Objective: To determine whether differences exist in the configuration of minicolumns between the brains of autistic and control patients.
Background: Autism is a severe and pervasive developmental disturbance of childhood characterized by disturbances in both social interactions and communication, as well as stereotyped patterns of interests, activities, and behaviors. Postmortem neuropathologic studies remain inconclusive.
Methods: The authors used a computerized imaging program to measure details of cell column morphologic features in area 9 of the prefrontal cortex and areas 21 and posterior 22 (Tpt) within the temporal lobe of nine brains of autistic patients and controls.
Results: The authors found significant differences between brains of autistic patients and controls in the number of minicolumns, in the horizontal spacing that separates cell columns, and in their internal structure, that is, relative dispersion of cells. Specifically, cell columns in brains of autistic patients were more numerous, smaller, and less compact in their cellular configuration with reduced neuropil space in the periphery.
Conclusions: In autism, there are minicolumnar abnormalities in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.