Research Topic

The Role of the Brainstem and Cerebellum in Autism and Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders (DD)

About this Research Topic

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and related developmental disorders (DDs) are generally described on the basis of higher cognitive functioning deficits, suggesting cortical compromise.

While there clearly is cortical dysfunction, the cortex is only a part of the circuit, all components must function properly to operate in an optimal fashion.

Many of the symptoms described in individuals with ASD and DDs are related to the lower centers, midbrain, and hindbrain structures, anatomically known as brainstem and cerebellum. This was reflected in the early literature.

Over time, however, less attention was dedicated to non-cortical structures.
Phylogenetically earlier structures mediate not only crucial functions, such as eye-tracking, attention, and sensory integration, they also provide appropriate trophic stimulation for the correct development of cortical systems.

Brain development research has greatly advanced; hence, it is now becoming possible to relate neuroanatomic findings and functional anomalies to developmental errors, or genetic aberrancies that might occur very early in development.

In addition, neuromodulation is gaining more attention, supporting new treatment strategies’ advancements and use. Neuromodulation is largely a function of midbrain and hindbrain nuclei. Nearly all medications used in psychiatry rely on mechanisms involving neurochemicals synthesized at the level of those nuclei.

This Research Topic aims to broaden knowledge on the role of midbrain and hindbrain structures and dissect their role in ASD and DD.

We welcome articles focusing on:

1) Developmental studies of hindbrain and midbrain, helping to elucidate ASD and DD phenotypes, including genetic and anatomically oriented studies.
2) In vivo and in vitro evidence, from human, tissue, and animal models studies, supporting the evolutionary role played by midbrain and hindbrain in ASD and DDs’ physiopathogenesis, symptom development, and their role in brain development.
3) ASD and DDs translational studies highlighting the prevalent outcomes from animal and tissue research
4) Novel methods allowing investigation of these structures in humans
5) Potential treatments targeting these structures to improve or avoid these disorders, rescuing functionality.
6) Examples of midbrain and hindbrain structures important in ASD and DD including the superior and inferior colliculus, mediating visual and auditory functions, sensory integration, and its communications with the cerebellum.
7) Studies on Neuromodulatory systems including those mediated by norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and oxytocin among others: role in ASD and DD pathogenesis
8) Autonomic and vestibular system’s involvement in ASD and DDs.

We also welcome exploration of other midbrain or hindbrain-based systems that may contribute to these disorders.

Novel research promoting advancements in the field is preferred.
All types of articles supported by rigorous evidence relating scientific findings with the symptoms of the disorders are welcome, review articles of relatively neglected topics are also welcome. Hypothesis and theoretical papers are also welcome if there is rigorous evidence relating scientific findings with the symptoms of the disorders



Keywords: Brainstem, cerebellum, autism, development, neuromodulation


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and related developmental disorders (DDs) are generally described on the basis of higher cognitive functioning deficits, suggesting cortical compromise.

While there clearly is cortical dysfunction, the cortex is only a part of the circuit, all components must function properly to operate in an optimal fashion.

Many of the symptoms described in individuals with ASD and DDs are related to the lower centers, midbrain, and hindbrain structures, anatomically known as brainstem and cerebellum. This was reflected in the early literature.

Over time, however, less attention was dedicated to non-cortical structures.
Phylogenetically earlier structures mediate not only crucial functions, such as eye-tracking, attention, and sensory integration, they also provide appropriate trophic stimulation for the correct development of cortical systems.

Brain development research has greatly advanced; hence, it is now becoming possible to relate neuroanatomic findings and functional anomalies to developmental errors, or genetic aberrancies that might occur very early in development.

In addition, neuromodulation is gaining more attention, supporting new treatment strategies’ advancements and use. Neuromodulation is largely a function of midbrain and hindbrain nuclei. Nearly all medications used in psychiatry rely on mechanisms involving neurochemicals synthesized at the level of those nuclei.

This Research Topic aims to broaden knowledge on the role of midbrain and hindbrain structures and dissect their role in ASD and DD.

We welcome articles focusing on:

1) Developmental studies of hindbrain and midbrain, helping to elucidate ASD and DD phenotypes, including genetic and anatomically oriented studies.
2) In vivo and in vitro evidence, from human, tissue, and animal models studies, supporting the evolutionary role played by midbrain and hindbrain in ASD and DDs’ physiopathogenesis, symptom development, and their role in brain development.
3) ASD and DDs translational studies highlighting the prevalent outcomes from animal and tissue research
4) Novel methods allowing investigation of these structures in humans
5) Potential treatments targeting these structures to improve or avoid these disorders, rescuing functionality.
6) Examples of midbrain and hindbrain structures important in ASD and DD including the superior and inferior colliculus, mediating visual and auditory functions, sensory integration, and its communications with the cerebellum.
7) Studies on Neuromodulatory systems including those mediated by norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and oxytocin among others: role in ASD and DD pathogenesis
8) Autonomic and vestibular system’s involvement in ASD and DDs.

We also welcome exploration of other midbrain or hindbrain-based systems that may contribute to these disorders.

Novel research promoting advancements in the field is preferred.
All types of articles supported by rigorous evidence relating scientific findings with the symptoms of the disorders are welcome, review articles of relatively neglected topics are also welcome. Hypothesis and theoretical papers are also welcome if there is rigorous evidence relating scientific findings with the symptoms of the disorders



Keywords: Brainstem, cerebellum, autism, development, neuromodulation


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

17 August 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

17 August 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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