Immunoexcitotoxicity

Immunoexcitotoxicity is the term coined by Dr. Russell Blaylock in his landmark papers1, 2, 3 on a potential central mechanism for autism.  Let’s break it down so that it is easier to understand how the cascade of events proposed by Dr. Blaylock impacts the brain.

IMMUNO – The majority of the brain is immune cells called glia.  They make up 85% of the 1 ½ kg of fat that makes up the brain.  The glia are play a role in every aspect of brain function. Glia “transmit” or “broadcast” brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) throughout the brain playing a role in every aspect of brain function.  Broadcasting brain chemicals requires energy, and the proper balance of other brain chemicals like glutamate.

EXCITO – There are a lot of brain chemicals or neurotransmitters that are needed to regulate brain function.  Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the brain.  It is essential for the development and function of the brain.  It is also strictly regulate because in high amounts, it can change the way to brain functions and even cause damage.  Glutamate is stimulated by the glia (the immune cells in the brain) in response to threat like chemicals, metals or microbes.  The glia work to control the threat and repair damage to the brain.

TOXICITY – The brain requires adequate levels of glutathione to manage glutamate.  Glutathione is the master antioxidant in the body and brain.  It helps to protect cells from damage and is needed to “mop” up excess glutamate.  Glutathione is the rate limiting step in development.  Developmental speed depends on glutathione produced by the methylation cycle.  Glutathione helps to detoxify many harmful toxicants including metals and chemicals.  Depletion of glutathione, results in higher levels of glutamate in the brain triggering a cascade of events that cause disruption of typical brain function and damage.

Immunoexcitotoxicity disrupts typical functioning of the brain.  A study done at Stanford, a supplement that supports glutathione production reduced irritability, aggression and stereotypical behaviours in autism.  N-acetyl-cysteine, also known as NAC, is used to “mop” of glutamate.  In a practice setting, treatments that improve glutathione improve repetitive behaviours, mood and sensory integration resulting in a reduction in scripting, echolalia, head banging and other self-injurious behaviours, hyperactivity and aggression.  When glutamate is more effectively managed, children are more aware, experience improved expressive / receptive language, and are more social and capable of showing you more of their cognitive skills.

Supplements that increase glutathione status include NAC, methyl B12 injections, curcumin, B6, magnesium, vitamin E, selenium and zinc.

  1. Blaylock RL. A possible central mechanism in autism spectrum disorders, part 1. Altern Ther Health. 2008 Nov-Dec;14(6):46-53.
  2. Blaylock, RL. A possible central mechanism in autism spectrum disorders, part 2: immunoexcitotoxicity. Altern Ther Health Med. 2009 Jan-Feb; 15 (1):60-7.

Blaylock, RL. A possible central mechanism in autism spectrum disorders, part 3: the role of excitotoxin food additives and the synergistic effects of other environmental toxinsAltern Ther Health Med. 2009 Mar-Apr;15(2):56-60.