What is Autism?

What is Autism?Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are the result of neurodevelopmental disorders affecting social and communication development, and is classified as developmental disorders in DSM-IV according to American Psychiatric Association. ASD appears during the first three years of life and has been reported to occur in as many as three-five in thousand individuals or 1 in 110 (Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2006 Principal Investigators; Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms of autism are related to the abnormal development in certain areas within the brain, in particular the cerebellum, brain stem and limbic region.

The pathophysiology of ASD involves abnormal communication between neurons, possibly associated with abnormal peptide patterns and altered levels of neuropeptide hormones in the brain.

Some facts

There are around 800-900 million inhabitants in the western countries. Based on a birth rate of 1.3 % per individual around 10 million children are born every year in western countries alone, with about 9 of every 1000 babies born in western countries suffering from psycho-neurological Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and associated conditions such as Asperger syndrome and ADHD.

The cost of treatment and support for autistic individuals is estimated $35 billion per year the United States alone. For Europe there is currently no complete information on the total annual cost.

Over half a million people have autism and its related disorder only in the UK

40% of all children with autism wait more than three years for a diagnosis

Boys are four times more likely to develop autism than girls

What causes autism?

Autism a heterogeneous neurological disorder caused by environmental factors such as virus toxins, chemicals or a genetic predisposition which may activate some undesirable gene functions or alter levels of neuropeptides and/or specific enzyme activities. This alteration affects and impairs neuronal signalling and their pathways in the central nerve system which might cause altered production levels of signal substances leading to neurological disorder like autism.