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Language abnormalities and cerebral structures in autists: phenotypical delineation and voxel-based morphometry by magnetic resonance imaging

Grant number: 06/07125-0
Support type:Regular Research Grants
Duration: October 01, 2007 - July 31, 2011
Field of knowledge:Health Sciences - Medicine - Psychiatry
Principal Investigator:Geraldo Busatto Filho
Grantee:Geraldo Busatto Filho
Home Institution: Faculdade de Medicina (FM). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


Autism is an early-onset, global and severe developmental disorder which alters the full range of one?s abilities to interact with the environment, including communication skills. A number of neuroimaging studies have attempted to elucidate which brain regions or circuits would be implicated in the pathophysiology of autism. There are data suggesting an association between deficits in communication skills and morphometric or functional abnormalities of brain regions involved in auditory processing in subjects with autism. However, such findings have not always been replicated and the literature in this area remains inconclusive. All functional and structural neuroimaging studies to date have employed methods that involve the delineation of regions of interest (ROI) on circumscribed portions of the brain, and such techniques are subject to limitations. The use of automated image analysis methods would allow voxel-by-voxel comparisons between different groups of subjects (voxel-based morphometry; VBM), overcoming some of the difficulties associated with ROI-based methods and allowing a more comprehensive evaluation of possible brain volumetric abnormalities in patients suffering from autism. Our purpose is to investigate the relationship between the patterns of communication of subjects with autism and regional volumetric abnormalities of gray matter, as assessed with magnetic resonance imagine (MRI) and VBM analyses. This is a cross-sectional study, which will use this methodology to compare regional gray matter volumes between subjects with autism and a healthy control group. All subjects will be assessed, after giving informed consent, with a battery of neuropsychological tests and diagnostic schedules, in order to allow a phenotypic delineation of their pattern of communication and shared attention. MRI data acquisition will be followed by computerized analyses and group comparisons. Our aim, with this study, is to contribute to a greater understanding of the different subtypes of autism and the psychopathological alterations involved in such disease subtypes. (AU)