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Dev Neuropsychol. 2007;31(2):217-38.

Superior temporal gyrus, language function, and autism.

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Departments of Psychology and Neuroscience, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA.


Deficits in language are a core feature of autism. The superior temporal gyrus (STG) is involved in auditory processing, including language, but also has been implicated as a critical structure in social cognition. It was hypothesized that subjects with autism would display different size-function relationships between the STG and intellectual-language-based abilities when compared to controls. Intellectual ability was assessed by either the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Third Edition (WISC-III) or Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Third Edition (WAIS-III), where three intellectual quotients (IQ) were computed: verbal (VIQ), performance (PIQ), and full-scale (FSIQ). Language ability was assessed by the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Third Edition (CELF-3), also divided into three index scores: receptive, expressive, and total. Seven to 19-year-old rigorously diagnosed subjects with autism (n = 30) were compared to controls (n = 39; 13 of whom had a deficit in reading) of similar age who were matched on education, PIQ, and head circumference. STG volumes were computed based on 1.5 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). IQ and CELF-3 performance were highly interrelated regardless of whether subjects had autism or were controls. Both IQ and CELF-3 ability were positively correlated with STG in controls, but a different pattern was observed in subjects with autism. In controls, left STG gray matter was significantly (r = .42, p < or = .05) related to receptive language on the CELF-3; in contrast, a zero order correlation was found with autism. When plotted by age, potential differences in growth trajectories related to language development associated with STG were observed between controls and those subjects with autism. Taken together, these findings suggest a possible failure in left hemisphere lateralization of language function involving the STG in autism.

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