Excitotoxicity in the pathogenesis of autism

M. M. Essa*, Nady Braidy, S. Subash, R. K. Vijayan, Gilles J. Guillemin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by stereotyped interests and behaviors and abnormalities in verbal and nonverbal communication. Autism is reported as a multifactorial disorder resulting from interactions between genetic, environmental, and immunological factors. Excitotoxicity and oxidative stress are potential mechanisms, which are likely to serve as a converging point to these risk factors. Numerous studies suggest that excitotoxicity is a likely cause of neuronal dysfunction in autistic patients. Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter generated in the CNS, and overactivation of glutamate receptors triggers excitotoxicity. Hyperactivation of glutamatergic receptors, NMDA and AMPA, leads to activation of enzymes, which damage cellular structure, membrane permeability, and electrochemical gradients. The role of excitotoxicity in autistic subjects is summarized in this chapter.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Neurotoxicity
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9781461458364
ISBN (Print)9781461458357
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Autism
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Free radicals
  • Glutamatergic receptors
  • Ion channel
  • Membrane potential
  • Neurotransmitter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience


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