Neuropathology and animal models of autism: genetic and environmental factors. Academic Article uri icon


  • Autism is a heterogeneous behaviorally defined neurodevelopmental disorder. It is defined by the presence of marked social deficits, specific language abnormalities, and stereotyped repetitive patterns of behavior. Because of the variability in the behavioral phenotype of the disorder among patients, the term autism spectrum disorder has been established. In the first part of this review, we provide an overview of neuropathological findings from studies of autism postmortem brains and identify the cerebellum as one of the key brain regions that can play a role in the autism phenotype. We review research findings that indicate possible links between the environment and autism including the role of mercury and immune-related factors. Because both genes and environment can alter the structure of the developing brain in different ways, it is not surprising that there is heterogeneity in the behavioral and neuropathological phenotypes of autism spectrum disorders. Finally, we describe animal models of autism that occur following insertion of different autism-related genes and exposure to environmental factors, highlighting those models which exhibit both autism-like behavior and neuropathology.

published proceedings

  • Autism Res Treat

altmetric score

  • 22.87

author list (cited authors)

  • Gadad, B. S., Hewitson, L., Young, K. A., & German, D. C.

citation count

  • 63

complete list of authors

  • Gadad, Bharathi S||Hewitson, Laura||Young, Keith A||German, Dwight C

publication date

  • January 2013