Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 201–216

Brain opioids and autism: An updated analysis of possible linkages

  • Tony L. Sahley
  • Jaak Panksepp

DOI: 10.1007/BF01495056

Cite this article as:
Sahley, T.L. & Panksepp, J. J Autism Dev Disord (1987) 17: 201. doi:10.1007/BF01495056


Considerable clinical evidence suggests that autistic children lack the normal ability or desire to engage others socially, as indicated by their poor social skills and inappropriate use of language for communicative purposes. Specifically, these children seem to lack normal amounts of social-emotional interest in other people, leading perhaps to a decreased initiative to communicate. This paper summarizes experimental evidence supporting a neurological theory, which posits that autism, at least partially, represents a disruptive overactivation of hypersensitization of neurohormone systems in the brain, such as brain opioids. These substances modulate socialemotional processes, and the possibility that blockade of opioid activity in the brain may be therapeutic for early childhood autism is discussed.

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony L. Sahley
    • 2
  • Jaak Panksepp
    • 2
  1. 1.Coleman Memorial LaboratoriesUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoCalifornia
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyBowling Green State UniversityBowling Green