Cry, baby, cry: Expression of distress as a biomarker and modulator in autism spectrum disorder

Gianluca Esposito, Noboru Hiroi, Maria Luisa Scattoni

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is critical, because early intensive treatment greatly improves its prognosis. Methods: We review studies that examined vocalizations of infants with autism spectrum disorder and mouse models of autism spectrum disorder as a potential means to identify autism spectrum disorder before the symptomatic elements of autism spectrum disorder emerge. We further discuss clinical implications and future research priorities in the field. Results: Atypical early vocal calls (i.e., cry) may represent an early biomarker for autism spectrum disorder (or at least for a subgroup of children with autism spectrum disorder), and thus can assist with early detection. Moreover, cry is likely more than an early biomarker of autism spectrum disorder; it is also an early causative factor in the development of the disorder. Specifically, atypical crying, as recently suggested, might induce a "self-generated environmental factor" that in turn, influences the prognosis of the disorder. Because atypical crying in autism spectrum disorder is difficult to understand, it may have a negative impact on the quality of care by the caregiver (see graphical abstract). Conclusions: Evidence supports the hypothesis that atypical vocalization is an early, functionally integral component of autism spectrum disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-503
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2017


  • animal models of ASD
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • cry
  • early biomarkers
  • ultrasonic vocalizations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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