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6 - The neurobiology of autism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 August 2009

Fritz Poustka
Affiliation:
Head, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, J. W. Goethe University
Fred R. Volkmar
Affiliation:
Yale University, Connecticut
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Summary

Introduction

The neurobiology of autism encompasses a wide range of neurophysiological, chemical, neuroimaging, and morphological research data. However, there is no unifying etiological concept from which to deduce and explain biological markers and the various causes and consequences of psychiatric and physical symptoms. For example, hypoactivation of the lateral right fusiform gyrus has been replicated as a neurofunctional marker, but it does not fully explain the social cognitive deficits in autism (Schultz et al., 2003) nor is it unique for autism (Quintana et al., 2003). Thus the relevance of obvious organic etiology to syndrome pathogenesis and the development of the affected child remains unclear. Some medical conditions arise during the course of autism (for example, seizures), whereas others may be present from very early in life and thus probably are more likely relevant to etiology

There are several challenges for reviewing the neurobiological basis of autism. Data are difficult to interpret because of small sample sizes, problems of diagnosis (particularly with severe mental retardation), a lack of reasonable control groups, a lack of replication studies, and contradictory findings due to the use of different classifying schemes and instruments. Examples of the latter are given by Eaves and Milner (1993) where they examine the relationship between two popular screening instruments for autism.

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Chapter
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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  • The neurobiology of autism
    • By Fritz Poustka, Head, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, J. W. Goethe University
  • Edited by Fred R. Volkmar, Yale University, Connecticut
  • Book: Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders
  • Online publication: 19 August 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511544446.007
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  • The neurobiology of autism
    • By Fritz Poustka, Head, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, J. W. Goethe University
  • Edited by Fred R. Volkmar, Yale University, Connecticut
  • Book: Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders
  • Online publication: 19 August 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511544446.007
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • The neurobiology of autism
    • By Fritz Poustka, Head, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, J. W. Goethe University
  • Edited by Fred R. Volkmar, Yale University, Connecticut
  • Book: Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders
  • Online publication: 19 August 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511544446.007
Available formats
×