, Volume 82, Issue 4, pp 321-326

Neuropathological observations in a case of autism presenting with self-injury behavior

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We report the neuropathological evaluation of a 24-year-old autistic woman suffering from a residual state of infantile autism and presenting with self-injury behavior since childhood. Her behavior included head-banging, eye-gouging and self-biting. All intended therapeutic measures remained without effect, including high doses of psychotropic drugs. At autopsy, numerous neurofibrillary tangles were found in the perirhinal and entorhinal cortex where they were frequently grouped in nests or clusters. A few neurofibrillary tangles were also observed in the amygdala and in the prepiriform and orbito-frontal cortex. In the cortex, tangles were located in both layers II and III. There were no neuritic plaques or amyloid deposits. Interestingly, neurofibrillary tangles have been described in brains of individuals who had experienced repeated head injuries such as boxers (dementia pugilistica) and soccer players, suggesting that in our case a similar mechanism induced tangle formation and resulted in the loss of selective neuronal populations.

Supported in part by the Brookdale Foundation (to PRH)