Cry, baby, cry: Expression of Distress as a Biomarker and Modulator in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2017 Feb 15;20(6):498-503. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyx014. Online ahead of print.


Background:: Early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is critical, because early intensive treatment greatly improves its prognosis.

Methods:: We review studies that examined vocalizations of infants with autism spectrum disorder and mouse models of autism spectrum disorder as a potential means to identify autism spectrum disorder before the symptomatic elements of autism spectrum disorder emerge. We further discuss clinical implications and future research priorities in the field.

Results:: Atypical early vocal calls (i.e., cry) may represent an early biomarker for autism spectrum disorder (or at least for a subgroup of children with autism spectrum disorder), and thus can assist with early detection. Moreover, cry is likely more than an early biomarker of autism spectrum disorder; it is also an early causative factor in the development of the disorder. Specifically, atypical crying, as recently suggested, might induce a “self-generated environmental factor” that in turn, influences the prognosis of the disorder. Because atypical crying in autism spectrum disorder is difficult to understand, it may have a negative impact on the quality of care by the caregiver (see graphical abstract).

Conclusions:: Evidence supports the hypothesis that atypical vocalization is an early, functionally integral component of autism spectrum disorder.