Magnetic resonance imaging study of the orbitofrontal cortex in autism

J Child Neurol. 2006 Oct;21(10):866-71. doi: 10.1177/08830738060210100701.


The orbitofrontal cortex is involved in multiple psychologic functions, such as emotional and cognitive processing, learning, and social behavior. These functions are variably impaired in individuals with autism. The present study examined the size of the orbitofrontal cortex, and its medial and lateral subdivisions, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans obtained from 40 non-mentally retarded individuals with autism and 41 healthy controls. No differences were observed between the two groups on any of the orbitofrontal cortex measurements. However, when compared with controls, a smaller right lateral orbitofrontal cortex was observed in children and adolescents with autism, whereas a larger right lateral orbitofrontal cortex was found in adult patients. Interestingly, a positive relationship was found in the patient group between circumscribed interests and all orbitofrontal cortex structures. The present study suggests the absence of global volumetric abnormalities in the orbitofrontal cortex in autism and indicates that the functional disturbances in this structure might not be related to anatomic alterations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology*