Serotonin in cortical development: implications for autism spectrum disorder

Christine F. Hohmann, Mary S. Lange, Mary E. Blue

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex, multifaceted, developmental brain disorder that is based on behavioral criteria and is increasing in frequency. Despite decades of research, reliable biomarkers and effective therapeutic approaches remain elusive. Here we provide a focused review of research literature that suggests an involvement of the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) in the etiology of the disorder. We describe the role that 5-HT plays in the maturation of brain structure and function as relevant to the neuropathologies of ASD. We discuss the role of 5-HT in autoimmune disorders, inflammation, and the gut–brain axis, all of which have been associated with ASD and are identified as risk factors for maternal transmission. Our review supports the hypothesis that the interplay of peripheral and central 5-HT levels in the mother and offspring, and placental 5-HT synthesis impacts early brain development in genetically vulnerable individuals and result in the neuropathologies associated with ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Behavioral Neuroscience
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameHandbook of Behavioral Neuroscience
ISSN (Print)1569-7339


  • Autism
  • Brain development
  • Environmental factors
  • Inflammation
  • Maternal risk factors
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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