Maternal immune conditions are increased in males with autism spectrum disorders and are associated with behavioural and emotional but not cognitive co-morbidity

Translational Psychiatry volume 10, Article number: 286 (2020) Cite this article


Epidemiological and animal research shows that maternal immune activation increases the risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in offspring. Emerging evidence suggests that maternal immune conditions may play a role in the phenotypic expression of neurodevelopmental difficulties in children with ASD and this may be moderated by offspring sex. This study aimed to investigate whether maternal immune conditions were associated with increased severity of adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in children with ASD. Maternal immune conditions were examined as predictors of ASD severity, behavioural and emotional well-being, and cognitive functioning in a cohort of 363 children with ASD (n = 363; 252 males, 111 females; median age 3.07 [interquartile range 2.64–3.36 years]). We also explored whether these outcomes varied between male and female children. Results showed that maternal asthma was the most common immune condition reported in mothers of children with ASD. A history of maternal immune conditions (p = 0.009) was more common in male children with ASD, compared to female children. Maternal immune conditions were associated with increased behavioural and emotional problems in male and female children. By contrast, maternal immune conditions were not associated with decreased cognitive function. The findings demonstrate that MIA may influence the expression of symptoms in children with ASD and outcomes may vary between males and females.

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About S. R. Zelenz 119 Articles
S.R. Zelenz has worked in education for 20 years. Working with students from all walks of life, cultures, races, and social diversity, Zelenz’s research in Educational Leadership led to finding a better way to approach learning for students with trauma histories. Many were juvenile offenders, gang members, diagnosed with varying behavioral disorders, or had family histories of violence, murder, or narcissistic parenting. This research could not be effectively accomplished without further understanding: how epigenetic trauma inheritance may be impacting these students; how brain development from trauma may be impacting their behavioral and emotional development; as well as deep understanding of psychology and its varying classifications for behavioral and personality disorders. The goal is to find solutions for changing the conversation and making a real difference for these students. She has also worked with nonprofits of varying focus areas for the last 25 years. Her undergraduate degree in Arts Administration and Music prepared her for managing nonprofits of any size as well as procuring funding so that they can achieve their goals. Pairing her nonprofit background with her education background, she has been able to make a difference for over 200 nonprofits worldwide, written curriculum for schools across the globe, and assisted many arts organizations through performance and management.