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. 2018 Aug 4;20:415-423.
doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2018.04.036. eCollection 2018.

Gyrification Changes Are Related to Cognitive Strengths in Autism

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Free PMC article

Gyrification Changes Are Related to Cognitive Strengths in Autism

P Duret et al. Neuroimage Clin. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Background: Behavioral, cognitive and functional particularities in autism differ according to autism subgroups and might be associated with domain-specific cognitive strengths. It is unknown whether structural changes support this specialization. We investigated the link between cortical folding, its maturation and cognitive strengths in autism subgroups presenting verbal or visuo-spatial peaks of abilities.

Methods: We measured gyrification, a structural index related to function, in 55 autistic participants with (AS-SOD, N = 27) or without (AS-NoSOD, N = 28) a speech onset delay (SOD) with similar symptom severity but respectively perceptual and verbal cognitive strengths, and 37 typical adolescents and young adults matched for intelligence and age. We calculated the local Gyrification Index (lGI) throughout an occipito-temporal region of interest and independently modeled age and peak of ability effects for each group.

Results: Unique gyrification features in both autistic groups were detected in localized clusters. When comparing the three groups, gyrification was found lower in AS-SOD in a fusiform visual area, whereas it was higher in AS-NoSOD in a temporal language-related region. These particular areas presented age-related gyrification differences reflecting contrasting local maturation pathways in AS. As expected, peaks of ability were found in a verbal subtest for the AS-NoSOD group and in the Block Design IQ subtest for the AS-SOD group.

Conclusions: Irrespective of their direction, regional gyrification differences in visual and language processing areas respectively reflect AS-SOD perceptual and AS-NoSOD language-oriented peaks. Unique regional maturation trajectories in the autistic brain may underline specific cognitive strengths, which are key variables for understanding heterogeneity in autism.

Keywords: Asperger syndrome; Autism; Brain maturation; Cognitive strengths; Gyrification; Structural MRI.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Location of significant age and group effects on gyrification in the occipital and temporal lobes. (A) Occipito-temporal ROI extracted from the PALS-12 brain atlas used to obtain the following results. (B) Main effect of age on gyrification for all participants. Blue clusters indicate a significant inverse correlation between lGI and age. (C) Main effect of group on lGI. Inflated cortical surface maps (dark gray = sulci; light gray = gyri) represent (from left to right) the left and right lateral and left and right medial views of an average brain map, except in (C) were left and right inferior views are showed. Results are depicted at a significance level of p = 0.01 Monte-Carlo corrected for multiple comparisons (cluster-wise p = 0.05). (For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Differences in gyrification between AS-SOD, AS-NoSOD, and TYP groups. Only significant differences in lGI between groups are shown. Left fusiform (L-fus) cluster: AS-SOD vs. TYP (A1) and AS-SOD vs. AS-NoSOD (A2). Blue colors indicate lower gyrification in the AS-SOD group. Right middle-temporal (R-temp) cluster: AS-NoSOD vs. TYP (B1) and AS-NoSOD vs. AS-SOD (B2). Red colors indicate higher gyrification in AS-NoSOD. Magnifications of left and right inflated cortical surface maps (dark gray = sulci; light gray = gyri). The black solid lines indicate the limits of L-fus and R-temp clusters as defined in Fig. 1. Results are depicted at a significance level of p = 0.01 Monte-Carlo corrected for multiple comparisons (cluster-wise p = 0.05). AS: autism spectrum. SOD: speech onset delay. TYP: typical individuals. (For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Differences in the maturation of gyrification in left-fusiform and right-temporal clusters. (A) Significant age-by-group interactions inside the left fusiform (L-fus, A1) and right middle-temporal (R-temp) clusters. Magnifications of left and right inflated cortical surface maps (dark gray = sulci; light gray = gyri). The black solid lines indicate the limits of L-fus and R-temp clusters as defined in Fig. 1. (B) Corresponding scatter plots of the correlations between age and lGI for L-fus (left) and R-temp (right) sub-areas showing an interaction. Individual mean lGI are plotted against age. Linear regressions are depicted by solid lines. The correlation coefficient R2 shown next to each linear regression curve is depicted in red when the associated p-value was lower than 0.05. AS: autism spectrum. SOD: speech onset delay. TYP: typical individuals.
Fig. 4
Fig. 4
Cognitive strengths of AS subgroups. Individual difference-scores for the Block design (A) and Information (B) subtests of the Wechsler IQ scales. The difference score is defined as the difference between the score of a particular subtest and the mean score of all the other subtests. Each square represents a single subject from the TYP (orange), AS-SOD (blue) and AS-NoSOD (green) groups. Each group mean is represented by a black line. Significant differences between the difference-scores and zero (t-test) and between groups (post-ANOVA Tukey test) are highlighted with stars. **: p ≤ 0.01; ***: p ≤ 0.001. AS: autism spectrum. SOD: speech onset delay. TYP: typical individuals. (For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)

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