PediatricsReview Article

Structural and Functional Aberrations of the Auditory Brainstem in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Amanda Smith, OMS III; Samantha Storti, OMS III; Richard Lukose, DO; and Randy J. Kulesza Jr, PhD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: May 6, 2018

Accepted: May 16, 2018

Published: January 1, 2019

J Osteopath Med; 119(1): 41-50

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition associated with difficulties in the social, communicative, and behavioral domains. Most cases of ASD arise from an unknown etiologic process, but there are numerous risk factors, including comorbidities and maternal exposures. Although it is not part of the diagnostic criteria, hearing difficulties ranging from deafness to hyperacusis are present in the majority of persons with ASD. High-functioning children with ASD have been found to have significantly slower and asymmetric auditory brainstem reflexes. Additionally, histopathological studies of postmortem brainstems in decedents who had ASD have consistently revealed significantly fewer neurons in auditory nuclei compared with those in people who did not have ASD. The authors review the literature implicating auditory dysfunction in ASD along with results from human study participants and postmortem human brain tissue. Together, these results implicate significant structural and functional abnormalities in the auditory brainstem in ASD and support the utility of auditory testing to screen for ASD.

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