Resilience and adaptation in the face of early genetic or environmental risk has become a major interest in child psychiatry over recent years. However, we still remain far from an understanding of how developing human brains as a whole adapt to the diffuse and widespread atypical synaptic function that may be characteristic of some common developmental disorders. The first part of this paper discusses four types of whole-brain adaptation in the face of early risk: redundancy, reorganization, niche construction, and adjustment of developmental rate. The second part of the paper applies these adaptation processes specifically to autism. We speculate that key features of autism may be the end result of processes of early brain adaptation, rather than the direct consequences of ongoing neural pathology.
- Adaptation, Physiological/physiology
- Autistic Disorder/physiopathology
- Neuronal Plasticity/physiology