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Am J Psychiatry. 1992 Jul;149(7):924-30.

Regional cerebral blood flow in childhood autism: a SPECT study.

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  • 1Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot, Direction des Sciences du Vivant, Orsay, France.



The authors investigated a possible cortical brain dysfunction associated with infantile autism.


They measured regional cerebral blood flow with single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and xenon-133 in 21 children with primary autism (according to DSM-III-R criteria). Five cortical brain areas including frontal, temporal, and sensory association cortices were examined in order to test the recent hypothesis of cerebral dysfunction in primary autism. Anatomical references for each subject were obtained with computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging and were used to delimit the regions of interest for SPECT analysis.


When the results from the group with primary autism were compared with an age-matched group of nonautistic children with slight to moderate language disorders (N = 14), no cortical regional abnormalities were found.


It appears that there is no regional cortical dysfunction in primary autism; however, in light of methodological limitations, one cannot exclude the possibility of more localized or subcortical brain dysfunctions in autism.

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