Autistic Traits and Illness Trajectories

Liliana Dell'Osso1, Primo Lorenzi1, Barbara Carpita1, *
1 Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy

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© 2019 Dell'Osso et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode). This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy;
E-mail: liliana.dellosso@med.unipi.it


In the framework of increasing attention towards autism-related conditions, a growing number of studies have recently investigated the prevalence and features of sub-threshold Autistic Traits (ATs) among adults. ATs span across the general population, being more pronounced in several clinical groups of patients affected by psychiatric disorders. Moreover, ATs seem to be associated with specific personality features in non-clinical population, implying both a higher vulnerability towards psychopathology and extraordinary talents in specific fields. In this framework, the DSM-5’s Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) presentations may be considered as the tip of an iceberg that features several possible clinical and non-clinical phenotypes. Globally, the autism spectrum may be considered as a trans-nosographic dimension, which may not only represent the starting point for the development of different psychopathological trajectories but also underlie non-psychopathological personality traits. These different trajectories might be shaped by the specific localization and severity of the neurodevelopmental alteration and by its interaction with the environment and lifetime events. In this wider framework, autistic-like neurodevelopmental alterations may be considered as a general vulnerability factor for different kinds of psychiatric disorders, but also the neurobiological basis for the development of extraordinary abilities, eventually underlying the concept of geniality. Moreover, according to recent literature, we hypothesize that ATs may also be involved in the functioning of human mind, featuring the peculiar sense of “otherness” which can be found, with different grades of intensity, in every human being.