Oct. 23, 2008 -- Question: What is an autistic disorder, and what exactly is wrong with the brain of an individual with autism?
Answer: Autistic disorder is one of the five autism spectrum or pervasive developmental disorders. Individuals with autistic disorder have deficits in three areas of functioning. In particular, they have qualitative impairments in social interaction, qualitative impairments in their ability to communicate and a response to the environment that is considered atypical or inappropriate.
In terms of what's wrong with the brains of individuals who have autistic disorder, it remains unclear. In fact, it's not so much that they have structural differences in terms of their brain development, but much rather functional differences -- that is, the brains don't look different compared to other individuals, but they respond differently, they function differently.