Autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia: An updated conceptual review

Autism Res. 2022 Mar;15(3):384-412. doi: 10.1002/aur.2659. Epub 2021 Dec 29.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia (SCZ) are separate disorders, with distinct clinical profiles and natural histories. ASD, typically diagnosed in childhood, is characterized by restricted or repetitive interests or behaviors and impaired social communication, and it tends to have a stable course. SCZ, typically diagnosed in adolescence or adulthood, is characterized by hallucinations and delusions, and tends to be associated with declining function. However, youth with ASD are three to six times more likely to develop SCZ than their neurotypical counterparts, and increasingly, research has shown that ASD and SCZ converge at several levels. We conducted a systematic review of studies since 2013 relevant to understanding this convergence, and present here a narrative synthesis of key findings, which we have organized into four broad categories: symptoms and behavior, perception and cognition, biomarkers, and genetic and environmental risk. We then discuss opportunities for future research into the phenomenology and neurobiology of overlap between ASD and SCZ. Understanding this overlap will allow for researchers, and eventually clinicians, to understand the factors that may make a child with ASD vulnerable to developing SCZ. LAY SUMMARY: Autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia are distinct diagnoses, but people with autism and people with schizophrena share several characteristics. We review recent studies that have examined these areas of overlap, and discuss the kinds of studies we will need to better understand how these disorders are related. Understanding this will be important to help us identify which autistic children are at risk of developing schizophrenia.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; biomarker; cognition; medical genetics; review; schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Schizophrenia*