What Is a Neurodegenerative Disease?

Neurons in the brain

One of the hottest debates among neurological disorder researchers is whether or not autism spectrum disorder would qualify as a neurodegenerative disease. A neurodegenerative disease is a term for a number of conditions where the body’s neurons are affected in some capacity. Neurons are unlike other cells in the body as they do not reproduce or replace themselves, so if they are damaged or die, the body cannot adapt. Because neurons are responsible for a number of important functions and they are a very influential part of the nervous system, neuron damage or death can have dire effects on the body. Common neurodegenerative diseases include Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

As the medical community is still trying to understand the mechanisms of Autism Spectrum Disorder, some are reluctant to call it a neurodegenerative disease just yet. They want to know more about the causation of the disorder and how that relates to the nervous system. However, some in the community have made efforts to show how Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodegenerative disease. David Geier along with his father Mark Geier and researchers, Janet K. Kern and Lisa K. Skyes, wrote a paper in 2013 for Translational Neurodegeneration that discusses the multiple reasons why Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodegeneration disease. You can read about their findings here.

 

By classifying Autism Spectrum Disorder as a neurodegenerative disease, researchers may be able to spend more time learning how neuron damage could cause the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder to work towards finding a cure.

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