According to the Autism Society of America, autism is now considered to be an epidemic. The increase in the rate of autism revealed by epidemiological studies and government reports implicates the importance of external or environmental factors that may be changing. This article discusses the evidence for the case that some children with autism may become autistic from neuronal cell death or brain damage sometime after birth as result of insult; and addresses the hypotheses that toxicity and oxidative stress may be a cause of neuronal insult in autism.
The article first describes the Purkinje cell loss found in autism, Purkinje cell physiology and vulnerability, and the evidence for postnatal cell loss. Second, the article describes the increased brain volume in autism and how it may be related to the Purkinje cell loss. Third, the evidence for toxicity and oxidative stress is covered and the possible involvement of glutathione is discussed. Finally, the article discusses what may be happening over the course of development and the multiple factors that may interplay and make these children more vulnerable to toxicity, oxidative stress, and neuronal insult.