Genetic and Developmental Perspective of Language Abnormality in Autism and Schizophrenia: One Disease Occurring at Different Ages in Humans?

Neuroscientist. 2016 Apr;22(2):119-31. doi: 10.1177/1073858415572078. Epub 2015 Feb 16.


Language and communication through it are two of the defining features of normally developed human beings. However, both these functions are often impaired in autism and schizophrenia. In the former disorder, the problem usually emerges in early childhood (~2 years old) and typically includes a lack of communication. In the latter condition, the language problems usually occur in adolescence and adulthood and presents as disorganized speech. What are the fundamental mechanisms underlying these two disorders? Is there a shared genetic basis? Are the traditional beliefs about them true? Are there any common strategies for their prevention and management? To answer these questions, we searched PubMed by using autism, schizophrenia, gene, and language abnormality as keywords, and we reconsidered the basic concepts about these two diseases or syndromes. We found many functional genes, for example, FOXP2, COMT, GABRB3, and DISC1, are actually implicated in both of them. After observing the symptoms, genetic correlates, and temporal progression of these two disorders as well as their relationships more carefully, we now infer that the occurrence of these two diseases is likely developmentally regulated via interaction between the genome and the environment. Furthermore, we propose a unified view of autism and schizophrenia: a single age-dependently occurred disease that is newly named as Systemic Integral Disorder: if occurring in children before age 2, it is called autism; if in adolescence or a later age, it is called schizophrenia.

Keywords: autism; genes and development; language impairment; schizophrenia; systemic integral disorder (SID).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / complications*
  • Autistic Disorder / genetics
  • Brain / pathology
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology
  • Developmental Disabilities / genetics*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Language Disorders / etiology*
  • Language Disorders / genetics*
  • Schizophrenia / complications*