Functional brain imaging studies in childhood autism

  • M. Zilbovicius


Autism is a life-long severe developmental disorder which impairs the acquisition of some of the most important skills in life (Kanner, 1943). The major signs of the syndrome are deficits in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and imaginative activity (APA, 1987; Rutter, 1978). Autism was believed to be a “psychological” disorder but over the past 20 years it has become clear that it must have a biological origin. The understanding of brain mechanisms which underlie such a severe disorder remains a major challenge for research in this field. Neuropathological studies of infantile autism are few and have revealed abnormalities in the limbic system and cerebellar circuits (Bauman and Kemper, 1988; Ritvo, 1986; Williams, 1980). Structural neuroimaging investigations, including CT and MRI, have indicated various sites of anatomical abnormalities including the cerebral cortex, ventricular system and the cerebellum of autistic adults, and relatively old autistic children (Campbell, 1982; Cour-chesne, 1994; Courchesne, 1988; Damasio, 1980; Gill-berg and Svendsen, 1983; Hier, 1979; Piven, 1990). However, these findings are still inconsistent and none accounts fully for the clinical expression of autism. Thus, we have little evidence of structural brain abnormalities in autism, despite the various theories proposed to explain it.


Positron Emission Tomography Autistic Child Regional Cerebral Blood Flow Auditory Stimulation Functional Brain Imaging 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

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  • M. Zilbovicius

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