How Does Autism Affect the Brain and Nervous System?

Autism Affect the Brain

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of developmental disabilities that affect communication and social interaction. There is no known cause for ASD, but research shows that it can be caused by many factors including genetics, environment, and brain structure/function.


Autism can affect all levels of the nervous system.

The nervous system is a complex network of nerves that carries signals from the brain to the rest of the body. Autism can affect all levels of the nervous system and may cause problems in any area, including:

  • Central nervous system (brain)
  • Peripheral nervous system (nerves throughout your entire body)


There are differences in the brains of people with autism.

In order to understand how autism affects the brain, we need to look at three things:

  • Differences in brain structure
  • Differences in brain connectivity
  • Differences in brain function


MRI studies have shown differences in brain structure.

MRI studies have shown differences in brain structure.

The brains of autistic people are smaller than those of neurotypical individuals, especially in the frontal lobes, which are responsible for executive function (the ability to plan and organize behavior). This can be seen in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

In addition, there appears to be a difference in connectivity between parts of the brain; this is called “white matter integrity.”

White matter consists mostly of nerve fibers that connect different regions of your gray matter via pathways formed by myelin—a fatty substance that coats them and helps them communicate faster than other types of tissue.

These white matter tracts allow information from one part of your body or system to reach another area more quickly than before because they’re not encumbered by any obstacles like tissue or fluid containing blood vessels.

Since all areas need access to at least some portion of these neural pathways regularly throughout life’s many experiences—whether it’s working out at the gym or studying hard for an exam—therefore being able to see how much degraded over time would provide useful information about how well someone might perform under pressure later down their respective careers paths.”

Autism Affect the Brain (1)


In some areas, the brain appears larger than average in the first few years of life.

In some areas, the brain appears larger than average in the first few years of life. This may be due to a lack of myelin (a fatty substance that insulates nerves), which is produced by oligodendrocytes.

In other areas, such as the prefrontal cortex and corpus callosum (the largest fiber tract connecting different parts of the brain), there are abnormalities in size and shape as well as in numbers of neurons or glial cells (non-neuronal cells).

These changes do not appear until later in life; they tend to occur between ages 7-12 years old but can occur at any age after that point.

Read also: How Someone Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder?


The composition of white and gray matter differs in some areas of the brains of those with ASD.

The composition of white and gray matter differs in some areas of the brains of those with ASD.

  • Axons are long, typically nerve fibers that run from one neuron to another. They’re responsible for carrying messages between cells, and passing signals along a network like a cable system.
  • Neurons are tiny cells that make up our nervous system; they receive signals from other neurons and send their own electrical impulses out through axons as commands or signals (like when you talk or think).
  • White matter consists mostly of axons running together within bundles called tracts, which connect different parts of your brain together—like how roads connect cities! There’s also some white matter present outside these bundles but still within your brain: this is called diffuse white matter because it doesn’t have any particular structure like other types do (for example, intracranial fiber tracts).


There are also differences in brain connectivity.

There are also differences in brain connectivity. The way the brain connects and communicates with itself is called “connectivity.” Brain imaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), can be used to measure this connectivity.

In one study, researchers scanned the brains of people with ASD while they performed a task: They had to count backward from 100 by threes using their fingers or toes depending on what they felt like doing at the time.

The scans showed that while all participants’ brains processed information in similar ways, those with ASD showed differences in how they connected different parts of their brains together—which suggests a difference in how they process information compared to non-autistic people.

Another study looked at whether these differences existed because certain functions were being prioritized over others; if so then we might expect these differences between individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) would persist even when tested again later on.

Autism Affect the Brain (2)


Synapses can be a key difference in the autistic brain.

Synapses are the junctions between neurons, and they’re responsible for a lot. They allow information to be processed, transmitted across the gap between them, and then sent on to other parts of your brain or body.

The number of synapses in your brain can vary from person to person—and when it comes to autism-related disorders like neurodiversity disorders and ASD (autism spectrum disorder), there’s no clear consensus on how many synapses each individual has or how they affect their behavior.

However, research suggests that some people with neurodiverse traits may have fewer synapses than others do; this could mean that these individuals’ brains work differently than those without this difference do (or vice versa).

Read also: The Guide to Protect Your Autistic Child at Home


Research is ongoing to understand how ASD affects the brain and how that affects behavior.

As autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex condition, researchers are still working to understand how it affects the brain and nervous system.

It’s important to note that there are many different types of ASD, each with its own characteristics. The severity of symptoms varies widely among individuals with ASD, as well. For example:

  • Autistic people may have difficulty with social interactions or verbal communication; they may also have trouble recognizing emotions in others or understanding nonverbal cues such as facial expressions or body language.
  • Nonverbal individuals may struggle with tasks that require attention to detail like puzzles or drawing pictures of objects; this type of person would benefit from opportunities where he/she can practice these skills on his/her own time without pressure from other people around him/her who need help completing tasks themselves.* People who have Asperger Syndrome (AS) often experience difficulties socially because they don’t process what other people say clearly enough due to sensory overload on top of cognitive processing issues resulting from high intelligence levels combined with low levels of empathy skills needed for successful relationships outside work settings.* Individuals affected by Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) typically exhibit problems communicating verbally but can still function normally academically when given sufficient support during school hours.* People affected by Specific Language Impairment (SLI) struggle when talking about abstract ideas such as science topics in class because they lack the vocabulary words necessary for expressing complex thoughts effectively through speech patterns instead.

Read also: Does Autism Really Affect People’s Daily Lives?



The brain and nervous system are complex, and autism can affect all levels of the nervous system. We know that there are differences in the brains of people with ASD, but we don’t yet understand how they affect behavior. Research is ongoing to understand these issues more thoroughly.

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