There is increasing recognition that many of the core behavioral impairments that characterize autism potentially emerge from poor neural synchronization across nodes comprising dispersed cortical networks. A likely candidate for the source of this atypical functional connectivity in autism is an alteration in the structural integrity of intra- and inter-hemispheric white matter (WM) tracts that form large-scale cortical networks. To test this hypothesis, in a group of adults with high-functioning autism (HFA) and matched control participants, we used diffusion tensor tractography to compare the structural integrity of three intra-hemispheric visual-association WM tracts, the inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF), the inferior fronto-occipito fasciculus (IFOF) and the uncinate fasciculus (UF), with the integrity of three sub-portions of the major inter-hemispheric fiber tract, the corpus callosum. Compared with the control group, the HFA group evinced an increase in the volume of the intra-hemispheric fibers, particularly in the left hemisphere, and a reduction in the volume of the forceps minor (F-Mi) and body of the corpus callosum. The reduction in the volume of the F-Mi also correlated with an increase in repetitive and stereotypical behavior as measured by the Autism Diagnostic Interview. These findings suggest that the abnormalities in the integrity of key inter- and intra-hemispheric WM tracts may underlie the atypical information processing observed in these individuals.
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