The Connection: Neuroinflammation & Autism


To date, there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder and the cause of onset is unknown, which makes scientific research extremely important. The prevalence of the disability was recorded at 1 in 68 children according to the CDC’s surveillance data from 2010, however, recent data from the National Health Statistics Report pegs the prevalence rate at 1 in 45 children aged 3 to 17. This significant increase in prevalence is a great cause of concern and requires researchers to work that much harder. With that in mind, there isn’t an effective one-size-fits-all treatment because individuals with ASD can have a wide variety of symptoms. But, one thing that has been overlooked in individuals with autism is the treatment of neuroinflammation.

Mark Geier and his fellow co-authors published a literature review titled “Relevance of Neuroinflammation and Encephalitis in Autism” where they point out a trend among those diagnosed with autism. The researchers approximate that 69% of those with autism have encephalitis or microglial activation, which is a brain pathology that suggests continuous neuroinflammation (encephalitis) in different regions of the brain. Why is this important to know? Well, autism is often categorized as a psychiatric disorder and the diagnosis does not include evaluating or treating the physical symptoms of the disorder like neuroinflammation.

For many years, the psychiatric categorization has slowed the progress of treatment and despite decades of proven research that autism is much more than just a psychiatric disorder, the categorization has hindered research into the physical side of things. It is conceivable that treating the neuroinflammation could possibly help alleviate some symptoms of ASD. This substantial finding indicates that the encephalitis includes microglial & astrocytic activation, a unique & elevated proinflammatory profile of cytokines, and abnormal expression of nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells. Researching the treatment of the encephalitis could open the doors to more effective treatment.

This means that the sole psychiatric categorization of autism needs to be re-worked to include the physical symptoms of the disorder.