Early infantile autism.

Children's Neurology Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.
International Review of Neurobiology (Impact Factor: 2.46). 02/1997; 41:367-86.
Source: PubMed
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    ABSTRACT: Autism is unique among other disorders in that acquisition of conditioned eyeblink responses is enhanced in children, occurring in a fraction of the trials required for control participants. The timing of learned responses is, however, atypical. Two animal models of autism display a similar phenotype. Researchers have hypothesized that these differences in conditioning reflect cerebellar abnormalities. The present study used computer simulations of the cerebellar cortex, including inhibition by the molecular layer interneurons, to more closely examine whether atypical cerebellar processing can account for faster conditioning in individuals with autism. In particular, the effects of inhibitory levels on delay eyeblink conditioning were simulated, as were the effects of learning-related synaptic changes at either parallel fibers or ascending branch synapses from granule cells to Purkinje cells. Results from these simulations predict that whether molecular layer inhibition results in an enhancement or an impairment of acquisition, or changes in timing, may depend on (1) the sources of inhibition, (2) the levels of inhibition, and (3) the locations of learning-related changes (parallel vs. ascending branch synapses). Overall, the simulations predict that a disruption in the balance or an overall increase of inhibition within the cerebellar cortex may contribute to atypical eyeblink conditioning in children with autism and in animal models of autism.
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