Overview of selected basic research in autism

  • L. R. Piggott


Basic research in autism is reviewed. There is mounting indication, but as yet inconclusive evidence, of unique physiologic disturbances etiologically related to autism. Additionally there is indication that some of the physiologic disturbances found in autistic children are also present in children with other developmental disorders. Children called autistic probably represent a complex of clinically similar manifestations in a variety of different subgroups of children, each subgroup representing a basically different physiologic disturbance. However, the possibility remains that there is only one basic disturbance that in varying degrees affects many body systems and thus manifests in a variety of overlapping syndromes. Objective markers are needed so as to allow the demarcation of subgroups of autistic children for further study. Possible markers may be decreased duration of postrotatory nystagmus, auditory evoked response deviations, lymphocytic hyporesponsivity, increased blood platelet serotonin efflux, and/or the presence of urinary DMT or bufotenin.


Serotonin Developmental Disorder Autistic Child Body System Blood Platelet 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bernal, M. E., & Miller, W. H. Electrodermal and cardiac responses of schizophrenic children to sensory stimuli.Psychophysiology, 1970,7, 155–168.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Boullin, D. J., Bhagavan, H. N., Coleman, M., O'Brien, R. A., & Youdim, M. B. H. Platelet monoamir. oxidase in children with infantile autism.Medical Biology, 1975,53, 210–213.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Boullin, D. J., Coleman, M., & O'Brien, R. A. Abnormalities in platelet 5-hydroxytryptamine efflux in patients with infantile autism.Nature, 1970,226, 371–372.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Boullin, D. J., Coleman, M., O'Brien, R. A., & Rimland, B. Laboratory predictions of infantile autism based on 5-hydroxytryptamine efflux from blood platelets and their correlation with the Rimland E-2 score.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1971,1, 63–71.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Campbell, M., Friedman, E., DeVito, E., Greenspan, L., & Collins, P. Blood serotonin in psychotic and brain damaged children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1974,4, 33–41.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Campbell, M., Friedman, E., Green, W. H., Collins, P. J., Small, A. M., & Breuer, H. Blood serotonin in schizophrenic children. A preliminary study.International Pharmacopsychiatry, 1975,10, 213–221.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Campbell, M., Friedman, E., Green, W. H., Small, A. M., & Burdock, E. I. Blood platelet monoamine oxidase activity in schizophrenic children and their families.Neuropsychobiology, 1976,2, 239–246.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen, D. J., Caparulo, B. K., Shaywitz, B. A., & Bowers, M. B. Dopamine and serotonin metabolism in neuropsychiatrically disturbed children.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1977,34, 545–550.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen, D., & Young, J. G. Neurochemistry and child psychiatry.Journal of Child Psychiatry, 1977,16, 353–411.Google Scholar
  10. Cohen, D., Young, J. G., & Roth, J. A. Platelet monoamine oxidase in early childhood autism.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1977,34, 534–537.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Colbert, E. G., Koegler, R. R., & Markham, C. H. Vestibular dysfunction in childhood schizophrenia.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1959,1, 600–617.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Coleman, M., Campbell, M., Freedman, L. S., Roffman, M., Ebstein, R. P., & Goldstein, M. Serum dopamine-β-hydroxylase levels in Down's syndrome.Clinical Genetics, 1974,5, 312–315.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Creak, M., & Pampiglione, G. Clinical and EEG studies on a group of 35 psychotic children.Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 1969,11, 218–227.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Darby, J. K. Neuropathologic aspects of psychosis in children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1976,6, 339–352.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. DeMyer, M., Barton, S., DeMyer, W., Norton, J., Allen, J., & Steele, R. Prognosis in autism: A follow-up study.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1973,3, 199–246.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. DeMyer, M., Schwier, H., Bryson, C., Solow, E., & Roeske, N. Free fatty acid response to insulin and glucose stimulation in schizophrenic, autistic, and emotionally disturbed children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1971,1, 436–452.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Fish, B. Biologic antecedents of psychosis in children. In D. X. Freedman (Ed.),Biology of the major psychoses. New York: Raven Press, 1975.Google Scholar
  18. Folstein, S., & Rutter, M. Infantile autism: A genetic study of 21 twin pairs.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 1977,18, 297–321.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Fowle, A. M. Atypical leukocyte pattern of schizophrenic children.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1968,18, 666–680.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Freeman, B. J., Frankel, F., & Ritvo, E. R. The effects of response contingent vestibular stimulation on the behavior of autistic and retarded children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1976,6, 353–358.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Goldfarb, W. Factors in the development of schizophrenic children: An approach to subclassification. In J. Romano (Ed.),The origins of schizophrenia. Amsterdam: Excerpta Medica Foundation, 1967. Pp. 70–91.Google Scholar
