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Paper   IPM / Cognitive Sciences / 17580
School of Cognitive Sciences
  Title:   Association of verbal and non-verbal theory of mind abilities with non-coding variants of OXTR in youth with autism spectrum disorder and typically developing individuals: a case-control study
1.  R. Ghamari
2.  M. Tahmaseb
3.  A. Sarabi-Jamab
4.  S. Etesami
5.  A. Mohammadzadeh
6.  F. Alizadeh
7.  M. Tehrani-Doost
  Status:   Published
  Journal: BMC Psychiatry .
  Year:  2024
  Supported by:  IPM
Background: The ability to attribute mental states to others is called theory of mind (ToM) and is a substantial component of social cognition. This ability is abnormally developed in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Several studies over the past decade have identified the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) and its variants as promising components for explaining the molecular mechanisms underlying Theory of Mind (ToM). The main aim of this study is to examine the association between rs2268498 and rs53576, two functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and verbal and non-verbal ToM in children and adolescents with ASD and a group of typically developing youth. Methods: The study involved 44 children and adolescents with high-functioning ASD aged 8 to 18 years old and 44 TD individuals who were matched on age and sex. In all participants, blood samples were collected and rs2268498 and rs53576 were genotyped. Happe's Strange Stories test and the moving shapes paradigm were used to measure verbal and non-verbal ToM in all participants. Results: The results of permutation tests and logistic regression suggested that in TD group, rs2268498 AA carriers showed significant higher scores in variables representing verbal ToM (ToM stories and appropriateness score) whereas, in ASD group, rs53576 AA carriers exhibited significant better performance in parameters related to non-verbal ToM (ToM general rule and intentionality score). The results of hierarchical clustering in both groups support the findings by distinguishing between language-related and language-independent aspects of ToM. Conclusions: In the present study, we examined the association between rs2268498 and rs53576 and social functioning in individuals with ASD and TD group. We found preliminary evidence that rs2268498 and rs53576 are associated with ToM related abilities in healthy individuals as well as in autistic individuals. Accordingly, rs2268498 and rs53576 may play an important role in predicting ToM capabilities. It will be necessary to conduct further research to address the association of genetic variants with a deficit in ToM in individuals with ASD.

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