How is autism caused?

This is a DIFFERENT QUESTION than “WHAT causes autism” because it treats the causes of autism as PROCESSES, not events.  The idea here is that autism is caused by an ACCUMULATION of influences, and that this accumulation may occur OVER TIME.

  • Genes
    • Inherited and acquired mutations
    • Gene expression
  • Environment
    • Too much bad, not enough good
    • Different levels of environment: Physical, biological, social, emotional
  • Physiology
    • Molecules – different molecules, different molecular interactions
    • Biochemistry and metabolism – some pathways working harder, other pathways stuck
    • Organ systems – gastrointestinal, immune, endocrine/hormone
  • Brain
    • Brain modules under- or over-active
    • Brain networks and connections differently mapped or differently active
    • Brain cells and tissue affected by physiological problems like inflammation and oxidative stress
    • Too much or not enough of brain chemicals like neurotransmitters or neuropeptides
  • Total load / allostatic load /cumulative stress
    • Cumulative impact of genetic vulnerabilities, environmental stressors, lack of environmental supports all shift the functioning of the system

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