Author(s): Langen M, Leemans A, Johnston P, Ecker C, Daly E,
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Abstract INTRODUCTION: Repetitive behaviour and inhibitory control deficits are core features of autism; and it has been suggested that they result from differences in the anatomy of striatum; and/or the 'connectivity' of subcortical regions to frontal cortex. There are few studies, however, that have measured the micro-structural organisation of white matter tracts connecting striatum and frontal cortex. AIMS: To investigate differences in bulk volume of striatum and micro-structural organisation of fronto-striatal white matter in people with autism; and their association with repetitive behaviour and inhibitory control. METHODS: We compared the bulk volume of striatum (caudate nucleus, putamen and nucleus accumbens) and white matter organisation of fronto-striatal tracts using (respectively) structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) and tract specific diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measures in 21 adults with autism and 22 controls. We also assessed performance on a cognitive inhibition (go/nogo) task. RESULTS: Bulk volume of striatal structures did not differ between groups. However, adults with autism had a significantly smaller total brain white matter volume, lower fractional anisotropy of white matter tracts connecting putamen to frontal cortical areas, higher mean diffusivity of white matter tracts connecting accumbens to frontal cortex and worse performance on the go/nogo task. Also, performance on the go/nogo task was significantly related to anatomical variation when both groups were combined; but not within the autism group alone. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that autism may be associated with differences in the anatomy of fronto-striatal white matter tracts. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Srl. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Cortex
and referenced in International Journal of School and Cognitive Psychology