Lower Levels of Serotonin Transporters Found in Brains of Individuals with ASD

New Study Uses PET Scan to Show Brain Differences Exhibited in Autism

Scientists from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published a paper last month in Molecular Psychiatry which shows that people with autism have lower levels of a protein which regulates the amount of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin serves as a critical neurotransmitter which controls physiological, emotional and cognitive processes. Serotonin also influences the rate of brain growth during early development. The Swedish study specifically demonstrated that individuals with autism have lower concentrations of the serotonin transporter in the cerebral cortex and other areas of the brain, including the brain stem, which interprets signals between the cerebrum, the cerebellum, the spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system. The authors hope that with their discovery, a better understanding of the physiology of autism will emerge, leading to a reduction of symptoms that cause impairment and suffering.

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