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

  • SASKIA J. M. C. PALMEN (a1), HILLEKE E. HULSHOFF POL (a2), CHANTAL KEMNER (a1), HUGO G. SCHNACK (a2), SARAH DURSTON (a1), BERTINE E. LAHUIS (a1), RENÉ S. KAHN (a2) and HERMAN VAN ENGELAND (a1)...

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.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Dr Saskia Palmen, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, HP: A01.468, University Medical Center Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht, The Netherlands. (Email: s.palmen@azu.nl)

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