Neurobiology of autism.

Rapin I, Katzman R

Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology, and Rose F. Kennedy Center for
Research in Mental Retardation and Human
Development, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.

[Medline record in process]

Autism is a behaviorally defined, life-long static developmental
disorder of the brain that is poised for neurobiological investigation.
It affects at least 1 or 2 in 1000 persons and has a broad range of
severity. It has multiple causes, with genetics playing a major
role. According to the DSM-IV, defining features are impaired
sociability, language and communication, and range of interests and
activities. Mental deficiency is frequent but by no means universal. The
cognitive profile is characteristic, occasionally with a
superior but narrow talent. Perseveration, concreteness, affective
blunting, and lack of insight into other persons' thinking may be
conspicuous. The neurological basis of autism's many sensorimotor
features, including stereotypies, is unknown. Attention and
sleep are affected, and one third of individuals experience epilepsy by
adulthood. Whether subclinical epilepsy plays a role in the
developmental regression of the one third of the toddlers who lose their
language skills and become autistic remains to be
determined. Clinical neuroimaging and biochemical investigations are
generally unremarkable. Fewer than 35 brains have been
examined pathologically, none with modern techniques. The findings thus
far suggest subtle prenatal neuronal maldevelopment in
the cerebellum and certain limbic structures. Abnormalities in
distributed networks involving serotonin and perhaps other
neurotransmitters require further documentation.

PMID: 9450763, UI: 98111239