Objectives: Pediatric acute onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS) is a clinically heterogeneous disorder presenting with: unusually abrupt onset of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or severe eating restrictions, with at least two concomitant cognitive, behavioral, or affective symptoms such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and irritability/depression. This study describes the clinical and laboratory variables of 39 children (13 female and 26 male) with a mean age at recruitment of 8.6 years (standard deviation 3.1). Methods: Using a mathematical approach based on Artificial Neural Networks, the putative associations between PANS working criteria, as defined at the NIH in July 2010 (Swedo et al. 2012), were explored by the Auto Contractive Map (Auto-CM) system, a mapping method able to compute the multidimensional association of strength of each variable with all other variables in predefined dataset. Results: The PANS symptoms were strictly linked to one another on the semantic connectivity map, shaping a central “diamond” encompassing anxiety, irritability/oppositional defiant disorder symptoms, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, behavioral regression, sensory motor abnormalities, school performance deterioration, sleep disturbances, and emotional lability/depression. The semantic connectivity map also showed the aggregation between PANS symptoms and laboratory and clinical variables. In particular, the emotional lability/depression resulted as a highly connected hub linked to autoimmune disease in pregnancy, allergic and atopic disorders, and low Natural Killer percentage. Also anxiety symptoms were shown to be strongly related with recurrent infectious disease remarking the possible role of infections as a risk factor for PANS. Conclusion: Our data mining approach shows a very specific constellation of symptoms having strong links to laboratory and clinical variables consistent with PANS feature.
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