, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 171-175

Purkinje Cell Size Is Reduced in Cerebellum of Patients with Autism

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1. The authors' goal was to compare the size and density of Purkinje cells in the cerebellum of subjects with and without autism. Blocks of cerebellum were dissected at autopsy from the brains of age, sex- and postmortem-intervaled (PMI) groups of autistic and normal control individuals (N = 5 per group). Frozen, unfixed blocks were sectioned and stained with 1% cresyl violet.

2. The linear, molecular, granular densities and cross-sectional area of Purkinje cells were measured using computer-assisted image analysis. The average cross-sectional areas of Purkinje cells of the patients with autism were smaller by 24% when compared to the normal subjects. Two of the five autistic subjects had mean Purkinje cell sizes that corresponded to greater than 50% reduction in size. There was a substantial effect size difference in Purkinje cell size (η2 = 0.29) between control and autistic brains (F(1, 8) = 3.32, P = 0.106). No differences in Purkinje cell densities were observed between the two groups.

3. These data indicate the possibility of Purkinje cell atrophy in autism with significant neurohistological heterogeneity among individuals diagnosed with this disorder.