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Keywords:

  • ethics;
  • genetic counseling;
  • psychiatric disorder;
  • psychological testing;
  • single-gene disorders

Pallister-Hall syndrome (PHS) is a rare, single-gene, malformation syndrome that includes central polydactyly, hypothalamic hamartoma, bifid epiglottis, endocrine dysfunction, and other anomalies. The syndrome has variable clinical manifestations and is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern. We sought to determine whether psychiatric disorders and/or neuropsychological impairment were characteristic of PHS. We prospectively conducted systematic neuropsychiatric evaluations with 19 PHS subjects ranging in age from 7 to 75 years. The evaluation included detailed clinical interviews, clinician-rated and self-report instruments, and a battery of neuropsychological tests. Seven of 14 adult PHS subjects met diagnostic criteria for at least one DSM-IV Axis I disorder. Three additional subjects demonstrated developmental delays and/or neuropsychological deficits on formal neuropsychological testing. However, we found no characteristic psychiatric phenotype associated with PHS, and the frequency of each of the diagnoses observed in these subjects was not different from that expected in this size sample. The overall frequency of psychiatric findings among all patients with PHS cannot be compared to point prevalence estimates of psychiatric disease in the general population because of biased ascertainment. This limitation is inherent to the study of behavioral phenotypes in rare disorders. The general issue of psychiatric evaluation of rare genetic syndromes is discussed in light of this negative result.