Article

What is known about autism: genes, brain, and behavior.

Psychiatric & Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Center for Human Genetic Research, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02129, USA.
American Journal of PharmacoGenomics 02/2005; 5(2):71-92.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder of genetic origins, with a heritability of about 90%. Autistic disorder is classed within the broad domain of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) that also includes Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Asperger syndrome, and PDD not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). Prevalence estimates suggest a rate of 0.1-0.2% for autism and 0.6% for the range of PDD disorders. There is considerable phenotypic heterogeneity within this class of disorders as well as continued debate regarding their clinical boundaries. Autism is the prototypical PDD, and is characterized by impairments in three core domains: social interaction, language development, and patterns of behavior (restricted and stereotyped). Clinical pattern and severity of impairment vary along these dimensions, and the level of cognitive functioning of individuals with autism spans the entire range, from profound mental retardation to superior intellect. There is no single biological or clinical marker for autism, nor is it expected that a single gene is responsible for its expression; as many as 15+ genes may be involved. However, environmental influences are also important, as concordance in monozygotic twins is less than 100% and the phenotypic expression of the disorder varies widely, even within monozygotic twins. Multiple susceptibility factors are being explored using varied methodologies, including genome-wide linkage studies, and family- and case-control candidate gene association studies. This paper reviews what is currently known about the genetic and environmental risk factors, neuropathology, and psychopharmacology of autism. Discussion of genetic factors focuses on the findings from linkage and association studies, the results of which have implicated the involvement of nearly every chromosome in the human genome. However, the most consistently replicated linkage findings have been on chromosome 7q, 2q, and 15q. The positive associations from candidate gene studies are largely unreplicated, with the possible exceptions of the GABRB3 and serotonin transporter genes. No single region of the brain or pathophysiological mechanism has yet been identified as being associated with autism. Postmortem findings, animal models, and neuroimaging studies have focused on the cerebellum, frontal cortex, hippocampus, and especially the amygdala. The cerebello-thalamo-cortical circuit may also be influential in autism. There is evidence that overall brain size is increased in some individuals with autism. Presently there are no drugs that produce major improvements in the core social or pragmatic language deficits in autism, although several have limited effects on associated behavioral features. The application of new techniques in autism research is being proposed, including the investigation of abnormal regulation of gene expression, proteomics, and the use of MRI and postmortem analysis of the brain.

19 Followers
 · 
624 Views
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) comprise a group of neurodevelopmental abnormalities that begin in early childhood and are characterized by impairment of social communication and behavioral problems including restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. Several genes have been implicated in the pathogenesis of ASD, most of them are involved in neuronal synaptogenesis. A number of environmental factors and associated conditions such as gastrointestinal (GI) abnormalities and immune imbalance have been linked to the pathophysiology of ASD. According to the March 2012 report released by United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of ASD has sharply increased during the recent years and one out of 88 children suffers now from ASD symptoms. Although there is a strong genetic base for the disease, several associated factors could have a direct link to the pathogenesis of ASD or act as modifiers of the genes thus aggravating the initial problem. Many children suffering from ASD have GI problems such as abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, gastroesophageal reflux, and intestinal infections. A number of studies focusing on the intestinal mucosa, its permeability, abnormal gut development, leaky gut, and other GI problem raised many questions but studies were somehow inconclusive and an expert panel of American Academy of Pediatrics has strongly recommended further investigation in these areas. GI tract has a direct connection with the immune system and an imbalanced immune response is usually seen in ASD children. Maternal infection or autoimmune diseases have been suspected. Activation of the immune system during early development may have deleterious effect on various organs including the nervous system. In this review we revisited briefly the GI and immune system abnormalities and neuropeptide imbalance and their role in the pathophysiology of ASD and discussed some future research directions.
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: To study the auditory profile at different levels of the auditory system in children with ASD .To verify the role of (Central) Auditory Processing Disorder as an essential pathology of the autistic disorder or as an associated co-morbidity, and to establish the correlation between CAP findings and the language delay in these cases. Patients: The study included 30 children with definite autistic disorder according to DSM-IV-TR criteria and ADI-R among those attending the outpatient neuropsychiatry clinic of Alexandria University Children Hospital at El Shatby. An informed consent was taken from all patients in this part of the study. Confidentiality of the records was concerned.
    International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology 11/2014; 78(12). DOI:10.1016/j.ijporl.2014.10.039 · 1.32 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Most recent estimates indicate that 1 in 68 children are affected by an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Though decades of research have uncovered much about these disorders, the pathological mechanism remains unknown. Hampering efforts is the seeming inability to integrate findings over the micro to macro scales of study, from changes in molecular, synaptic and cellular function to large-scale brain dysfunction impacting sensory, communicative, motor and cognitive activity. In this review, we describe how studies focusing on neuronal circuit function provide unique context for identifying common neurobiological disease mechanisms of ASD. We discuss how recent EEG and MEG studies in subjects with ASD have repeatedly shown alterations in ensemble population recordings (both in simple evoked related potential latencies and specific frequency subcomponents). Because these disease-associated electrophysiological abnormalities have been recapitulated in rodent models, studying circuit differences in these models may provide access to abnormal circuit function found in ASD. We then identify emerging in vivo and ex vivo techniques, focusing on how these assays can characterize circuit level dysfunction and determine if these abnormalities underlie abnormal clinical electrophysiology. Such circuit level study in animal models may help us understand how diverse genetic and environmental risks can produce a common set of EEG, MEG and anatomical abnormalities found in ASD.
    Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 12/2014; 8:414. DOI:10.3389/fncel.2014.00414 · 4.18 Impact Factor