Objective: To test the hypothesis that a combination of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain measures obtained during early childhood distinguish children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) from typically developing children and is associated with functional outcome.
Method: Quantitative MRI technology was used to measure gray and white matter volumes (cerebrum and cerebellum), total brain volume, and the area of the cerebellar vermis in 52 boys with a provisional diagnosis of autism (aged 1.9-5.2 years) and 15 typically developing young children (aged 1.7-5.2 years). Diagnostic confirmation and cognitive outcome data were obtained after the children reached 5 years of age.
Results: A discriminant function analysis of the MRI brain measures correctly classified 95.8% of the ASD cases and 92.3% of the control cases. This set of variables also correctly classified 85% of the ASD cases as lower functioning and 68% of the ASD cases as higher functioning.
Conclusions: These results indicate that variability in cerebellar and cerebral size is correlated with diagnostic and functional outcome in very young children with ASD.