Neuron numbers increase in the human amygdala from birth to adulthood, but not in autism

Thomas A. Avino, Nicole Barger, Martha V. Vargas, Erin L. Carlson, David G Amaral, Melissa D Bauman, Cynthia Schumann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations

Abstract

Remarkably little is known about the postnatal cellular development of the human amygdala. It plays a central role in mediating emotional behavior and has an unusually protracted development well into adulthood, increasing in size by 40% from youth to adulthood. Variation from this typical neurodevelopmental trajectory could have profound implications on normal emotional development. We report the results of a stereological analysis of the number of neurons in amygdala nuclei of 52 human brains ranging from 2 to 48 years of age [24 neurotypical and 28 autism spectrum disorder (ASD)]. In neurotypical development, the number of mature neurons in the basal and accessory basal nuclei increases from childhood to adulthood, coinciding with a decrease of immature neurons within the paralaminar nucleus. Individuals with ASD, in contrast, show an initial excess of amygdala neurons during childhood, followed by a reduction in adulthood across nuclei. We propose that there is a long-term contribution of mature neurons from the paralaminar nucleus to other nuclei of the neurotypical human amygdala and that this growth trajectory may be altered in ASD, potentially underlying the volumetric changes detected in ASD and other neurodevelopmental or neuropsychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3710-3715
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume115
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018

Keywords

  • Amygdala
  • Autism
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Neuronal maturation
  • Stereology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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