Cortical interneurons in autism

Anis Contractor, Iryna M. Ethell, Carlos Portera-Cailliau*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The mechanistic underpinnings of autism remain a subject of debate and controversy. Why do individuals with autism share an overlapping set of atypical behaviors and symptoms, despite having different genetic and environmental risk factors? A major challenge in developing new therapies for autism has been the inability to identify convergent neural phenotypes that could explain the common set of symptoms that result in the diagnosis. Although no striking macroscopic neuropathological changes have been identified in autism, there is growing evidence that inhibitory interneurons (INs) play an important role in its neural basis. In this Review, we evaluate and interpret this evidence, focusing on recent findings showing reduced density and activity of the parvalbumin class of INs. We discuss the need for additional studies that investigate how genes and the environment interact to change the developmental trajectory of INs, permanently altering their numbers, connectivity and circuit engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1648-1659
Number of pages12
JournalNature neuroscience
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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