Paternal—but not maternal—autistic traits predict frontal EEG alpha asymmetry in infants with later symptoms of autism

Valentina Riva, Cecilia Marino, Caterina Piazza, Elena M. Riboldi, Giulia Mornati, Massimo Molteni, Chiara Cantiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research found that the parental autism phenotype is associated with child autism spectrum disorder (ASD), even if the pathway between autistic traits in parents and child ASD is still largely unknown. Several studies investigated frontal asymmetry in alpha oscillation (FAA) as an early marker for ASD. However, no study has examined the mediational effect of FAA between parental autistic traits and child ASD symptoms in the general population. We carried out a prospective study of 103 typically developing infants and measured FAA as a mediator between both maternal and paternal autistic traits and child ASD traits. We recorded infant baseline electroencephalogram (EEG) at 6 months of age. Child ASD symptoms were measured at age 24 months by the Child Behavior Checklist 1½–5 Pervasive Developmental Problems Scale, and parental autistic traits were scored by the Autism spectrum Quotient questionnaire. The mediation model showed that paternal vs. maternal autistic traits are associated with greater left FAA which, in turn, is associated with more child ASD traits with a significant indirect effect only in female infants vs. male infants. Our findings show a potential cascade of effects whereby paternal autistic traits drive EEG markers contributing to ASD risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article number342
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Early detection
  • Frontal EEG alpha asymmetry
  • Infants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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