Metabolic mapping of deep brain structures and associations with symptomatology in autism spectrum disorders

Res Autism Spectr Disord. 2014 Jan;8(1):44-51. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2013.10.003.


Structural neuroimaging studies in autism report atypical volume in deep brain structures which are related to symptomatology. Little is known about metabolic changes in these regions, and how they vary with age and sex, and/or relate to clinical behaviors. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy we measured N-acetylaspartate, choline, creatine, myoinositol and glutamate in the caudate, putamen, and thalamus of 20 children with autism and 16 typically developing controls (7-18 years). Relative to controls, individuals with autism had elevated glutamate/creatine in the putamen. In addition, both groups showed age-related increases in glutamate in this region. Boys, relative to girls had increased choline/creatine in the thalamus. Lastly, there were correlations between glutamate, choline, and myoinositol in all three regions, and behavioral scores in the ASD group. These findings suggest changes in deep gray matter neurochemistry, which are sensitive to diagnosis, age and sex, and are associated with behavioral differences.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorders; Caudate nucleus; Deep gray matter; Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Putamen; Thalamus and social cognition.