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Chemiluminescence analysis of saliva for the assessment of emotional stress in autistic children undergoing a medical examination

Elena Proskurnina (Research Centre for Medical Genetics, Moscow, Russian Federation)
Galina Portnova (Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the RAS and Pushkin State Russian Language Institute, Moscow, Russian Federation)
Maria Ivanova (Pushkin State Russian Language Institute, Moscow, Russian Federation)
Svetlana Sokolova (Clinical Diagnostic Laboratory, Medical Scientific and Educational Center, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russian Federation)

Advances in Autism

ISSN: 2056-3868

Article publication date: 3 November 2021

Issue publication date: 13 October 2022




An electroencephalography (EEG) examination may cause psychological stress in children with autism that can interfere with the examination results. The objective information on the presence or absence of psycho-emotional stress in patients can help interpret electroencephalograms. This paper aimed to demonstrate the potential of noninvasive objective diagnostics of emotional stress in autistic children undergoing an EEG examination based on analysis of saliva.


This study involved 19 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (ICD-10 F84.0); the mean age was seven years. During EEG examination of the children, behavioral parameters were assessed. The activity of cytochrome P450 reductase (CYPOR) in saliva was measured before and after the EEG procedure using lucigenin-enhanced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate-stimulated chemiluminescence assay.


Significant differences in CYPOR activity were found between the children who were distressed during an EEG examination and the children without behavioral disturbances (Mann–Whitney test, p = 0.002). Thus, the EEG examination resulted in an increase in CYPOR activity in saliva cells, which may prove the stressful effect of this procedure on autistic children.


The chemiluminescent indices reflecting the activity of microsomal CYPOR in cells presenting in saliva correlate with the absence or presence of psychological stress in children; this phenomenon can be explained by an increased metabolism of the stress hormone, cortisol, by the cytochrome P450 microsomal system. Furthermore, the proposed method is completely safe, noninvasive, rapid (recording time is 20 min), inexpensive and promising for an objective assessment of psycho-emotional stress in autistic children undergoing medical examinations.



Conflict of interest: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.Funding: This study is supported by Russian Foundation for Basic Research, Project No. 18–00-01511-KOMFI.Contribution: E.V. Proskurnina: conceptualization and design, interpretation and writing the article; G.V. Portnova: conceptualization and design, psychological data analysis, writing the article; M.A. Ivanova: chemiluminescence experiments; S.V. Sokolova: chemiluminescence data analysis. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


Proskurnina, E., Portnova, G., Ivanova, M. and Sokolova, S. (2022), "Chemiluminescence analysis of saliva for the assessment of emotional stress in autistic children undergoing a medical examination", Advances in Autism, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp. 332-342.



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