Examining overlap and homogeneity in ASD, ADHD, and OCD

What is the research about?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are neurodevelopmental disorders that impact how the brain functions. Emergent evidence suggests that ASD, ADHD, and OCD may not represent three distinguishable disorders based on the variability among the three disorders and their overlapping causes, biology, and treatment. The purpose of this study was to determine if groups created by categorizing POND participants diagnosed with ASD, ADHD or OCD based on their behavioural and biological characteristics corresponded to their diagnostic groups.

What did the researchers do?

This study used a data-driven approach that questioned the diagnostic accuracy of ASD, ADHD, and OCD. The researchers studied the behavioural and biological characteristics of participants from the POND Network with a primary diagnosis of ASD, ADHD, or OCD. The researchers analyzed the behavioural characteristics of participants by looking at social abilities, attention, and obsessive-compulsive traits. The researchers analyzed the biology of participants by studying brain images. The researchers removed the diagnostic labels and grouped the participants based on their behavioural and biological characteristics.

What did the researchers find?

The results suggested that the groups determined by grouping participants based on behaviour and biology data do not align well with the ASD, ADHD, or OCD diagnostic categories. The groups created by the researchers based on data contained participants from multiple diagnostic categories. Therefore, a child diagnosed with ASD may have more biological and behavioural characteristics in common with a child with OCD or ADHD than another child with ASD.

Take home message.

This paper challenges the way ASD, ADHD, and OCD are currently defined, diagnosed, and treated. The results from this paper add to the growing evidence that neurodevelopmental disorders may not be able to be classified by a single, unique diagnostic label. The researchers outline a need to create groups of neurodevelopmental disorders that better reflect the behavioural and biological characteristics to ensure more accurate interventions and care.


The full research article can be accessed at this link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-019-0631-2

For PDF of the lay summary click here. Kushki et al. (2019) FINAL

Reference (APA):

Kushki, A., Anagnostou, E., Hammill, C. et al. Examining overlap and homogeneity in ASD, ADHD, and OCD: a data-driven, diagnosis-agnostic approach. Transl Psychiatry 9, 318 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41398-019-0631-2