Cerebral hypoperfusion, or insufficient blood flow in the brain, occurs in many areas of the brain in patients diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Hypoperfusion was demonstrated in the brains of individuals with ASD when compared to normal healthy control brains either using positron emission tomography (PET) or single‑photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). The affected areas include, but are not limited to the: prefrontal, frontal, temporal, occipital, and parietal cortices; thalami; basal ganglia; cingulate cortex; caudate nucleus; the limbic system including the hippocampal area; putamen; substantia nigra; cerebellum; and associative cortices. Moreover, correlations between symptom scores and hypoperfusion in the brains of individuals diagnosed with an ASD were found indicating that the greater the autism symptom pathology, the more significant the cerebral hypoperfusion or vascular pathology in the brain. Evidence suggests that brain inflammation and vascular inflammation may explain a part of the hypoperfusion. There is also evidence of a lack of normal compensatory increase in blood flow when the subjects are challenged with a task. Some studies propose treatments that can address the hypoperfusion found among individuals diagnosed with an ASD, bringing symptom relief to some extent. This review will explore the evidence that indicates cerebral hypoperfusion in ASD, as well as the possible etiological aspects, complications, and treatments.
As autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a multifactorial condition, with genetic and environmental risk factors contributing to children’s unique presentation and symptom severity, a range of treatments have been suggested. Parents of children with ASD in my clinic are asking me about alternative therapies to improve their children’s condition. One of those therapies is hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT); commercial advertisement in the past has suggested good results with this approach. Should I recommend the use of HBOT for children with ASD? Answer Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides a higher concentration of oxygen delivered in a chamber or tube containing higher than sea level atmospheric pressure.
Numerous studies of autistic individuals have revealed evidence of cerebral hypoperfusion, neuroinflammation, gastrointestinal inflammation, immune dysregulation, oxidative stress, relative mitochondrial dysfunction, and neurotransmitter abnormalities. Many of these findings have been correlated with core autistic symptoms. For example, cerebral hypoperfusion in autistic children has been correlated with repetitive, self-stimulatory and stereotypical behaviors, and impairments in communication. Specifically, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been used and can compensate for decreased blood flow by increasing the oxygen content of plasma and body tissues. The aim of this work was to study the effect of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in autistic Egyptian children. HBOT is a treatment that has recently become quite popular in the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) community. Its benefits cross a wide range of autistic traits as: improved language, increased awareness, behavior and socialization by affecting the pathophysiological findings in autism.