December 1, 2014


Although mean AQ [Autism-spectrum Quotient] scores separated AS [Asperger syndrome] and schizophrenia at a group comparison level, significant overlap of AQ scores across the two diagnostic groups clearly reduces the discriminating power of the AQ in the separation of schizophrenia from AS.

That was the primary conclusion reached by Tove Lugnegård and colleagues* based at the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre, University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Centred on their examination of the Autism spectrum Quotient (AQ), a popular screening tool based on self-report designed originally to “test if adults with high-functioning autism or Asperger Syndrome are just an extreme on a dimension of autistic traits that runs right through the general population” according to developers based at the University of Cambridge, UK, researchers looked at ability of the AQ to differentiate between AS and schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health issue that causes a number of symptoms – described as positive and negative – affecting the way a person thinks and on occasion, perceives the reality around them. Based on scores from 51 study participants diagnosed with AS and 36 described as having “schizophrenic psychosis” researchers concluded that there may be more to see when it comes to an overlap between the diagnoses and the usefulness of the AQ in picking out possible AS over and above other psychiatric conditions.

Although requiring some caution given the previous history of autism included under the banner of childhood schizophrenia at one time, this work adds to a growing body of research suggesting that moves to compartmentalise the autism spectrum as completely separate and distant from the schizophrenia spectrum may have been premature. Other research in this area has, for example, talked about an interrelation between the symptoms included in the autism and schizophrenia spectrums as well as case reports detailing how symptoms such as psychosis can occur alongside a diagnosis on the autism spectrum for some people.

Genetic and biological findings add to the suggestion that some shared biological underpinnings may unite the spectrums and further, that interventions targeting one or other condition may have wider applications outside of individual diagnoses. The importance of continued screening for other symptom manifestations is also implied.


* Lugnegård T. et al. Asperger syndrome and schizophrenia: Overlap of self-reported autistic traits using the Autism-spectrum Quotient (AQ). Nord J Psychiatry. 2014 Nov 12:1-7.

Read more about this study here:



About the author 

Paul Whiteley Ph.D.

Researcher based in North East England. An academic background in psychology with a special interest in developmental psychology focused specifically on the autism spectrum and related conditions. Postgraduate degrees based on research examining the safety and efficacy of a gluten- and casein-free (GFCF) diet applied to autism and the potential importance of various comorbidity to the health and wellbeing of those on the autism spectrum, with a continuing research interest in these areas. Keen blogger and amateur science writer (but no formal qualifications in these areas). Science is based on probability.

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