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Psychiatry Res. 2006 Nov 22;148(1):11-21. Epub 2006 Oct 23.

Detection and mapping of hippocampal abnormalities in autism.

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Department of Psychiatry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


Brain imaging studies of the hippocampus in autism have yielded inconsistent results. In this study, a computational mapping strategy was used to examine the three-dimensional profile of hippocampal abnormalities in autism. Twenty-one males with autism (age: 9.5+/-3.3 years) and 24 male controls (age: 10.3+/-2.4 years) underwent a volumetric magnetic resonance imaging scan at 3 Tesla. The hippocampus was delineated, using an anatomical protocol, and hippocampal volumes were compared between the two groups. Hippocampal traces were also converted into three-dimensional parametric surface meshes, and statistical brain maps were created to visualize morphological differences in the shape and thickness of the hippocampus between groups. Parametric surface meshes and shape analysis revealed subtle differences between patients and controls, particularly in the right posterior hippocampus. These deficits were significant even though the groups did not differ significantly with traditional measures of hippocampal volume. These results suggest that autism may be associated with subtle regional reductions in the size of the hippocampus. The increased statistical and spatial power of computational mapping methods provided the ability to detect these differences, which were not found with traditional volumetric methods.

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