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Pediatr Neurol. 2005 Feb;32(2):102-8.

Accelerated head growth in early development of individuals with autism.

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1
Department of Medicine and Center for Human Genetics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.

Abstract

Macrocephaly is one of the most consistent physical findings reported in autistic individuals. Previous studies attempted to determine if macrocephaly is associated with risk for autism. This study hypothesizes that an abnormal acceleration in head growth during early development, rather than macrocephaly, is associated with autism risk. To investigate this hypothesis, head circumference data were examined in 251 individuals from 82 multiplex (at least two individuals with autism) and 113 sporadic (no family history) families with autism. This examination included longitudinal measurements for 79 individuals. Nineteen percent of the original 251 individuals were found to have macrocephaly (head circumference >97%). Abnormal acceleration in head growth was defined as an increase of 25 or more percentile points in head circumference between two consecutive measurements. Thirty-five percent of individuals with multiple head circumference records had an abnormal increase in head circumference. Furthermore, autistic individuals with accelerated head growth in early childhood displayed higher levels of adaptive functioning and less social impairment. This study confirms the presence of abnormal acceleration in head growth during the first and second months of life in a subgroup of autistic individuals.

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