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The Neurochemistry of Autism

Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, University "Magna Graecia", Catanzaro 88100, Italy
Clinic of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, Department of Mental Health, Physical and Preventive Medicine, University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”, Napoli 80138, Italy
Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Foggia, Foggia 71100, Italy
Department of Psychology, Educational and Science and Human Movement, University of Palermo, Palermo 90128, Italy
Department of Sciences for Health Promotion and Mother and Child Care “G. D’Alessandro”, University of Palermo, Palermo 90127, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Interuniversity group for study and research on Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Children and Adolescents.
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(3), 163;
Received: 20 February 2020 / Revised: 4 March 2020 / Accepted: 10 March 2020 / Published: 13 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to complex neurobehavioral and neurodevelopmental conditions characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior or interests, and altered sensory processing. Environmental, immunological, genetic, and epigenetic factors are implicated in the pathophysiology of autism and provoke the occurrence of neuroanatomical and neurochemical events relatively early in the development of the central nervous system. Many neurochemical pathways are involved in determining ASD; however, how these complex networks interact and cause the onset of the core symptoms of autism remains unclear. Further studies on neurochemical alterations in autism are necessary to clarify the early neurodevelopmental variations behind the enormous heterogeneity of autism spectrum disorder, and therefore lead to new approaches for the treatment and prevention of autism. In this review, we aim to delineate the state-of-the-art main research findings about the neurochemical alterations in autism etiology, and focuses on gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate, serotonin, dopamine, N-acetyl aspartate, oxytocin and arginine-vasopressin, melatonin, vitamin D, orexin, endogenous opioids, and acetylcholine. We also aim to suggest a possible related therapeutic approach that could improve the quality of ASD interventions. Over one hundred references were collected through electronic database searching in Medline and EMBASE (Ovid), Scopus (Elsevier), ERIC (Proquest), PubMed, and the Web of Science (ISI). View Full-Text
Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; neurochemistry; GABA; glutamate; serotonin; dopamine; acetylcholine; N-acetyl aspartate; oxytocin; melatonin autism spectrum disorder; neurochemistry; GABA; glutamate; serotonin; dopamine; acetylcholine; N-acetyl aspartate; oxytocin; melatonin
MDPI and ACS Style

Marotta, R.; Risoleo, M.C.; Messina, G.; Parisi, L.; Carotenuto, M.; Vetri, L.; Roccella, M. The Neurochemistry of Autism. Brain Sci. 2020, 10, 163.

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