Accelerated maturation of white matter in young children with autism: a high b value DWI study

Neuroimage. 2007 Aug 1;37(1):40-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.04.060. Epub 2007 May 18.


The goal of this work was to study white matter maturation in young children with autism following previous reports of increased cerebral volume during early development, as well as arguments for abnormal neural growth patterns and regulation at this critical developmental period. We applied diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and high b value diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) to young children diagnosed with autism and to a typically developing (TD) control group. Fractional anisotropy (FA), probability and displacement were measured in overall analysis as well as in regions of interest (ROI). Individual data points of children with autism were compared to the developmental curves obtained from typically developing children. Increased restriction, reflected in significantly increased FA and probability along with reduced displacement values, was detected in overall analysis as well as in several brain regions. Increased restriction, suggesting an early and accelerated abnormal maturation of white matter, was more dominant in the left hemisphere and was mainly detected in the frontal lobe. No changes were detected in the occipital lobes. These results support previous claims of abnormal brain overgrowth in young children with autism and are in contrast to the decreased restricted diffusion reported in previous studies in adolescent with autism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cephalometry
  • Cerebral Ventricles / pathology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Occipital Lobe / pathology
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors