G. D. Waiter, J. H. G. Williams, A. D. Murray, A. Gilchrist, D. I. Perrett, A. Whiten



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Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) has been associated with abnormal neuroanatomy in many imaging and neuropathological studies. Both global brain volume differences and differences in the size of specific neural structures have been reported. Here, we report a voxel-based morphometric whole brain analysis, using a group specific template, on 16 individuals of normal intelligence with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), and a group of 16 age-, sex- and IQ-matched controls. Total grey matter volume was increased in the ASD group relative to the control group, with local volume increases in the right fusiform gyrus, the right temporo-occipital region and the left frontal pole extending to the medial frontal cortex. A local decrease in grey matter volume was found in the right thalamus. A decrease in global white matter volume in the ASD group did not reach significance. We found the increase in grey matter volume in ASD subjects was greatest in those areas recognised for their role in social cognition, particularly face recognition (right fusiform gyrus), mental state attribution: ‘theory of mind’ (anterior cingulate and superior temporal sulcus) and perception of eye gaze (superior temporal gyrus). The picture as a whole may reflect an abnormally functioning social cognitive neural network. We suggest that increased grey matter volume may play a pivotal role in the aetiology of the autistic syndrome. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.