It has been my long standing thesis that Autism and Schizophrenia are opposite poles on a continuum; and the most recent evidence I would like to allude to is the mini columnar structure and abnormalities associetd with it in both the diseases.
It has been postulated that the prefrontal cortices of schizophrenic patients have significant alterations in their interneuronal (neuropil) space. The present study re-examines this finding based on measurements of mean cell spacing within the cell minicolumn. The population studied consisted of 13 male schizophrenic patients (DSM-IV criteria) and 13 age-matched controls. Photomicrographs of Brodmann’s areas 9, 4 (M1), 3b (S1), and 17 (V1) were analyzed with computerized image analysis to measure parameters of minicolumnar morphometry, i.e., columnarity index (CI), minicolumnar width (CW), dispersion of minicolumnar width (VCW), and mean interneuronal distance (MCS). The results indicate alterations in the mean cell spacing of schizophrenic patients according to both the lamina and cortical area examined. The lack of variation in the columnarity index argues in favor of a defect postdating the formation of the cell minicolumn.
The modular arrangement of the neocortex is based on the cell minicolumn: a self-contained ecosystem of neurons and their afferent, efferent, and interneuronal connections. The authors’ preliminary studies indicate that minicolumns in the brains of autistic patients are narrower, with an altered internal organization. More specifically, their minicolumns reveal less peripheral neuropil space and increased spacing among their constituent cells. The peripheral neuropil space of the minicolumn is the conduit, among other things, for inhibitory local circuit projections. A defect in these GABAergic fibers may correlate with the increased prevalence of seizures among autistic patients. This article expands on our initial findings by arguing for the specificity of GABAergic inhibition in the neocortex as being focused around its mini- and macrocolumnar organization. The authors conclude that GABAergic interneurons are vital to proper minicolumnar differentiation and signal processing (e.g., filtering capacity of the neocortex), thus providing a putative correlate to autistic symptomatology.
D Buxhoeveden (2000). Reduced interneuronal space in schizophrenia Biological Psychiatry, 47 (7), 681-682 DOI: 10.1016/S0006-3223(99)00275-9
M CASANOVA, L DEZEEUW, A SWITALA, P KRECZMANSKI, H KORR, N ULFIG, H HEINSEN, H STEINBUSCH, C SCHMITZ (2005). Mean cell spacing abnormalities in the neocortex of patients with schizophrenia Psychiatry Research, 133 (1), 1-12 DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2004.11.004
Manuel F. Casanova, Daniel Buxhoeveden, Juan Gomez (2003). Disruption in the Inhibitory Architecture of the Cell Minicolumn: Implications for Autisim The Neuroscientist, 9 (6), 496-507 DOI: 10.1177/1073858403253552