Citation: Psychological Review, 113, 483-525
Abstract: What brain mechanisms underlie autism, and how do they give rise to autistic behavioral symptoms? This article describes a neural model, called the Imbalanced Spectrally Timed Adaptive Resonance Theory (iSTART) model, that proposes how cognitive, emotional, timing, and motor processes that involve brain regions such as the prefrontal and temporal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and cerebellum may interact to create and perpetuate autistic symptoms. These model processes were originally developed to explain data concerning how the brain controls normal behaviors. The iSTART model shows how autistic behavioral symptoms may arise from prescribed breakdowns in these brain processes, notably a combination of underaroused emotional depression in the amygdala and related affective brain regions, learning of hyperspecific recognition categories in the temporal and prefrontal cortices, and breakdowns of adaptively timed attentional and motor circuits in the hippocampal system and cerebellum. The model clarifies how malfunctions in a subset of these mechanisms can, through a systemwide vicious circle of environmentally mediated feedback, cause and maintain problems with them all.