Adults with autism likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, says study

researchChapel Hill, N.C. — A research recently published in the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders suggests that adults with autism are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than others without the developmental condition.

The study, “High rates of parkinsonism in adults with autism”, was conducted in an effort to take a closer look on the apparent high rate of adults with autism developing the disease— and to validate whether or not the developmental condition can be directly responsible for the disease’s development in these adults.

Studies already previously conducted showed a link between Parkinson’s Disease and autism through the involvement of the basal ganglia— a region in the brain responsible for muscular movement and coordination, the patient’s repetitive behaviors, and a number of genetic studies.

Using systematic analysis to observe adults with autism aged 40 years and up, the researchers found that they showed high rates of parkinsonian symptoms— which include slow movement or bradykinesia, rigidity, resting tremor, and problems with their posture or postural instability.

The researchers found that 20 percent of the adults with autism they observed showed parkinsonism, while seven percent have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease by a neurologist.

Compared to the rates of parkinsonism in adults without autism aged 65 to 70 years old, the data observed by the researchers show that the rates of parkinsonism in adults with autism are high. But the researchers cautioned that there are limitations in diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease in adults with autism, mainly because of either some neuroleptic medication they are taking, their generic “clumsiness”, non-verbal communication in other adults with autism, and or motor stereoptypies.

The authors wrote:

“The possibility that individuals with autism are at increased risk for Parkinson’s disease as adults has important implications for detection and assessment, clinical practice, systems of care, training, and public policy. While research on ASD is now underway in young adult populations, the striking absence of research on autism in “older” adults has been noted in the literature.”

Source: Teresa Pais, PhD: Parkinson’s News Today: Study Finds High Frequency of Parkinsonism in Adults With Autism