Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are often comorbid. The purpose of this study is to explore the relationships between ASD and ADHD symptoms by applying causal modeling. We used a large phenotypic data set of 417 children with ASD and/or ADHD, 562 affected and unaffected siblings, and 414 controls, to infer a structural equation model using a causal discovery algorithm. Three distinct pathways between ASD and ADHD were identified: (1) from impulsivity to difficulties with understanding social information, (2) from hyperactivity to stereotypic, repetitive behavior, (3) a pairwise pathway between inattention, difficulties with understanding social information, and verbal IQ. These findings may inform future studies on understanding the pathophysiological mechanisms behind the overlap between ASD and ADHD.
Keywords: ADHD; ASD; Comorbidity; Inattention; Social interaction.