  22. Goldfarb, W.Growth and change of schizophrenic children: A longitudinal study. New York: Wiley, 1974.Google Scholar
  23. Goldstein, M., Mahanand, D., Lee, J., & Coleman, M. Dopamine-β-hydroxylase and endogenous total 5-hydroxyindole levels in autistic patients and controls. In M. Coleman (Ed.),The autistic syndromes. New York: American Elsevier, 1976.Google Scholar
  24. Gubbay, S. S., Lobascher, M., & Kingerlee, P. A neurological appraisal of autistic children: Results of a Western Australian survey.Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 1970,12, 422–429.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Hanley, H. G., Stahl, S. M., & Freedman, D. X. Hyperserotonemia and amine metabolites in autistic and retarded children.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1977,34, 521–531.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Hauser, S., Delong, G., & Rosman, N. Pneumographic findings in the infantile autism syndrome: A correlation with temporal lobe disease.Brain, 1975,98, 667–688.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Hutt, C., Forrest, S. J., & Richer, J. Cardiac arrhythmia and behavior in autistic children.Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 1975,51, 361–372.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Hutt, S. J., Hutt, C., Lee, D., &Ounsted, C. A behavioural and electroencephalographic study of autistic children.Journal of Psychiatric Research, 1965,3, 181–197.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Jeannerod, M., Mouret, J., & Jouvet, M. Etude de la motricité oculaire au cours de la phase paradoxale du sommeil chez le chat.Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1965,18, 554–566.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Katz, R. M., & Liebman, W. Creatine phosphokinase activity in central nervous system disorders and infections.American Journal of Diseases of Children, 1970,120, 543–546.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Lake, C. R., Ziegler, M. G., & Murphy, D. L. Increased norepinephrine levels and decreased dopamine-β-hydroxylase activity in primary autism.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1977,34, 553–556.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Lelord, G., Laffont, F., Jusseaume, P., & Stephant, J. L. Comparative study of conditioning of averaged evoked responses by coupling sound and light in normal and autistic children.Psychophysiology, 1973,10, 415–425.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Lucas, A. R., Warner, K., & Gottlieb, J. S. Biological studies in childhood schizophrenia: Serotonin uptake by platelets.Biological Psychiatry, 1971,3, 123–128.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Magherini, P. C., Pompeiano, O., & Thoden, U. The neurochemical basis of REM sleep: A cholinergic mechanism responsible for rhythmic activation of the vestibulo-oculomotor system.Brain Research, 1971,35, 565–569.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Mednick, S. A., & Schulsinger, F. Some premorbid characteristics related to breakdown in children with schizophrenic mothers. In D. Rosenthal and S. S. Kety,The transmission of schizophrenia. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1968. Pp. 267–291.Google Scholar
  36. Narasimhachari, N., & Himwich, H. E. Biochemical studies in early infantile autism.Biological Psychiatry, 1975,10, 425–432.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Ornitz, E. M., Brown, M. B., Mason, A., & Putnam, N. H. Effect of visual input on vestibular nystagmus in autistic children.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1974,31, 369–375.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Ornitz, E. M., Ritvo, E. R., Brown, M. B., La Franchi, S., Parmelee, T., & Walter, R. D. TheGeneral Psychiatry, 1968,18, 76–98.Google Scholar
  39. Ornitz, E. M., Ritvo, E. R., Brown, M. B., La Franchi, S., Parmelee, T., & Walter, R. O. The EEG and rapid eye movements during REM sleep in normal and autistic children.Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1969,26, 167–175.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Ornitz, E. M., Ritvo, E. R., Panman, L. M., Lee, Y. H., Carr, E. M., & Walter, R. D. The auditory evoked response in normal and autistic children during sleep.Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1968,25, 221–230.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Pare, C. M. B., Sandler, M., & Stacey, R. S. The relationship between decreased 5-hydroxyindole metabolism and mental defect in phenylketonuria.Archives of Disease in Childhood, 1959,34, 422–425.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Partington, M. W., Tu, J. B., & Wong, C. Y. Blood serotonin levels in severe mental retardation.Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 1973,15, 616–627.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Perry, T. L. N-methylmetanephrine excretion by juvenile psychotics.Science, 1963,139, 587–589.Google Scholar
