Author(s): Grecucci A, Rubicondo D, Siugzdaite R, Surian L, Job R
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Abstract Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that mainly affects social interaction and communication. Evidence from behavioral and functional MRI studies supports the hypothesis that dysfunctional mechanisms involving social brain structures play a major role in autistic symptomatology. However, the investigation of anatomical abnormalities in the brain of people with autism has led to inconsistent results. We investigated whether specific brain regions, known to display functional abnormalities in autism, may exhibit mutual and peculiar patterns of covariance in their gray-matter concentrations. We analyzed structural MRI images of 32 young men affected by autistic disorder (AD) and 50 healthy controls. Controls were matched for sex, age, handedness. IQ scores were also monitored to avoid confounding. A multivariate Source-Based Morphometry (SBM) was applied for the first time on AD and controls to detect maximally independent networks of gray matter. Group comparison revealed a gray-matter source that showed differences in AD compared to controls. This network includes broad temporal regions involved in social cognition and high-level visual processing, but also motor and executive areas of the frontal lobe. Notably, we found that gray matter differences, as reflected by SBM, significantly correlated with social and behavioral deficits displayed by AD individuals and encoded via the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule scores. These findings provide support for current hypotheses about the neural basis of atypical social and mental states information processing in autism.
This article was published in Front Neurosci
and referenced in Autism-Open Access