The dynamics of autism spectrum disorders: how neurotoxic compounds and neurotransmitters interact

Ilona Quaak, Madeleine R Brouns, Margot Van de Bor

    Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


    In recent years concern has risen about the increasing prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Accumulating evidence shows that exposure to neurotoxic compounds is related to ASD. Neurotransmitters might play a key role, as research has indicated a connection between neurotoxic compounds, neurotransmitters and ASD. In the current review a literature overview with respect to neurotoxic exposure and the effects on neurotransmitter systems is presented. The aim was to identify mechanisms and related factors which together might result in ASD. The literature reported in the current review supports the hypothesis that exposure to neurotoxic compounds can lead to alterations in the GABAergic, glutamatergic, serotonergic and dopaminergic system which have been related to ASD in previous work. However, in several studies findings were reported that are not supportive of this hypothesis. Other factors also might be related, possibly altering the mechanisms at work, such as time and length of exposure as well as dose of the compound. Future research should focus on identifying the pathway through which these factors interact with exposure to neurotoxic compounds making use of human studies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3384-408
    Number of pages25
    JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2013


    • Child
    • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive/epidemiology
    • Dopamine/metabolism
    • Environmental Pollutants/metabolism
    • Glutamic Acid/metabolism
    • Humans
    • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated/metabolism
    • Neurotoxins/metabolism
    • Neurotransmitter Agents/metabolism
    • Organophosphates/metabolism
    • Serotonin/metabolism
    • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid/metabolism


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