Blood metabolic signatures of hikikomori, pathological social withdrawal

Daiki Setoyama, Toshio Matsushima, Kohei Hayakawa, Tomohiro Nakao, Shigenobu Kanba, Dongchon Kang, Takahiro A. Kato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A severe form of pathological social withdrawal, 'hikikomori,' has been acknowledged in Japan, spreading worldwide, and becoming a global health issue. The pathophysiology of hikikomori has not been clarified, and its biological traits remain unexplored. Methods: Drug-free patients with hikikomori (n = 42) and healthy controls (n = 41) were recruited. Psychological assessments for the severity of hikikomori and depression were conducted. Blood biochemical tests and plasma metabolome analysis were performed. Based on the integrated information, machine-learning models were created to discriminate cases of hikikomori from healthy controls, predict hikikomori severity, stratify the cases, and identify metabolic signatures that contribute to each model. Results: Long-chain acylcarnitine levels were remarkably higher in patients with hikikomori; bilirubin, arginine, ornithine, and serum arginase were significantly different in male patients with hikikomori. The discriminative random forest model was highly performant, exhibiting an area under the ROC curve of 0.854 (confidential interval = 0.648-1.000). To predict hikikomori severity, a partial least squares PLS-regression model was successfully created with high linearity and practical accuracy. In addition, blood serum uric acid and plasma cholesterol esters contributed to the stratification of cases. Conclusions: These findings reveal the blood metabolic signatures of hikikomori, which are key to elucidating the pathophysiology of hikikomori and also useful as an index for monitoring the treatment course for rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-28
Number of pages15
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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