Brain Alterations in Autism

It is known that in autism the structure and processes in the brain are different.


For example, differences were found in the cerebral cortex, temporal cortex, and cerebellum, which are responsible for impaired skills in children with ASD. In particular, the cerebral cortex is responsible for the functions of language, movement, sensation, planning, social behavior and social processing of the face.  


In the magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, some areas of the cerebral cortex in children with autism were significantly asymmetric compared with healthy controls, and an increase in the number of altered connections between neurons in this brain region was observed 

The temporal lobe allows you to recognize faces, and when images of individuals were shown to subjects with ASD, they showed activation of the temporal lobe, similar to activation in the brain of subjects not suffering from autism spectrum disorders, when inanimate objects were shown to them.


The cerebellum plays a role in mental imagery, reflexes, planning, attention, affective behavior, visual organization, and sensory perception.

Some data on the brain in children with autism also confirm that it is a disorder that develops even before birth.


For example, one feature of the brain is a reduced number of Purkinje cells. The appearance of these cells occurs at the time of intrauterine development. One would assume that the lack of these cells is a consequence of their loss after birth, but these cells are attached to the so-called baskets, in children with autism. There are no empty baskets, which means that in the period of prenatal development there is a number of Purkinje cells that did not form.

In addition, it is a well-known fact that in children with autism at the age of 2-5 years, the size of some brain lobes are greatly increased (increase up to 30%).  However, this increase is not observed throughout life, but only in early childhood.

In the illustration to the left, you can see that from birth (there are suggestions that even before birth, but such data cannot be obtained), the brain of children with autism is enlarged, but only until age of 5 to 6 years, and after that the volume starts decreasing and the brain progressively becomes smaller than in healthy children

Such an increase in the brain is called proliferation or hyperplasia. A study of the brain tissue of a child with autism and its comparison with the control showed that a child with autism has a significantly higher cell proliferation in the brain than the control.


This is explained by two factors: genetic alterations and neuroinflammation

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