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J Child Neurol. 2013 Jun;28(6):732-9. doi: 10.1177/0883073812451496. Epub 2012 Jul 25.

The effect of diagnosis, age, and symptom severity on cortical surface area in the cingulate cortex and insula in autism spectrum disorders.

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Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Functional activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and insula has been reported to be abnormal during social tasks in autism spectrum disorders. However, few studies have examined surface morphometry in these regions and how this may be related to autism spectrum disorder symptomatology. In this study, 27 individuals with autism spectrum disorders and 25 controls between the ages of 7 to 39 years underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging. Our primary analysis examined differences in surface area in the cingulate and insula, between individuals with and without autism spectrum disorders, as well as age-related changes and associations with social impairments. Surface area in the right cingulate was significantly different between groups and decreased more rapidly with age in autism spectrum disorder participants. In addition, greater surface area in the insula and isthmus was associated with poorer social behaviors. Results suggest atypical surface morphometry in brain regions involved in social function, which appeared to be related to poorer social ability scores.


autism spectrum disorders; cingulate cortex and insula; structural MRI; surface morphometry

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