The Cerebellum

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 406–416

Cerebellar Purkinje Cells are Reduced in a Subpopulation of Autistic Brains: A Stereological Experiment Using Calbindin-D28k

  • Elizabeth R. Whitney
  • Thomas L. Kemper
  • Margaret L. Bauman
  • Douglas L. Rosene
  • Gene J. Blatt


Although a decreased number of cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs) in the autistic brain has been widely reported with a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods, the more accurate method of cell counting with modern stereology has not yet been employed. An additional possible problem with prior reports is the use of Nissl staining to identify the PCs, as this can miss cells due to staining irregularities. In the present study, PCs were immunostained for calbindin-D28k (CB), as this has been shown to be a more reliable marker for PCs than the Nissl stain, with more than 99% of the PCs immunopositive (Whitney, Kemper, Rosene, Bauman, Blatt, J Neurosci Methods 168:42–47, 2008). Using stereology and CB immunostaining, the density of PCs was determined in serial sections from a consistently defined area of the cerebellar hemisphere in four control and six autistic brains, with the density of PCs then correlated with the clinical severity of autism. Overall, there was no significant difference in the density of PCs between the autistic and control groups. However, three of six autistic brains had PC numbers that fell within the control range, whereas the remaining three autistic brains revealed a reduction compared with the control brains. These data demonstrate that a reduction in cerebellar PCs was not a consistent feature of these autistic brains and that it occurred without discernible correlation between their density and the clinical features or severity of autism.


Purkinje cells Autism Calbindin-D28k 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth R. Whitney
    • 1
  • Thomas L. Kemper
    • 1
  • Margaret L. Bauman
    • 1
    • 2
  • Douglas L. Rosene
    • 1
  • Gene J. Blatt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, L-1004Boston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA

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