Autism, Mitochondria, and the Latest Research

Suzanne Goh, MD working with autistic child

In some patients with autism, mitochondrial dysfunction may be a key contributor to their symptoms. Researcher Suzanne Goh, MD, has participated in research aimed at identifying how often and when mitochondrial dysfunction plays a role.

In one of her studies, MRIs were used to measure lactate in the brains of 75 children and adults with autism spectrum disorder and 96 controls.1 Lactate peaks are used to identify mitochondrial dysfunction in the brain.1 The study estimated that at least 20% of individuals with autism also have mitochondrial dysfunction, suggesting a range of potential new therapies that could mitigate autism symptoms.1

This research continues to support the line of thinking that a subgroup of individuals with autism have mitochondrial dysfunction,2 suggesting new treatment avenues for this subgroup.3

Join IFM, Dr. Goh, and Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine for a free Grand Rounds presentation on this exciting topic: From Mitochondria to Music: Integrative Neurological Care for Autism.

Register for Grand Rounds


  1. Goh S, Dong Z, Zhang Y, DiMauro S, Peterson BS. Brain imaging evidence that mitochondrial dysfunction is a neurobiological subtype of autism spectrum disorder. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(6):665-71. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.179.
  2. Rossignol DA, Frye RE. Mitochondrial dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Mol Psychiatry. 2012;17(3):290-314. doi: 10.1038/mp.2010.136.
  3. Cheng N, Rho JM, Masino SA. Metabolic dysfunction underlying autism spectrum disorder and potential treatment approaches. Front Mol Neurosci. 2017;10:34. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2017.00034.

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