Fever, autism and the basis for new research

Brian Field

Two doctors from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have published a study, published in the March 2009 Brain Research Reviews, that proposes autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may be the product of a dysregulated neuron bundle in the brain stem called the locus coeruleus-noradrenergic (LC-NA) system. Of further interest, is their observation that during episodes of fever some children with autism seemed to have improved behavior that then dissipated once the fever had subsided.

According to the study’s authors, Dr. Mark F. Mehler, M.D., chairman of neurology and director of the Institute for Brain Disorders and Neural Regeneration at Einstein and Dominick P. Purpura, M.D., dean emeritus and distinguished professor of neuroscience at Einstein, the LC-NA system is the only brain region involved both in controlling behavior and producing fever. This area of the brain is largely responsible for the production of noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter that induces our body’s “fight or flight” reaction. Noradrenaline is also a key for higher-order sensory processing of environmental stimuli, and facilitating the ability to focus one’s attention. Attentional focusing is frequently one of the deficits for those with ASD.

The cause of this dysregulation of the LC-NA system is attributed broadly to genetic and epigenetic (chemical influencers of genomes) factors, environment and also maternal stress during pregnancy. On this last point, they cite a 2008 study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders documenting a higher frequency of children with ASD born from mothers who had been exposed to topical storms and hurricanes mid-gestation.

While the study does not advocate inducing fever – which could be quite dangerous – they note that these findings may serve as the foundation for the development of new therapies targeting the LC-NA systems in such a way as to re-regulate how this area of the brain works. As Dr. Mehler notes, “We now have clues to the neurobiology, the genetics, and the epigenetics of autism. To move forward, we need to invest more money in basic science to look at the genome and the epigenome in a more focused way."

Related Articles

Parenting and the high cost of autism

The cost of raising a child is one of the archetypal concerns that looms over parents. Food, clothing, educat ..

read more

No, I’m not drunk, I’m autistic

In the realm of the grossly inappropriate we rarely think of our neighbors to the north; we here in the States ..

read more

New autism research studies brain imaging, finds neurological markers

A recent study conduced by the Kennedy Krieger Institute, and published in the April 23 issue of Brain Advance ..

read more

Our Support Community

Join our free support community and connect with thousands of other families and individuals touched by ASD. Find out what’s working for others, coping strategies, and life guides from others living what you’re going through now. Click here to join for free!

Resources in Your Area

Looking for autism resources nearby? Check our listings for professionals and services that might help.

Post your services | Help out in general


Autism social support group for adults
N/A, AR - United States
Sep-22-2021 - 06:30 pm
This is a support group /socializing group for adults on the autism spectrum to meet and talk in a safe environment. The group meets once a month. The meeting meets ..
Go to Event site

view all events