Immunity, neuroglia and neuroinflammation in autism

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2005 Dec;17(6):485-95. doi: 10.1080/02646830500381930.


Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder of early onset that is highly variable in its clinical presentation. Although the causes of autism in most patients remain unknown, several lines of research support the view that both genetic and environmental factors influence the development of abnormal cortical circuitry that underlies autistic cognitive processes and behaviors. The role of the immune system in the development of autism is controversial. Several studies showing peripheral immune abnormalities support immune hypotheses, however until recently there have been no immune findings in the CNS. We recently demonstrated the presence of neuroglial and innate neuroimmune system activation in brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid of patients with autism, findings that support the view that neuroimmune abnormalities occur in the brain of autistic patients and may contribute to the diversity of the autistic phenotypes. The role of neuroglial activation and neuroinflammation are still uncertain but could be critical in maintaining, if not also in initiating, some of the CNS abnormalities present in autism. A better understanding of the role of neuroinflammation in the pathogenesis of autism may have important clinical and therapeutic implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System / immunology
  • Brain
  • Cerebral Cortex / immunology
  • Chemokines / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Child
  • Cytokines / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia / immunology*
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / physiology
  • Psychoneuroimmunology*


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines