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Hypothesis and Theory ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Neurol. | doi: 10.3389/fneur.2018.01120

Neuromodulation and a Reconceptualization of Autism Spectrum Disorders: Using the Locus Coeruleus Functioning as an Exemplar

  • 1Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR), United States

The autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) are a heterogeneous group of developmental disorders. ASD can be reliably diagnosed, however the etiology, pathophysiology and treatment targets remain poorly characterized. Although there are many atypical findings in anatomy, genetics, connectivity and other biologic parameters, there remains no discreet hypothesis to explain the core signs as well as the very frequent comorbidities. Due to this, designing targets for treatments can only be done by assuming each symptom is a result of discreet abnormality which is likely not the case. Neuronal circuity remains a major focus of research however rarely including the fact the functioning of the brain is highly dependent on various systems including the neuromodulatory substances originating in the midbrain. A hypothesis is presented which explores the possibilities of explaining many of the symptoms found in ASD, in terms of inefficient neuromodulation using the functioning of the locus coeruleus and norepinephrine (LC/NE) as exemplars. The basic science of LC/NE is reviewed. Several functions found to be impaired in ASD including learning, attention, sensory processing, emotional regulation, autonomic functioning, adaptive and repetitive behaviors, sleep, language acquisition, initiation, and prompt dependency are examined in terms of the functioning of the LC/NE system. Suggestions about possible treatment directions are explored.

Keywords: Locus caeruleus, Norephinephrine, noradrenergic, Neuromodulation, Autism (ASD), Autism treatment, midbrain, Prefrontal Cortex

Received: 05 Sep 2018; Accepted: 06 Dec 2018.

Edited by:

William T. Brown, AOL (United States), United States

Reviewed by:

Christina Gross, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, United States
Zhexing Wen, Emory University School of Medicine, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 London. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Eric London, Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR), Staten Island, United States,