White matter structure in autism: preliminary evidence from diffusion tensor imaging

Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Feb 1;55(3):323-6. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2003.10.022.


Background: Individuals with autism have severe difficulties in social communication and relationships. Prior studies have suggested that abnormal connections between brain regions important for social cognition may contribute to the social deficits seen in autism.

Methods: In this study, we used diffusion tensor imaging to investigate white matter structure in seven male children and adolescents with autism and nine age-, gender-, and IQ-matched control subjects.

Results: Reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) values were observed in white matter adjacent to the ventromedial prefrontal cortices and in the anterior cingulate gyri as well as in the temporoparietal junctions. Additional clusters of reduced FA values were seen adjacent to the superior temporal sulcus bilaterally, in the temporal lobes approaching the amygdala bilaterally, in occipitotemporal tracts, and in the corpus callosum.

Conclusions: Disruption of white matter tracts between regions implicated in social functioning may contribute to impaired social cognition in autism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology*
  • Axons / pathology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / pathology