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Increased gray-matter volume in medication-naive high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorder

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2004

SASKIA J. M. C. PALMEN
Affiliation:
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
HILLEKE E. HULSHOFF POL
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
CHANTAL KEMNER
Affiliation:
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
HUGO G. SCHNACK
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
SARAH DURSTON
Affiliation:
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
BERTINE E. LAHUIS
Affiliation:
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
RENÉ S. KAHN
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
HERMAN VAN ENGELAND
Affiliation:
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Abstract

Background. To establish whether high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have enlarged brains in later childhood, and if so, whether this enlargement is confined to the gray and/or to the white matter and whether it is global or more prominent in specific brain regions.

Method. Brain MRI scans were acquired from 21 medication-naive, high-functioning children with ASD between 7 and 15 years of age and 21 comparison subjects matched for gender, age, IQ, height, weight, handedness, and parental education, but not pubertal status.

Results. Patients showed a significant increase of 6% in intracranium, total brain, cerebral gray matter, cerebellum, and of more than 40% in lateral and third ventricles compared to controls. The cortical gray-matter volume was evenly affected in all lobes. After correction for brain volume, ventricular volumes remained significantly larger in patients.

Conclusions. High-functioning children with ASD showed a global increase in gray-matter, but not white-matter and cerebellar volume, proportional to the increase in brain volume, and a disproportional increase in ventricular volumes, still present after correction for brain volume. Advanced pubertal development in the patients compared to the age-matched controls may have contributed to the findings reported in the present study.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2004 Cambridge University Press

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