Neuroanatomic observations of the brain in autism: a review and future directions

Int J Dev Neurosci. Apr-May 2005;23(2-3):183-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2004.09.006.


Infantile autism is a behaviorally defined disorder associated with characteristic cognitive, language and behavioral features. Several postmortem studies have highlighted areas of anatomic abnormality in the autistic brain. Consistent findings have been observed in the limbic system, cerebellum and related inferior olive. In the limbic system, the hippocampus, amygdala and entorhinal cortex have shown small cell size and increased cell packing density at all ages, suggesting a pattern consistent with development curtailment. Findings in the cerebellum have included significantly reduced numbers of Purkinje cells, primarily in the posterior inferior regions of the hemispheres. A different pattern of change has been noted in the vertical limb of the diagonal band of broca, cerebellar nuclei and inferior olive with plentiful and abnormally enlarged neurons in the brains of young autistic subjects, and in adult autistic brains, small, pale neurons that are reduced in number. These findings combined with reported age-related changes in brain weight and volume, have raised the possibility that the neuropathology of autism may represent an on-going process.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / pathology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Neuroanatomy / methods*