most notably PARK2, that are linked with both ASD and PD, including individuals carrying specific rare genetic variants presenting with autistic behavior and parkinsonism. They also found that other PD-related gene loci, such as RIT2, CD157/BST1, GPCR37, and the SLC gene family could result in autistic behavior and parkinsonism. Rare genetic mutations (such as ATP13A2, CLN3, and WDR45) could also contribute to the same outcome. The review highlighted that sex differences might play a role in the presentation of parkinsonism in ASD patients. Specifically, this research found that females with ASD are more likely to have parkinsonism. This finding aligns with previous research that concluded that females with ASD were at greater risk of developing health conditions than males with the disorder. Unfortunately, the researchers could not distinguish whether motor dysfunction in ASD is a risk factor or predisposes individuals to develop parkinsonism. The review concludes by calling for further prospective cohort studies to evaluate the progression of parkinsonian features in ASD patients. The authors suggest that genetic screening and clinical genetic correlations in ASD families with parkinsonism could provide additional clues to the association between both disorders. These future studies are critically important, especially as individuals in the autism community age. 

Original Review

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