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Innate Immunity and Thalamic Dysfunction in Autism 

Sensory processing defects are a prominent feature of autism with descriptions of an over-reaction to noise, light, and touch and increased pain thresholds. The thalamus is the gateway of these sensory signals and reports indicate a marked suppression of thalamic metabolic activity in autistic children. Other studies reported excessive brain growth during the early life. The cause of these functional and structural brain abnormalities and resulting behavioral impairments remain unknown. A clue may be the finding of inflammation-activated glia in most autism brains. The inflammation was composed of glial cell growth and peptide secretion. Neurons perform the signal transmission and computations unique to the brain, while glial cells support these neuron functions. Resting glia provide structural and metabolic support to neurons improving their signaling properties. The effect of inflammation-activated glia on neurons is largely unknown. This project sought answers to this question to understand what influence the inflammation-activated glia found in autism might have on the brain of individuals suffering from autism.