Autism Is Not Just One Thing

Autism is not just one thing

ASD is characterized by developmental delays, communication problems, abnormal social skills, learning disabilities and behavioral problems—all ranging from mild to severe. While some symptoms are apparent during infancy, most children exhibit ASD symptoms between the ages of 1 and 2.

The frequency of being diagnosed with an ASD has been increasing at an alarming rate over the past 20 years. As the fastest growing developmental disability, it is estimated that 1 in every 68 births will now be affected. Additionally, boys are almost 5 times more likely than girls to have this disorder.

Having seen more than 1,000 patients with an ASD at Amen Clinics, we understand that the condition is not caused by one specific thing in the brain, but that there are actually 8-10 different factors that influence abnormal brain function.

Watch this short video in which Dr. Daniel Amen shares more about ASD, including:

  • His mantra regarding treatment
  • Different patterns of brain dysfunction in ASD
  • Potential factors contributing to the rise in ASD
  • Possible treatment interventions for ASD

Brain SPECT imaging can be incredibly helpful for those with ASD. The SPECT studies of these patients reveal that their brain patterns tend to have high activity or low activity (and both in some cases).

High Activity Patterns in ASD:

  • Increased activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus (the “gear shifter”) and lateral (side) prefrontal cortex, relating to symptoms such as:
    • Repetitious speech and behavior
    • Getting stuck on thoughts
    • Problems with transitions and change
  • A “Ring of Fire” pattern—an overall increase of activity throughout the brain—which may be associated with inflammation and be related to:
    • Mood instability
    • Emotional “meltdowns”
    • Anxiety

Low Activity Patterns in ASD:

  • A smaller, less active cerebellum, contributing to:
    • Impeded or poor motor skills
    • Problems with learning and thought coordination
  • Decreased activity in the back portion of the brain, especially in the parietal and temporal lobes, contributing to:
    • Communication difficulties
    • Learning problems
    • Sensory processing issues
    • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Overall decreased activity and “scalloping” (a bumpy looking surface), which is associated with environmental toxicity
  • Sometimes, a head injury pattern is revealed

As you can see, brain activity patterns in ASD are quite varied, making it even more important to “look” at the brain with SPECT imaging. If we don’t look, how do we know exactly what we’re treating?

If you would like to learn more about how Amen Clinics can help with ASD, please contact us or call 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit today.


  1. Is Autism associated with the MAOA gene mutation?

    Comment by Susan Wild Sentilles — April 13, 2016 @ 10:43 AM

  2. Dr amen and co, thank you for all your wonderful work, which has really helped me understand all three of my children! Have you ever considered writing about autism subtypes? I get so frustrated that my affectionate, loving and empathic boy with compulsive ‘behavioural addictions’, attention issues and terrible social anxiety is lumped into the generic category ‘ASD’. Kids in this category can be so wildly different that treating them all in the same way is nothing short of ridiculous. Subtyping and personalised treatment is well overdue.

    Comment by Nicole — April 18, 2016 @ 3:27 AM

  3. I’m not sure, but I know my son has both MAOA and B and that many kids with autism have issues with histamine intolerance…

    Comment by Nicole — April 18, 2016 @ 3:27 AM

  4. Not that we know of.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 19, 2016 @ 1:40 PM

  5. Great Information, Thank You <3

    Comment by dawn auletta — April 26, 2016 @ 9:05 AM

  6. I fear that the rise in autism is at least partly due to an increase in misdiagnosing by well meaning clinicians
    , sometimes with the only symptom being social anxiety or social awkwardness. Differential diagnoses are not always carefully ruled out. We need to be thorough and careful when diagnosing anyone with anything. Peg Snyder Clinical Psychologist

    Comment by Dr Margaret Snyder PsyD — June 7, 2018 @ 7:20 AM

  7. Dr Amen/ Amen Clinicians – do you have any recommendations for adults with possible Aspergers / ASD, that can’t come in for SPECT scans at the moment? I fully intend to, however, I am currently pregnant and, naturally, can’t come in for a scan for at least another year or so. In the meantime, I would like to try out some practices that will help with anxiety/better social communication etc.

    Comment by Courtney — July 30, 2018 @ 12:15 PM

  8. I’ve been diagnosed with ADD but I’ve been learning more about Autism Spectrum Disorder and I have many physical and personality traits of a high functioning woman on the spectrum. I’ve learned to mask my symptoms through life and “cope” although it’s at my own detriment. Is there a way that SPECT imaging can differentiate between ADD and ASD?

    Comment by Heather Brown — January 20, 2019 @ 4:08 PM

  9. Hello Heather, thank you for reaching out. Here is more information on our Autism research: Here is additional information on how we diagnose and treat the 7 Types of ADD:

    Comment by Amen Clinics — January 21, 2019 @ 2:20 PM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Contact Us