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An MRI study of the basal ganglia in autism.

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Mental Health Clinical Research Center, University of Iowa College of Medicine, USA.


1. High-resolution MRI scans were obtained from 35 relatively high-functioning persons with autism and 36 healthy controls, comparable in age, gender, and IQ. 2. Volumetric measurements were obtained from manual tracing of the bilateral caudate, putamen, and globus pallidus. 3. An increased volume of the caudate nuclei was found in subjects with autism. Caudate enlargement was proportional to increased total brain volume in subjects with autism. 4. Caudate volume was associated with compulsions and rituals, difficulties with minor change, and complex motor mannerisms in autism. 5. Based on evidence of caudate abnormalities, a second MRI study was completed which replicated the finding of caudate enlargement in autism using an independent sample. 6. The caudate may be part of an abnormal distributed neural network in autism and involved in the ritualistic--repetitive behaviors of the disorder.

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