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Neuroanatomy and neuropathology of autism spectrum disorder in humans

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Christine Ecker, Michael J. Schmeisser, Eva Loth, Declan G. Murphy

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Anatomy Embryology and Cell Biology
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameAdvances in Anatomy Embryology and Cell Biology
ISSN (Print)03015556

King's Authors


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong heterogeneous neurodevelopmental condition that is associated with differences in brain anatomy and connectivity. Yet, the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underpin the atypical developmental of the brain in ASD remain poorly understood. Here, we review the findings of in vivo neuroimaging studies examining the time course of atypical brain development in ASD and relate the different neurodevelopmental stages that are atypical in ASD to the known neurobiological mechanisms that drive the maturation of the typically developing brain. In particular, we focus on the notion of ‘early brain overgrowth’ in ASD, which may lead to differences in the formation of the brain’s micro- and macro-circuitry. Moreover, we attempt to link the in vivo reports describing differences in brain anatomy and connectivity on the macroscopic level to the increasing number of post-mortem studies examining the neural architecture of the brain in ASD on the microscopic level. In addition, we discuss future directions and outstanding questions in this particular field of research and highlight the need for establishing the link between micro- and macro-pathology in the same set of individuals with ASD based on advances in genetic, molecular and imaging techniques. In combination, these may proof to be invaluable for patient stratification and the development of novel pharmacotherapies in the future.

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