European Journal of Pediatrics vol:167 issue:10 pages:1091-1101
Since the first and independent descriptions of early infantile autism (Kanner, 1943) and autistic psychopathy or Asperger’s syndrome (Asperger, 1944), scientific findings have brought autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) from a rare and intriguing psychiatric condition to a rather common neurodevelopmental disorder. Many aspects of the condition remain unclear, while the public expects clinicians in childcare to know a great deal about it. The prevalence of the ASD seems to have exploded in the past two decades. The supposed causes have shifted from poor parenting to genetics, and according to others to a range of biological environmental factors from regular children’s food to vaccinations. Brain imaging, anatomic findings, neuropsychology, neurophysiology, and genetics have generated huge amounts of data, while hypotheses on the pathogenesis, connecting different research levels are still embryonic. Partly because a clear theory explaining the cause ASD is lacking while the condition is socially very impairing ( ), a multitude of therapies have burgeoned of which remarkably few have been subjected to proper efficacy studies. In this “What’s new in….” we summarize recent findings on different levels of research in autism, with a particular focus on clinical issues. Emerging theories on the pathogenesis of autism will be discussed briefly.