The Autism Spectrum: Behavioral, Psychiatric and Genetic Associations

Genes (Basel). 2023 Mar 9;14(3):677. doi: 10.3390/genes14030677.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) consists of a group of heterogeneous genetic neurobehavioral disorders associated with developmental impairments in social communication skills and stereotypic, rigid or repetitive behaviors. We review common behavioral, psychiatric and genetic associations related to ASD. Autism affects about 2% of children with 4:1 male-to-female ratio and a heritability estimate between 70 and 90%. The etiology of ASD involves a complex interplay between inheritance and environmental factors influenced by epigenetics. Over 800 genes and dozens of genetic syndromes are associated with ASD. Novel gene-protein interactions with pathway and molecular function analyses have identified at least three functional pathways including chromatin modeling, Wnt, Notch and other signaling pathways and metabolic disturbances involving neuronal growth and dendritic spine profiles. An estimated 50% of individuals with ASD are diagnosed with chromosome deletions or duplications (e.g., 15q11.2, BP1-BP2, 16p11.2 and 15q13.3), identified syndromes (e.g., Williams, Phelan-McDermid and Shprintzen velocardiofacial) or single gene disorders. Behavioral and psychiatric conditions in autism impacted by genetics influence clinical evaluations, counseling, diagnoses, therapeutic interventions and treatment approaches. Pharmacogenetics testing is now possible to help guide the selection of psychotropic medications to treat challenging behaviors or co-occurring psychiatric conditions commonly seen in ASD. In this review of the autism spectrum disorder, behavioral, psychiatric and genetic observations and associations relevant to the evaluation and treatment of individuals with ASD are discussed.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; behavior; genetic defects and associations; medical conditions; pharmacogenetics; psychiatry.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Autistic Disorder* / complications
  • Autistic Disorder* / genetics
  • Child
  • Chromosome Deletion
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Syndrome

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.