Autism - 2014 Lancet review

What is autism?

Autism is a set of heterogeneous neurodevelopmental conditions, characterised by:

- early-onset difficulties in social communication
- unusually restricted, repetitive behavior and interests

How common is autism?

The worldwide population prevalence is 1%. Autism affects more males than females. Comorbidity is common (more than 70% have concurrent conditions).

Individuals with autism have atypical cognitive profiles:

- impaired social cognition, social perception, and executive dysfunction
- atypical perceptual and information processing

These profiles are underpinned by atypical neural development at the systems level.

Is it hereditary?

Genetics has a key role in the etiology of autism, in conjunction with developmentally early environmental factors. Large-effect rare mutations and small-effect common variants contribute to risk.

What is the treatment?

Early detection is essential for early intervention. Early comprehensive and targeted behavioral interventions can improve social communication and reduce anxiety and aggression.

Drugs can reduce comorbid symptoms, but do not directly improve social communication. Creation of a supportive environment that accepts and respects that the individual is different is crucial.


Autism - The Lancet

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