New Approaches to Autism Treatment

Pediatric neurologist and researcher Suzanne Goh, MD, has a new focus for treating patients with autism. Autism researchers have identified the importance of neuroinflammation, changes to cerebellar anatomy, differences in neurotransmitters, and more in patients with autism.1 Brain connectivity is also affected.2 For tasks that are often challenging for people with autism, like recognizing faces, neural activity differs significantly between autistic and control groups.3 This research suggests that widespread neural networks are disrupted in individuals with autism.

Emerging research like this has shifted Dr. Goh’s approach to autism, as she shares in the following video.

There are different ways to conceptualize neurological disorders. Here, Dr. Goh explains how autism is the result of chronic, ongoing disruption to the brain.

Using brain imaging techniques, Dr. Goh’s research has identified a subtype of patients with autism whose chronic neural disruption may be due to mitochondrial dysfunction.3 By studying brain lactate levels in individuals with autism, Dr. Goh and fellow researchers identified a potential neurological subtype of autism. In this subtype of individuals with autism, treatments that address this underlying mechanism have enormous potential.3

For patients with autism who do not have mitochondrial dysfunction, interventions that focus on the chronic, low-grade disruption offer new avenues. Dr. Goh will share the latest research on this topic in a free Grand Rounds presentation, From Mitochondria to Music: Integrative Neurological Care for Autism. IFM and Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine have collaborated to offer this free Grand Rounds series.

Sign Up for Goh’s Free Grand Rounds Presentation


  1. Fatemi SH, Aldinger KA, Ashwood P, et al. Consensus paper: pathological role of the cerebellum in autism. Cerebellum. 2012;11(3):777-807. doi:10.1007/s12311-012-0355-9.
  2. Just MA, Keller TA, Malave VL, Kana RK, Varma S. Autism as a neural systems disorder: a theory of frontal-posterior underconnectivity. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2012;36(4):1292-1313. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.02.007.
  3. Tseng A, Wang Z, Huo Y, Goh S, Russell JA, Peterson BS. Differences in neural activity when processing emotional arousal and valence in autism spectrum disorders. Hum Brain Mapp. 2016;37(2):443-461. doi:10.1002/hbm.23041.
  4. 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):665-671. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.179.

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