Study by Kenneth Gadow, PhD., on Biomarker for Behavioral Problems in Autistic Children Published

A paper by Kenneth Gadow, PhD, and colleagues was published in the October issue of Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. The study suggests an improved method for predicting risk of behavioral problems in children with autism spectrum disorders.

The paper is titled “Parent–child DRD4 genotype as a potential biomarker for oppositional, anxiety, and repetitive behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder.“ Dr. Gadow is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University. The research team included faculty from the Departments of Pediatrics, Pathology, and Mathematics at Stony Brook and a colleague at Zucker Hillside Hospital.

Psychological and behavioral disorders, including oppositional-defiant disorders, separation anxiety, and repetitive behaviors, often pose problems for autistic children and their parents. Prior research uncovered an allele of the DRD4 genotype associated with an increased risk of behavioral problems. Dr. Gadow and his team were interested in knowing whether the presence of this allele in the genes of one or both parents affects risk factors.

They discovered that oppositional-defiant behaviors and separation anxiety are more likely to occur, and to be more severe, when the allele is present in both mother and child; less likely and less severe if it is absent in both. They found a similar pattern with regard to obsessive compulsive behaviors when they looked at the genotypes of fathers and their children.

If their findings can be validated in larger samples, testing for the allele in parents and children may help doctors anticipate behavioral problems and make plans for their treatment. The study also holds promise for generating new hypotheses about the genetic bases of psychiatric disorders among autistic children.