Dendrites and spines are the main neuronal structures receiving input from other neurons and glial cells. Dendritic and spine number, size, and morphology are some of the crucial factors determining how signals coming from individual synapses are integrated. Much remains to be understood about the characteristics of neuronal dendrites and dendritic spines in autism and related disorders. Although there have been many studies conducted using autism mouse models, few have been carried out using postmortem human tissue from patients. Available animal models of autism include those generated through genetic modifications and those non-genetic models of the disease. Here, we review how dendrite and spine morphology and number is affected in autism and related neurodevelopmental diseases, both in human, and genetic and non-genetic animal models of autism. Overall, data obtained from human and animal models point to a generalized reduction in the size and number, as well as an alteration of the morphology of dendrites; and an increase in spine densities with immature morphology, indicating a general spine immaturity state in autism. Additional human studies on dendrite and spine number and morphology in postmortem tissue are needed to understand the properties of these structures in the cerebral cortex of patients with autism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience