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Autism Res. 2011 Jun;4(3):200-11. doi: 10.1002/aur.188. Epub 2011 Feb 28.

Altered posterior cingulate cortical cyctoarchitecture, but normal density of neurons and interneurons in the posterior cingulate cortex and fusiform gyrus in autism.

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1
Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA. aoblak@bu.edu

Abstract

Autism is a developmental disorder with prenatal origins, currently estimated to affect 1 in 91 children in the United States. Social-emotional deficits are a hallmark of autism and early neuropathology studies have indicated involvement of the limbic system. Imaging studies demonstrate abnormal activation of the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), a component of the limbic system. Abnormal activation has also been noted in the fusiform gyrus (FFG), a region important for facial recognition and a key element in social interaction. A potential imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory interneurons in the cortex may contribute to altered information processing in autism. Furthermore, reduced numbers of GABA receptors have previously been reported in the autistic brain. Thionin-stained sections were used to qualitatively assess cytoarchitectonic patterning and quantitatively determine the density of neurons and immunohistochemistry was used to determine the densities of a subset of GABAergic interneurons utilizing parvalbumin-and calbindin-immunoreactivity. In autism, the PCC displayed altered cytoarchitecture with irregularly distributed neurons, poorly demarcated layers IV and V, and increased presence of white matter neurons. In contrast, no neuropathology was observed in the FFG. There was no significant difference in the density of thionin, parvalbumin, or calbindin interneurons in either region and there was a trend towards a reduced density of calbindin neurons in the PCC. This study highlights the presence of abnormal findings in the PCC, which appear to be developmental in nature and could affect the local processing of social-emotional behaviors as well as functioning of interrelated areas.

PMID:
21360830
PMCID:
PMC3110607
DOI:
10.1002/aur.188
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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