Association of social and cognitive impairment and biomarkers in autism spectrum disorders

J Neuroinflammation. 2014 Jan 8;11:4. doi: 10.1186/1742-2094-11-4.


Objectives: The neurological basis for autism is still not fully understood, and the role of the interaction between neuro-inflammation and neurotransmission impairment needs to be clearer. This study aims to test the possible association between impaired levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and interferon-γ-induced protein-16 (IFI16) and the severity of social and cognitive dysfunctions in individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Materials and methods: GABA, serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and IFI16 as biochemical parameters related to neurochemistry and inflammation were determined in the plasma of 52 Saudi autistic male patients, categorized as mild-moderate and severe as indicated by their Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) or social responsiveness scale (SRS), and compared to 30 age- and gender-matched control samples.

Results: The data indicated that Saudi patients with autism have remarkably impaired plasma levels of the measured parameters compared to age and gender-matched controls. While serotonin in platelet-free plasma and dopamine did not correlated with the severity in social and cognitive dysfunction, GABA, oxytocin, and IFI16 were remarkably associated with the severity of both tested scores (SRS and CARS).

Conclusions: The relationship between the selected parameters confirms the role of impaired neurochemistry and neuro-inflammation in the etiology of autism spectrum disorders and the possibility of using GABA, oxytocin, and IFI16 as markers of autism severity. Receiver operating characteristic analysis together with predictiveness diagrams proved that the measured parameters could be used as predictive biomarkers of clinical symptoms and provide significant guidance for future therapeutic strategy to re-establish physiological homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Area Under Curve
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive* / blood
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive* / complications
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive* / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / blood
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / blood
  • Oxytocin / blood
  • Statistics as Topic


  • Biomarkers
  • IFI6 protein, human
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Oxytocin