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Autism Res. 2012 Feb;5(1):3-12. doi: 10.1002/aur.227. Epub 2011 Sep 21.

Anatomy and aging of the amygdala and hippocampus in autism spectrum disorder: an in vivo magnetic resonance imaging study of Asperger syndrome.

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King's College London, Institute of Psychiatry, Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Science, London, United Kingdom.


It has been proposed that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have abnormal morphometry and development of the amygdala and hippocampus (AH). However, previous reports are inconsistent, perhaps because they included people of different ASD diagnoses, ages, and health. We compared, using magnetic resonance imaging, the in vivo anatomy of the AH in 32 healthy individuals with Asperger syndrome (12-47 years) and 32 healthy controls who did not differ significantly in age or IQ. We measured bulk (gray + white matter) volume of the AH using manual tracing (MEASURE). We first compared the volume of AH between individuals with Asperger syndrome and controls and then investigated age-related differences. We compared differences in anatomy before, and after, correcting for whole brain size. There was no significant between group differences in whole brain volume. However, individuals with Asperger syndrome had a significantly larger raw bulk volume of total (P<0.01), right (P<0.01), and left amygdala (P<0.05); and when corrected for overall brain size, total (P<0.05), and right amygdala (P<0.01). There was a significant group difference in aging of left amygdala; controls, but not individuals with Asperger syndrome, had a significant age-related increase in volume (r = 0.486, P<0.01, and r = 0.007, P = 0.97, z = 1.995). There were no significant group differences in volume or age-related effects in hippocampus. Individuals with Asperger syndrome have significant differences from controls in bulk volume and aging of the amygdala.

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