In this important study, researchers from Johns Hopkins found quite striking evidence of inflammation in the brains of people diagnosed with autism. The ages studied ranged from 5 to 46 years, and the main brain region affected with inflammation was the cerebellum (see also post below), a site important for motor planning and coordination, but also sensory-motor coordination, autonomic activation, and attention. In the middle picture below, see how there's less of the dark purple dots (loss of neurons). On the right, the brown dotted staining showed areas of inflammatory activation in microglial cells.
The findings raise important questions like: what is the inflammation in response to? and is there any way that treating the inflammatory response can improve brain functioning or the course of the disease?
With this new information, autism is more clearly a neurologic rather than psychiatric or behavioral disorder. Studies in progress are evaluating possible laboratory tests to aid in the diagnosis.
Neuroinflammation in Autism