“Specialized neurons called chandelier cells, which dampen brain signals, make unusually few connections in the brains of people with autism. And the neurons that receive their chemical signals have a dearth of receptors for them.

The unpublished findings appeared in two posters presented yesterday at the 2018 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego, California.

The results support that the idea that the balance between excitation and inhibition is altered in the brains of people with autism.

“All of these things are pointing to an increase in excitation in the system,” says lead investigator Verónica Martínez-Cerdeño, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of California, Davis. “We think this is part of why there is an excitatory-inhibitory imbalance in autism.”

Chandelier cells dampen the output of pyramidal neurons, which excite neuronal activity. The cells send their signals through fibers arranged in vertical columns, reminiscent of the candles in a chandelier. These columns, called cartridges, connect with pyramidal neurons.

Earlier this year, the same team reported fewer chandelier cells in the brains of autistic people than in those of controls1. The new work focuses on the cells’ cartridges.”

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