Pathogenicity of Endocrine Dysregulation in Autism: The Role of the Melanin-Concentrating Hormone System

Adam Swierczynski


The voluminous daily output of autism research has become increasingly disconnected, existing largely within highly specific subspecialty areas, and lacking cross-disciplinary linkages of context, theory, and findings to inform a unified body of knowledge.  Robust syntheses of published research across the fields of psychiatry, cellular and molecular biology, neurology, endocrinology, immunology, behavioral and social sciences, and pedagogy may help clarify and extend current knowledge by guiding more efficient future research efforts investigating underlying causes, developmental divergences, novel treatments, and specific, sensitive biological markers in autism.  This synthesis of interdisciplinary research indicates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) stress axis may be at the center of an interaction among sex steroids, immune function, signaling protein transcriptions, neurogenesis, and dysregulation of brain structures sending or receiving projections from the HPA stress axis.  These interactions manifest observably as a range of sexually dimorphic behaviors and functional limitations often falling within the current diagnostic features of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  The pathogenicity of endocrine dysregulation may serve as a valuable model for developing a cohesive theory of ASD by explaining how the HPA and connected brain areas respond to extreme conditions of dysregulated endocrine signaling to cause symptoms associated with autism.


autism spectrum disorder; autoimmune diseases; estrogens; hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system; interdisciplinary research; neural pathways; neurodegenerative diseases


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