Autism Spectrum Disorders: From genotypes to phenotypes
Andrew J. Whitehouse
This Research Topic covers the pathogenetic processes in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that underpin the translation of genetic vulnerability to clinically significant symptoms. Available research data in ASD suggests that it is a neural connectivity disorder and that the social communication and related neurobehavioural symptoms result from reduced synchronization between key _social brain_ regions. These interconnected neural systems can be understood through the relationship between functionally relevant anatomic areas and neurochemical pathways, the programming of which are genetically modulated during neurodevelopment and mediated through a range of epigenetic and environmental modulators. Elucidating the underlying molecular mechanisms can provide an invaluable window for understanding the neural wiring that regulates higher brain functions and consequent clinical phenotypes. In keeping with the multi modal and diverse origins of ASD, this Research Topic explores the genetic underpinnings and environmental modulation in the aetiology; neural substrates, biomarkers and endophenotypes that underlie clinical characteristics; as well as neurochemical pathways and pathophysiological mechanisms that pave the way for therapeutic interventions. Furthermore, since genetically mediated deficits and consequent functional impairments involve activity-dependent synapse development that depends on postnatal learning and experience, the trajectory towards the final clinical expression could be modulated by early interventions that exploit the neuronal maturation and brain plasticity. However, identifying these diverse pathogenetic processes and tailoring interventions would require subtyping ASD into homogeneous subgroups. In this regard, this topic covers the current state of evidence in the literature through topic reviews as well as ongoing original work that provides tangible hypotheses and directions for future research.