Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been used quite extensively for examining morphological changes in human and animal brains. One of the many advantages to examining mouse models of human autism is that we are able to examine single gene targets, like that of Neuroligin3 R451C knockin (NL3 KI), which has been directly implicated in human autism. The NL3 KI mouse model has marked volume differences in many different structures in the brain: gray matter structures, such as the hippocampus, the striatum, and the thalamus, were all found to be smaller in the NL3 KI. Further, many white matter structures were found to be significantly smaller, such as the cerebral peduncle, corpus callosum, fornix/fimbria, and internal capsule. Fractional anisotropy measurements in these structures were also measured, and no differences were found. The volume changes in the white matter regions, therefore, are not due to a general breakdown in the microstructure of the tissue and seem to be caused by fewer axons or less mature axons. A larger radial diffusivity was also found in localized regions of the corpus callosum and cerebellum. The corpus callosal changes are particularly interesting as the thinning (or reduced volume) of the corpus callosum is a consistent finding in autism. This suggests that the NL3 KI model may be useful for examining white matter changes associated with autism.
Copyright © 2011, International Society for Autism Research, Wiley-Liss, Inc.