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Regional gray matter volumetric changes in autism associated with social and repetitive behavior symptoms

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      Abstract

      Background

      Although differences in brain anatomy in autism have been difficult to replicate using manual tracing methods, automated whole brain analyses have begun to find consistent differences in regions of the brain associated with the social cognitive processes that are often impaired in autism. We attempted to replicate these whole brain studies and to correlate regional volume changes with several autism symptom measures.

      Methods

      We performed MRI scans on 24 individuals diagnosed with DSM-IV autistic disorder and compared those to scans from 23 healthy comparison subjects matched on age. All participants were male. Whole brain, voxel-wise analyses of regional gray matter volume were conducted using voxel-based morphometry (VBM).

      Results

      Controlling for age and total gray matter volume, the volumes of the medial frontal gyri, left pre-central gyrus, right post-central gyrus, right fusiform gyrus, caudate nuclei and the left hippocampus were larger in the autism group relative to controls. Regions exhibiting smaller volumes in the autism group were observed exclusively in the cerebellum. Significant partial correlations were found between the volumes of the caudate nuclei, multiple frontal and temporal regions, the cerebellum and a measure of repetitive behaviors, controlling for total gray matter volume. Social and communication deficits in autism were also associated with caudate, cerebellar, and precuneus volumes, as well as with frontal and temporal lobe regional volumes.

      Conclusion

      Gray matter enlargement was observed in areas that have been functionally identified as important in social-cognitive processes, such as the medial frontal gyri, sensorimotor cortex and middle temporal gyrus. Additionally, we have shown that VBM is sensitive to associations between social and repetitive behaviors and regional brain volumes in autism.

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      Most cited references 93

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      Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders.

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        Automated anatomical labeling of activations in SPM using a macroscopic anatomical parcellation of the MNI MRI single-subject brain.

        An anatomical parcellation of the spatially normalized single-subject high-resolution T1 volume provided by the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) (D. L. Collins et al., 1998, Trans. Med. Imag. 17, 463-468) was performed. The MNI single-subject main sulci were first delineated and further used as landmarks for the 3D definition of 45 anatomical volumes of interest (AVOI) in each hemisphere. This procedure was performed using a dedicated software which allowed a 3D following of the sulci course on the edited brain. Regions of interest were then drawn manually with the same software every 2 mm on the axial slices of the high-resolution MNI single subject. The 90 AVOI were reconstructed and assigned a label. Using this parcellation method, three procedures to perform the automated anatomical labeling of functional studies are proposed: (1) labeling of an extremum defined by a set of coordinates, (2) percentage of voxels belonging to each of the AVOI intersected by a sphere centered by a set of coordinates, and (3) percentage of voxels belonging to each of the AVOI intersected by an activated cluster. An interface with the Statistical Parametric Mapping package (SPM, J. Ashburner and K. J. Friston, 1999, Hum. Brain Mapp. 7, 254-266) is provided as a freeware to researchers of the neuroimaging community. We believe that this tool is an improvement for the macroscopical labeling of activated area compared to labeling assessed using the Talairach atlas brain in which deformations are well known. However, this tool does not alleviate the need for more sophisticated labeling strategies based on anatomical or cytoarchitectonic probabilistic maps.
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          Voxel-based morphometry--the methods.

          At its simplest, voxel-based morphometry (VBM) involves a voxel-wise comparison of the local concentration of gray matter between two groups of subjects. The procedure is relatively straightforward and involves spatially normalizing high-resolution images from all the subjects in the study into the same stereotactic space. This is followed by segmenting the gray matter from the spatially normalized images and smoothing the gray-matter segments. Voxel-wise parametric statistical tests which compare the smoothed gray-matter images from the two groups are performed. Corrections for multiple comparisons are made using the theory of Gaussian random fields. This paper describes the steps involved in VBM, with particular emphasis on segmenting gray matter from MR images with nonuniformity artifact. We provide evaluations of the assumptions that underpin the method, including the accuracy of the segmentation and the assumptions made about the statistical distribution of the data. Copyright 2000 Academic Press.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO, 80220, USA
            [2 ]Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 80523, USA
            [3 ]Department of Psychiatry and M.I.N.D. Institute, University of California at Davis, Sacramento, CA, 95817, USA
            Contributors
            Journal
            BMC Psychiatry
            BMC Psychiatry
            BioMed Central (London )
            1471-244X
            2006
            13 December 2006
            : 6
            : 56
            1770914
            1471-244X-6-56
            17166273
            10.1186/1471-244X-6-56
            Copyright © 2006 Rojas et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

            Categories
            Research Article

            Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry

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