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Behav Brain Res. 2007 Aug 6;181(2):224-31. Epub 2007 Apr 22.

Social function in boys with cleft lip and palate: relationship to ventral frontal cortex morphology.

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  • 1University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Isolated clefts of the lip and/or palate (ICLP) are developmental craniofacial abnormalities that have consistently been linked to increased social inhibition or shyness. Two explanations have been proposed: (1) psychosocial factors related to differences in facial appearance may lead to low self-concept and subsequent shyness, or (2) abnormal development of brain structures involved in social function, such as the ventral frontal cortex (VFC), may underlie the difference. To investigate these two possibilities this study was designed to evaluate measures of social function in relation to measures of self-concept and VFC morphology. Subjects included 30 boys (age 7-12) with ICLP and a comparison group of 43 boys without cleft in the same age category. Social function and self-concept were assessed using questionnaires with standardized scoring filled out by subjects and one of their parents. The cortical volume and surface area of the VFC, composed of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and straight gyrus (SG), were evaluated using structural magnetic resonance imaging. The ICLP subjects had significantly impaired social function relative to the comparison group. No difference in self-concept was identified. VFC morphology revealed significant differences between groups, particularly decreased volume and surface area in the left SG of the ICLP group. Moreover, abnormal VFC measures were correlated with social dysfunction but measures of self-concept were not. These results are consistent with the possibility that aberrant VFC development may partially underlie social dysfunction in boys with ICLP.

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