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Dev Med Child Neurol. 2000 Nov;42(11):737-40.

Macrocephaly in autism and other pervasive developmental disorders.

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  • 1UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


To assess the prevalence of macrocephaly (head circumference > or = 1.88 standard deviations above normative data for age and sex or > 97th centile) in autism and other pervasive developmental disorders, 41 children with autism, and a comparison group of 21 children with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) or an unspecified seizure disorder were studied. Familiality of head circumference was also assessed from measurements of 133 first-degree relatives. Significantly higher rates of macrocephaly were found in probands with autism (12.2%) and their first-degree relatives (15.5%) when compared against a published normative sample. The incidence of macrocephaly in the comparison group of probands with TSC and seizure disorder (9.5%) and their first-degree relatives (8.3%) was higher than normative data as well, although the relation between macrocephaly and autism was more pronounced. Head circumference and extreme scores reflecting macrocephaly were moderately heritable in the present sample (H2 = 0.47). The increased prevalence of macrocephaly in relatives of children with autism compared with control children suggests that this characteristic may be a familial risk factor in the pathogenesis of autism.

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