Neuronal and glial cell number is altered in a cortical layer-specific manner in autism

Autism. 2021 Nov;25(8):2238-2253. doi: 10.1177/13623613211014408. Epub 2021 Jun 10.


The cerebral cortex affected with autism spectrum disorder presents changes in the number of neurons and glia cells, possibly leading to a dysregulation of brain circuits and affecting behavior. However, little is known about cell number alteration in specific layers of the cortex in autism spectrum disorder. We found an increase in the number of neurons and a decrease in the number of astrocytes in specific layers of the prefrontal cortex in postmortem human brains from autism spectrum disorder cases. We hypothesize that this may be due to a failure in neural stem cells to shift differentiation from neurons to glial cells during prenatal brain development. These data provide key anatomical findings that contribute to the bases of autism spectrum disorder pathogenesis.

Keywords: anatomy; autism; cerebral cortex; postmortem.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Cell Count
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia
  • Neurons