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The neurobiological basis of autism from a developmental perspective


Autism is a neurobiological disorder that is diagnosed through careful behavioral assessment in early childhood. In this paper, we review recent studies that have attempted to reveal the underlying causes of autism using a variety of techniques. Particular emphasis is placed on techniques that have been used by a number of different laboratories, including structural magnetic resonance imaging and postmortem studies of neuroanatomy. Neurobiological and neuropsychological data from individuals across a wide age range are examined from a neurodevelopmental perspective. We discuss how these recent advances have led us to develop a growth dysregulation hypothesis of autism. Finally, we discuss how this hypothesis may lead to new innovations in autism research.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Dr. Natacha Akshoomoff, Laboratory for Research on the Neuroscience of Autism, Children's Hospital Research Center, 8110 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037; E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
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