Monday, July 30, 2018

RASopathies: personality and social skills

Bizaoui V, Gage J, Brar R, Rauen KA, Weiss LA. RASopathies are associated with a distinct personality profile. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2018 Jun;177(4):434-446.

Personality is a complex, yet partially heritable, trait. Although some Mendelian diseases like Williams-Beuren syndrome are associated with a particular personality profile, studies have failed to assign the personality features to a single gene or pathway. As a family of monogenic disorders caused by mutations in the Ras/MAPK pathway known to influence social behavior, RASopathies are likely to provide insight into the genetic basis of personality. Eighty subjects diagnosed with cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, Costello syndrome, neurofibromatosis type 1, and Noonan syndrome were assessed using a parent-report BFQ-C (Big Five Questionnaire for Children) evaluating agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, intellect/openness, and neuroticism, along with 55 unaffected sibling controls. A short questionnaire was added to assess sense of humor. RASopathy subjects and sibling controls were compared for individual components of personality, multidimensional personality profiles, and individual questions using Student tests, analysis of variance, and principal component analysis. RASopathy subjects were given lower scores on average compared to sibling controls in agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, openness, and sense of humor, and similar scores in neuroticism. When comparing the multidimensional personality profile between groups, RASopathies showed a distinct profile from unaffected siblings, but no difference in this global profile was found within RASopathies, revealing a common profile for the Ras/MAPK-related disorders. In addition, several syndrome-specific strengths or weaknesses were observed in individual domains. We describe for the first time an association between a single pathway and a specific personality profile, providing a better understanding of the genetics underlying personality, and new tools for tailoring educational and behavioral approaches for individuals with RASopathies.

Pierpont EI, Hudock RL, Foy AM, Semrud-Clikeman M, Pierpont ME, Berry SA, Shanley R, Rubin N, Sommer K, Moertel CL. Social skills in children with RASopathies: a comparison of Noonan syndrome and neurofibromatosis type 1. J Neurodev Disord. 2018 Jun 18;10(1):21.

Gene mutations within the RAS-MAPK signaling cascade result in Noonan syndrome (NS), neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), and related disorders. Recent research has documented an increased risk for social difficulties and features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children with these conditions. Despite this emerging evidence, the neuropsychological characteristics associated with social skills deficits are not well understood, particularly for children with NS.

Parents of children with NS (n = 39), NF1 (n = 39), and unaffected siblings (n = 32) between the ages of 8 and 16 years were administered well-validated caregiver questionnaires assessing their child's social skills, language abilities, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and anxiety.

With respect to overall social skills, average ratings of children in both clinical groups were similar, and indicated weaker social skills compared to unaffected siblings. Although ratings of social skills were outside of normal limits for more than four in ten children within the clinical groups, most of the deficits were mild/moderate. Fifteen percent of the children with NS and 5% of the children with NF1 were rated as having severe social skills impairment (< - 2SD). Independent of diagnosis, having fewer ADHD symptoms or better social-pragmatic language skills was predictive of stronger social skills.

Amidst efforts to support social skill development among children and adolescents with RASopathies, neuropsychological correlates such as social language competence, attention, and behavioral self-regulation could be important targets of intervention.

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