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Autism Spectrum Disorder and Schizophrenia Are Better Differentiated by Positive Symptoms Than Negative Symptoms.


ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia (SZ) are heterogenous neurodevelopmental disorders that overlap in symptom presentation. The purpose of this study was to specify overlapping symptom domains and to identify symptoms that can reliably differentiate adults with ASD (n = 53), SZ (n = 39), and typical development (TD; n = 40). All participants regardless of diagnosis were administered gold-standard diagnostic assessments of ASD and SZ characteristics including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2) and the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). Sensitivity and specificity of the ADOS were assessed using diagnostic cut-off scores. The degree of symptom overlap on these measures between participant groups was analyzed using Analyses of Variance (ANOVAs), Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) Curves, and Analyses of Covariance (ANCOVAs) to control for group differences in IQ and sex distributions. The ADOS reliably discriminated ASD and TD adults, but there was a high rate of "false positives" in SZ patients who did not meet the DSM-5 criteria for ASD. To identify the reasons for low specificity in the SZ sample, we categorized ASD and SZ symptoms into 'positive' (presence of atypical behaviors) and 'negative' (absence of typical behaviors) symptoms. ASD and SZ groups overlapped on negative symptoms largely related to the absence of typical social and communicative behaviors, whereas disorder-specific positive symptoms differentiated ASD and SZ. For example, those with ASD scored higher on restricted and repetitive behaviors and stereotyped language, whereas those with SZ scored higher on psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. These results suggest that, when making a differential diagnosis between ASD and SZ, clinicians may benefit from focusing on the presence or absence of positive ASD and SZ symptoms. Standardized measures to classify ASD symptoms into positive and negative symptoms have not yet been developed but represent a potentially viable clinical tool.

SUBMITTER: Trevisan DA 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC7301837 | BioStudies | 2020-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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