Striatal volume on magnetic resonance imaging and repetitive behaviors in autism

Biol Psychiatry. 2005 Aug 1;58(3):226-32. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2005.03.040.


Background: The repetitive behaviors seen in autism phenotypically resemble those seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and Tourette Syndrome (TS), disorders in which structural and functional abnormalities of the basal ganglia (BG) are present and correspond to the severity of repetitive behaviors.

Methods: Seventeen subjects with autism by DSM-IV and Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI) and 17 matched controls completed a 1.5 T magnetic resonance image (MRI) of the brain. Two blinded researchers, with good inter-rater reliability, outlined the right and left caudate and putamen. Autistic and control BG volumes covaried for total brain volume were compared using analysis of covariance. BG volumes within the autistic group were correlated with the ADI Repetitive Behavior scores (ADI-C domain).

Results: Right caudate volume controlled for total brain volume was significantly larger in autistic subjects than in controls. In addition, right caudate and total putamen volumes correlated positively with repetitive behavior scores on the ADI-C domain, particularly the higher order OCD-like repetitive behaviors.

Conclusions: Increased right caudate volume in autism is of interest, since this has also been observed in OCD patients. Increased volume of the right caudate and total putamen positively correlated with greater repetitive behaviors, supporting the hypothesis of BG dysfunction associated with repetitive behaviors in autistic adults.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / complications
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology*
  • Basal Ganglia / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Compulsive Behavior / complications
  • Compulsive Behavior / pathology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Intelligence
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Stereotyped Behavior / physiology*
  • Verbal Behavior