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Neuroimage. 2004 Sep;23(1):364-9.

Superior temporal sulcus anatomical abnormalities in childhood autism: a voxel-based morphometry MRI study.

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ERM 0205 INSERM-CEA, Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot, CEA, 91406, Orsay, France.


The underlying neurobiology of autism, a severe pervasive developmental disorder, remains unknown. Few neocortical brain MRI abnormalities have been reported. Using rest functional brain imaging, two independent studies have described localized bilateral temporal hypoperfusion in children with primary autism. In order to search for convergent evidence of anatomical abnormalities in autistic children, we performed an anatomical MRI study using optimized whole-brain voxel-based morphometry (VBM). High-resolution 3-D T1-weighted MRI data sets were acquired in 21 children with primary autism (mean age 9.3 +/- 2.2 years) and 12 healthy control children (mean age 10.8 +/- 2.7 years). By comparing autistic children to normal children, we found bilaterally significant decreases of grey matter concentration located in superior temporal sulcus (STS) (P < 0.05 corrected, after small volume correction; SVC). Children with autism were also found to have a decrease of white matter concentration located in the right temporal pole and in cerebellum (P < 0.05, corrected) compared to normal children. These results suggest that autism is associated with bilateral anatomical abnormalities localized in the STS and are remarkably consistent with functional hypoperfusion previously reported in children with autism. The multimodal STS areas are involved in highest level of cortical integration of both sensory and limbic information. Moreover, the STS is now recognized as a key cortical area of the "social brain" and is implicated in social perceptual skills that are characteristically impaired in autism. Therefore, the convergent anatomical and functional temporal abnormalities observed in autism may be important in the understanding of brain behavior relationships in this severe developmental disorder.

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