A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Spring, 2024 | Number 2, Volume 38

Individuals with ASD maybe more vulnerable to PTSD

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may be especially vulnerable to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new study by researchers in Australia and France.

Alice Shaam Al Abed and colleagues found that in four different mouse models of ASD, exposure to a mildly stressful event induced PTSD-like memory. Control mice, on the other hand, developed PTSD only under extreme stress. The researchers also found that PTSD caused social deficits and repetitive behaviors to become more pronounced in the autism-model mice.

The researchers discovered that the formation of PTSD-type memories in the autism-model mice stemmed from an overactivation of the prefrontal cortex, which was associated with alterations in the activity of neurons called parvalbumin interneurons. Study coauthor Nathalie Dehorter says, “We identified specific cortical circuit alterations that trigger the switch between the formation of a normal memory and a PTSD-like memory during stress.”

The researchers also report that they could successfully treat the autism-model mice that developed PTSD by using behavioral therapy. Normalizing PTSD-like memory, they say, also led to a reduction in social
deficits and repetitive movements.

Their study, the researchers say, provides evidence that individuals with ASD may develop PTSD under levels of stress that are not considered extreme. In addition, they say, it emphasizes the importance of
identifying PTSD early in individuals with ASD, because PTSD is strongly associated with comorbid psychological issues and suicide.


Citations

“Parvalbumin interneuron activity in autism underlies susceptibility to PTSD-like memory formation,” Alice Shaam Al Abed, Tiarne Vickie Allen, Noorya Yasmin Ahmed, Azza Sellami, Yovina Sontani, Elise Caitlin Rawlinson, Aline Marighetto, Aline Desmedt, and Nathalie Dehorter, iScience, May 17, 2024 (free online). Address: Alice Shaam Al Abed, 1Eccles Institute of Neuroscience, John Curtin School of Medical Research, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia, [email protected].

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“Study shows heightened sensitivity to PTSD in autism,” news release, Queensland Brain Institute, May 3, 2024.