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Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis in a Patient with a History of Autism Spectrum Disorder

[ Vol. 10 , Issue. 3 ]


Xavier Diao* and Milana Mor   Pages 231 - 235 ( 5 )


Background: Anti-NMDA receptor (NMDAR) encephalitis is an autoimmune syndrome characterized by a well-described constellation of neuropsychiatric symptoms. Its exact pathophysiology is poorly understood, but it is thought to be mediated by autoantibodies against NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate)-type glutamate receptors in the central nervous system. There is ongoing literature to suggest that patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have evidence of neuroinflammation—or by definition, encephalitis.

Objective: To investigate the link between autism spectrum disorder and autoimmune encephalitides.

Methods: We present a case of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis in a patient with autism spectrum disorder. “OP” is a 16-year-old male with a history of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who presented with a 3-day history of acute-onset altered mental status, electroencephalogram (EEG)-corroborated seizures, and slurred speech. Laboratory studies were significant for serum- and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-positive NMDA antibodies. The child psychiatry consult-liaison service was consulted for significant agitation and behavioral dyscontrol. We recommended 1:1 observation for safety, as well as antipsychotic agents titrated to clinical effect. The patient had a protracted hospital course, but was eventually discharged to an acute rehabilitation facility for continued stabilization and therapy.

Conclusion: It remains to be seen if the relation between encephalitis and ASD is uni- or bidirectional, that is: whether children with ASD have a genetic diathesis to developing encephalitides (such as those mediated by the NMDAR), or conversely, if deranged or inflamed neuroreceptor processes are implicated in the development of ASD.


Anti-NMDA receptor, ASD, cerebrospinal fluid, encephalitis, patient, antipsychotic agents.


Department of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, Department of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY

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