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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of related disorders that affect brain development. ASD is characterized by language, behavioral, and communication difficulties, however the severity of symptoms varies greatly between affected individuals.
The symptoms of ASD result from abnormal communications between neurons (brain cells), but the exact cause of ASD is unknown. Because the presentations of ASD are so different, many scientists believe that a combination of environmental and genetic factors are at play.
In addition to cellular abnormalities, researchers have found structural changes in the brains of individuals with ASD. These include enlargement of frontal lobe, which controls thought and emotions, and underdevelopment of the cerebellum, which controls movement and balance.