  44. Piggott, L. R., Ax, A. F., Bamford, J. L., & Fetzner, J. M. Respiration sinus arrhythmia in psychotic children.Psychophysiology, 1973,10, 401–414.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Piggott, L. R., Frohman, C. E., Ward, V. L., & Gottlieb, J. S. The effect of plasma from psychotic children on tryptophan uptake in chicken erythrocytes.Neuropsychobiology, 1975,1, 284–295.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Piggott, L. R., Purcell, G., Cummings, G., & Caldwell, D. Vestibular dysfunction in emotionally disturbed children.Biological Psychiatry, 1976,11, 719–729.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Pollack, M., & Krieger, H. P. Oculomotor and postural patterns in schizophrenic children.A.M.A. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 1958,79, 720–726.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Quinn, P., & Rapoport, J. Minor physical anomalies and neurologic status in hyperactive boys.Pediatrics, 1974,53, 742–747.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Rimland, B. Platelet uptake and efflux of serotonin in subtypes of psychotic children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1976,6, 379–382.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Ritvo, E. R., Ornitz, E. M., Eviatar, A., Markham, C. H., Brown, M. B., & Mason, A. Decreased postrotatory nystagmus in early infantile autism.Neurology, 1969,19, 653–658.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Ritvo, E. R., Ornitz, E. M., Walter, R. D., & Hanley, J. Correlation of psychiatric diagnoses and EEG findings: A double-blind study of 184 hospitalized children.American Journal of Psychiatry, 1970,126, 988–996.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Ritvo, E. R., Yuwiler, A., Geller, E., Ornitz, E. M., Saeger, K., & Plotkin, S. Increased blood serotonin and platelets in early infantile autism.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1970,23, 566–572.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Saletu, B., Saletu, M., Marasa, J., Mednick, S., & Schulsinger, F. Acoustic evoked potentials in offspring of schizophrenic mothers.Clinical Electroencephalography, 1975,6, 92–102.Google Scholar
  54. Sankar, D. V. S. Studies on blood platelets, blood enzymes, and leukocyte chromosome breakage in childhood schizophrenia.Behavioral Neuropsychiatry, 1971,2, 2–10.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Sankar, D. V. S., Gold, E., Phipps, E., & Sankar, D. B. General metabolic studies on schizophrenic children.Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1962,96, 392–397.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Schain, R. J., & Freedman, D. X. Studies on 5-hydroxyindole metabolism in autistic and other mentally retarded children.Journal of Pediatrics, 1961,58, 315–320.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Shaw, C., Lucas, J., & Rabinovitch, R. Metabolic studies in childhood schizophrenia—effects of tryptophan loading on indole excretion.Archives of General Psychiatry, 1959,1, 366–371.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Small, J. G. Sensory evoked responses of autistic children. In D. W. Churchill, G. D. Alpern, & M. DeMyer (Eds.),Infantile autism: Proceedings of the Indiana University Colloquium. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, 1971. Pp. 224–242.Google Scholar
  59. Small, J. G. EEG and neurophysiological studies of early infantile autism.Biological Psychiatry, 1975,10, 385–397.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Steg, J. P., & Rapoport, J. L. Minor physical anomalies in normal, neurotic, learning disabled, and severely disturbed children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1975,5, 299–307.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Stubbs, E. G. Autistic children exhibit undetectable hemagglutination-inhibition antibody titers despite previous rubella vaccination.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1976,6, 269–274.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Stubbs, E. G., Crawford, M., Burger, D. R., & Vandenbark, A. A. Depressed lymphocyte responsiveness in autistic children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1977,7, 49–55.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Student, M., & Sohmer, H. Evidence from auditory nerve and brainstem evoked responses for an organic brain lesion in children with autistic traits.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1978,8, 13–20.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Sutton, H. E., & Read, J. Abnormal amino acid metabolism in a case suggesting autism.American Journal of Diseases of Children, 1958,98, 23–25.Google Scholar
  65. Takahashi, S., Kanai, H., & Miyamoto, Y. Reassessment of elevated serotonin levels in blood platelets in early infantile autism.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1976,6, 317–326.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Tanguay, P. E. Clinical and electrophysiological research. In E. R. Ritvo (Ed.),Autism: Diagnosis, current research and management. Holliswood, New York: Spectrum Publications, 1976.Google Scholar
  67. Tanguay, P. E., Ornitz, E. M., Forsythe, A. B., & Ritvo, E. R. Rapid eye movement (REM) activity in normal and autistic children during REM sleep.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1976,6, 275–288.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Tu, J. B., & Partington, M. W. 5-hydroxyindole levels in the blood and CSF in Down's syndrome, phenylketonuria, and severe mental retardation.Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 1972,14, 457–466.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Waldrop, M., Pedersen, F. A., & Bell, R. Q. Minor physical anomalies and behavior in preschool children.Child Development, 1968,39, 391–400.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. White, P., DeMyer, W., & DeMyer, M. EEG abnormalities in early childhood schizophrenia: A double-blind study of psychiatrically disturbed and normal children during promazine sedation.American Journal of Psychiatry, 1964,120, 950–958.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Young, J. G., Caparulo, B., Shaywitz, B., Johnson, W., & Cohen, D. Childhood autism: Cerebrospinal fluid examination and immunoglobulin levels.Journal of Child Psychiatry, 1977,16, 174–179.Google Scholar
  72. Yuwiler, A., Ritvo, E., Geller, E., Glousman, R., Schneiderman, G., & Matsuno, D. Uptake and efflux of serotonin from platelets of autistic and nonautistic children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1975,5, 83–98.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. R. Piggott
    • 1
  1. 1.Lafayette ClinicDetroit

Personalised recommendations