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Biol Psychiatry. 2005 Jan 15;57(2):126-33.

Localized enlargement of the frontal cortex in early autism.

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  • 1Center for Autism Research, Children's Hospital Research Center, and Neurosciences Department, University of California at San Diego, San Diego, California, USA.



Evidence from behavioral, imaging, and postmortem studies indicates that the frontal lobe, as well as other brain regions such as the cerebellum and limbic system, develops abnormally in children with autism. It is not yet clear to what extent the frontal lobe is affected; that is, whether all regions of frontal cortex show the same signs of structural maldevelopment.


In the present study, we measured cortical volume in four subregions of the frontal cortex in 2-year-old to 9-year-old boys with autism and normal control boys.


The dorsolateral region showed a reduced age effect in patients when compared with control subjects, with a predicted 10% increase in volume from 2 years of age to 9 years of age compared with a predicted 48% increase for control subjects. In a separate analysis, dorsolateral and medial frontal regions were significantly enlarged in patients aged 2 to 5 years compared with control subjects of the same age, but the precentral gyrus and orbital cortex were not.


These data indicate regional variation in the degree of frontocortical overgrowth with a possible bias toward later developing or association areas. Possible mechanisms for these regional differences are discussed.

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