Autism associated with conditions characterized by developmental errors in early embryogenesis: a mini review

Int J Dev Neurosci. 2005 Apr-May;23(2-3):201-19. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2004.06.007.


Autism is a complex developmental disorder without an established single etiology but with significant contributions from genetic studies, functional research, and neuropsychiatric and neuroradiologic investigations. The purpose of this paper is to review the findings in five studies involving individuals manifesting the characteristic findings of autism spectrum disorder associated with malformations and dysfunctions known to result from early embryogenic defects. These investigations include two associated with teratogens (thalidomide embryopathy, Mobius sequence with misoprostol) and three (most Mobius sequence cases, CHARGE association, Goldenhar syndrome) with no known etiology. These studies suggest that early embryonic development errors often involving cranial nerve palsies, internal and external ear malformations, ophthalmologic anomalies, and a variety of systemic malformations may be associated with autism spectrum disorders statistically more frequently than expected in a normal population. Although the exact time of developmental insult for each condition cannot be identified, the evidence is that it may occur as early as week 4 to 6+ of embryogenesis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / physiopathology*
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Autistic Disorder / etiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology
  • Congenital Abnormalities / physiopathology*
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / physiopathology
  • Developmental Disabilities / physiopathology
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Female
  • Goldenhar Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Goldenhar Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Goldenhar Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobius Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Mobius Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Mobius Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Thalidomide / poisoning


  • Thalidomide