Doctoral Program in Epidemiology Thesis Defense
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is highly heritable, familial, and etiologically complex. How subtypes may differ in heritability and familial risk is not well-understood. In this dissertation, we determined:
1). Heritability and familial risk of ASD with and without intellectual disability (ID), and 2). Association between family history of mental and neurologic disorders and each of these ASD subtypes, using population-based register data on index persons and their first- to fourth-degree relatives in Sweden. Heritability was estimated using structural equation models. Familial risk was estimated using multivariable logistic regression. We found that ASD without ID was more heritable and familial than ASD with ID, that both subtypes involve substantial genetic and environmental components, and that their patterns of association with mental and neurologic disorders in relatives were different. These findings encourage us to pursue with examining these phenotypes separately in future ASD risk research and prediction endeavors, and extending the investigation to possible genetic and environmental factors and their potential interactions.
Sherlly received her Sc.M. degree in Biostatistics from Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and a B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior from University of California, Davis. Sherlly’s areas of research interest include psychiatric and genetic epidemiology with emphasis on autism spectrum disorder, as well as quantitative methods applied in these areas.