Ebru Bardaş Özkan1, Mehtap Odabaşı2

1Department of Physiology, Erzincan Binali Yıldırım University Faculty of Medicine, Erzincan, Türkiye
2Istanbul Food Control Laboratory Directorate, Republic of Türkiye Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Istanbul, Türkiye

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, dopaminergic receptors, neurodevelopmental disorder, prefrontal cortex.


Although the etiology of autism is not yet clearly known, it is an executive dysfunction associated with symptoms that reduce the quality of life, such as inadequate social skills, difficulties with speech and non-verbal communication (cognitive impairment), intellectual disabilities, and restricted and repetitive behaviors. Although many factors such as genetic, environmental, and autoimmune factors are included in the etiology of autism, the uncertainty on this issue still continues. However, it is also reported that individuals with autism have dopamine-based abnormalities in their prefrontal systems. Many data have shown that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is one of the important areas contributing to executive function. Alongside the central claim of the executive dysfunction theory, there is evidence that the root cause of many autistic behaviors may be due to dopaminergic abnormalities in the PFC region of the brain. Although significant progress has been made in autism research in line with this hypothesis, there is no consensus on the basis of the neural disorder. This hypothesis of executive dysfunction suggests that it may underlie the significant cognitive performance impairments seen in autism due to the unregulated development of the PFC. Likewise, detailed analyses show that not all forms of execution are commonly disrupted. Indeed, the part of the executive dysfunction observed in people with autism that raises questions is the impairment of cognitive control while basic cognitive function remains intact. Cognitive control is the ability to perform a given response in a distracting or more automatic situation. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to adjust cognitive control fluently with changing conditions. The pathogenesis of autism has been linked to neurological and environmental factors that alter physiological processes during development. Here, research highlighting the mechanisms of dopaminergic receptors on neurodevelopmental disorders is reviewed. Therefore, this review also suggests that improving dopamine secretion may be an important therapeutic strategy in the management of autism.

Cite this article as: Bardaş Özkan E, Odabaşı M. Dopamine dynamics in autism: Unraveling the neurochemical puzzle. D J Med Sci 2023;9(2):82-87. doi: 10.5606/fng. btd.2023.130.

Author Contributions

All authors contributed equally to the article.

Data Sharing Statement:
The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declared no conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship and/ or publication of this article.

Financial Disclosure

The authors received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article.