Professor David Skuse discusses research that highlights the amygdala as a brain structure that may be impaired in autism.
We have a collection of nuclei in the brain towards the base of the brain, it’s on both sides called the amygdala, well in fact there are two amygdalae. These are very important for our emotional responsiveness to the world around us. It is the amygdalae that alert us to events that might be a danger - in other words, they monitor threat. It would appear that in autism the amygdala is not sending signals to the higher brain centers in the same way it does in people who don’t have autism.
This isn’t an either-or thing, as I said, autism is just an extreme of a dimension of behavior that we see in the general population. But it would appear that for the people with autism, the amygdala really isn’t sending signals in the same way. Maybe not sending any signals, it may be sending threat signals when none exist. But that, what we call amygdala cortical conductivity is not functioning as it normally does in most other people. So, the amygdala would appear to be playing a critical role in making one susceptible to some of the symptoms of autism.