Andrew Zimmerman, M.D.

Andrew Zimmerman, M.D.'s picture
Pediatric Neurologist, Kennedy Krieger Institute

Kennedy Krieger Institute
707 N. Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205
Phone: (443) 923-9150

Dr. Andrew W. Zimmerman is a pediatric neurologist and research scientist at Kennedy Krieger Institute. He is also an associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Biographical Sketch: 

Dr. Zimmerman received his AB from Princeton and attended medical school at Columbia University, where he obtained his medical degree in 1970. While at Columbia, he was awarded the EJ Noble Foundation International Fellowship and the Medical Student Research Award. After training in pediatrics at the University of Michigan, Dr. Zimmerman served as a clinical associate in the developmental and metabolic neurology branch of NINDS at NIH. He came to Johns Hopkins in 1974 as a fellow in pediatric neurology, and received a Certificate of Excellence in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1977. He was on the faculty of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine until 1983, and in private practice with Knoxville (TN) Neurology Clinic until 1994. Dr. Zimmerman is a pediatric neurologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, with a special interest in behavioral neurology and autism.

Dr. Zimmerman is a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics, the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (special competence in child neurology), and has a continuing education recognition certificate from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He also holds memberships in the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Neurology, the Child Neurology Society, the American Medical Association, and the Society for Neuroscience. In 1991, Dr. Zimmerman received an Award for Distinguished Service from the East Tennessee Chapter of the Autism Society of America.

Research Summary: 

Autism is a disorder of the developing nervous system that remains one of medicine’s greatest mysteries and challenges. Its symptoms typically appear within the first three years of life and are lifelong, although early detection and treatment are improving the outcomes. Children with autism have abnormal language and social skills, and unusual ways of relating to their environment. The condition is four times more common in boys than girls, and frequently occurs in association with other disorders. Dr. Zimmerman carries out medical evaluations of children and adults with symptoms of autism and other behavioral problems that are neurologically based. The objective is to understand each child with respect to known neurological and genetic disorders, and to outline other necessary referrals and a treatment plan.

Dr. Zimmerman has been interested in research into possible relationships between nervous system disorders and the immune system. A variety of studies have shown that from 30 to 70 percent of children with autism (in different studies) have distinct abnormalities in their immune systems, including decreased immunoglobulins and T cells, as well as altered lymphocyte and natural killer cell functions. However, there is no evidence, as yet, that children with autism have increased susceptibility to infections, or that specific therapies for the immune system can alter their symptoms.

Dr. Zimmerman and colleagues recently found that rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders are more common than expected in the families of children with autism. This leads to speculation that autoimmune disorders might be a sign of genetic susceptibility to autism. Such a predisposition may act through genes associated with the human lymphocyte antigens, which commonly have specific associations with autoimmune disorders. These genetic effects most likely begin before birth and might be modified by the mother's, as well as the father's, genes. This may lead to disruption in normal development of the immune, as well as the nervous, systems in the fetus.

It is hoped that a better understanding of the links between the developing immune and nervous systems will eventually improve the treatment of persons with autism.

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