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Prenatal antidepressant use and risk of autism

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 19 July 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3388
  1. Diana E Schendel, professor MSO1
  1. 1Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, iPSYCH, National Centre for Register-based Research, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to: diana.schendel{at}

Should be viewed through the kaleidoscope of possible causes of autism

Although the causes of autism spectrum disorder are largely unknown, among the first clues were observations of greater than expected aggregation of psychiatric disorders in families of children with autism. Such patterns have been quantified in population based risk estimates for autism spectrum disorder associated with family histories of childhood and adult onset psychiatric conditions.123 Molecular genetic studies are also beginning to show a complex genetic architecture underlying autism spectrum disorder and probably overlapping with other psychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions.45 Compelling evidence also points to the importance of non-heritable factors, especially arising in utero, contributing to the risk of autism, possibly directly or through genetic or epigenetic mechanisms.367 In addition, autism is phenotypically heterogeneous with regard to behavioural, cognitive, developmental, and medical characteristics, which could reflect diverse causes.8 Together, these core features fuel the research expectation that multiple pathways lead to autism spectrum disorder. The findings of the linked paper by Rai and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.j2811)9 should be viewed …

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