What is immunoexcitotoxicity and how does it cause autism symptoms?
Immunoexcitotoxicity is the term coined by Dr. Russell Blaylock in his landmark papers1, 2, 3 on a potential central mechanism for autism and other neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders.
Let’s break it down so that it is easier to understand how
this cascade of events impacts the brain.
The majority of the brain is made up of immune cells (glia). Glia 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.
Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the brain. It is essential for the development and function of the brain. It strictly regulated by the antioxidant glutathione because in high amounts, it can change the way to brain functions and even cause damage. Glutamate increases when glia (the immune cells in the brain) encounter chemicals, metals or microbes. The glia work to control the threat and repair damage to the brain.
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 is a precursor to glutathione and 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, and aggression. By regluating glutamate, children with autism experience improved brain function which leads to more awareness, improved language and more appropriate social interaction.
Supplements that increase glutathione status include NAC, methyl B12 injections, curcumin, B6, magnesium, vitamin E, selenium and zinc.
- Blaylock RL. A possible central mechanism in autism spectrum disorders, part 1. Altern Ther Health. 2008 Nov-Dec;14(6):46-53.
- 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 toxins. Altern Ther Health Med. 2009 Mar-Apr;15(2):56-60.