Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome: A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective

  • Jeanne Townsend
  • Marissa Westerfield


Leo Kanner, an Austrian born American psychiatrist, first described autism in 1943 [1]. His observations of a small group of children with behavioral symptoms of social withdrawal, impaired language/communication, and obsession with sameness led to recognition of autism as a specific pervasive developmental disorder. At about the same time, Austrian psychiatrist Hans Asperger independently described similar symptoms in a small group of children except that the “Asperger” children were high functioning with better language and cognitive skills than those described by Kanner [2]. Both Kanner and Asperger used the word autistic to describe the pathology in the children they observed – a term rooted in the Greek “autos” (self) and coined by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler to describe symptoms in his schizophrenic patients. Before Kanner and Asperger defined autism as a specific disorder, children with autistic symptoms were most likely classed and treated as mentally retarded or, if they were high functioning, perhaps as schizophrenic.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Functional Connectivity Autistic Child Childhood Autism Rate Scale Picture Exchange Communication System 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurosciencesUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA

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