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Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 703675, 16 pages
Review Article

The Neuropathology of Autism

Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology, School of Medicine, Boston University, 72 East Concord Street L 1004, Boston, MA 02118, USA

Received 2 October 2012; Accepted 7 November 2012

Academic Editors: S. Dahiya, F. Keller, G. Marucci, T. L. Richards, and M. Wasniewska

Copyright © 2012 Gene J. Blatt. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Autism is a behaviorally defined neurodevelopmental disorder that affects over 1% of new births in the United States and about 2% of boys. The etiologies are unknown and they are genetically complex. There may be epigenetic effects, environmental influences, and other factors that contribute to the mechanisms and affected neural pathway(s). The underlying neuropathology of the disorder has been evolving in the literature to include specific brain areas in the cerebellum, limbic system, and cortex. Part(s) of structures appear to be affected most rather than the entire structure, for example, select nuclei of the amygdala, the fusiform face area, and so forth. Altered cortical organization characterized by more frequent and narrower minicolumns and early overgrowth of the frontal portion of the brain, affects connectivity. Abnormalities include cytoarchitectonic laminar differences, excess white matter neurons, decreased numbers of GABAergic cerebellar Purkinje cells, and other events that can be traced developmentally and cause anomalies in circuitry. Problems with neurotransmission are evident by recent receptor and binding site studies especially in the inhibitory GABA system likely contributing to an imbalance of excitatory/inhibitory transmission. As postmortem findings are related to core behavior symptoms, and technology improves, researchers are gaining a much better perspective of contributing factors to the disorder.