Autism Associated With Anti-NMDAR Encephalitis: Glutamate-Related Therapy

Front Psychiatry. 2019 Jun 21;10:440. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00440. eCollection 2019.


The purpose of this review is to correlate autism with autoimmune dysfunction in the absence of an explanation for the etiology of autism spectrum disorder. The anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (anti-NMDAR) autoantibody is a typical synaptic protein that can bind to synaptic NMDA glutamate receptors, leading to dysfunctional glutamate neurotransmission in the brain that manifests as psychiatric symptoms (psychosis, hallucinations, and personality changes). Detection of autoantibodies, cytokines, decreased lymphocytes, serum immunoglobulin level imbalance, T-cell mediated immune profile, maternal infection history, and children's infection history can all be vital biological markers of autoimmune autism. Diagnosing autoimmune encephalitis sooner can increase the effectiveness of curative treatments-such as immune therapy or immune modulatory therapy-that may prevent the long-term consequence of being misdiagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Glutamate therapy primarily normalizes glutamate neurotransmission and can be a new add-on intervention alongside antipsychotics for treating autoimmune autism.

Keywords: anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor encephalitis; autoimmune autism; dysfunctional glutamate neurotransmission; glutamate-related therapy; immune therapy.

Publication types

  • Review