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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Oct 30;7:733. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00733.

Heterogeneity within Autism Spectrum Disorders: What have We Learned from Neuroimaging Studies?

Author information

1
School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales , Sydney, NSW , Australia ; Neuroscience Research Australia , Sydney, NSW , Australia.

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) display significant heterogeneity. Although most neuroimaging studies in ASD have been designed to identify commonalities among affected individuals, rather than differences, some studies have explored variation within ASD. There have been two general types of approaches used for this in the neuroimaging literature to date: comparison of subgroups within ASD, and analyses using dimensional measures to link clinical variation to brain differences. This review focuses on structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies that have used these approaches to begin to explore heterogeneity between individuals with ASD. Although this type of data is yet sparse, recognition is growing of the limitations of behaviorally defined categorical diagnoses for understanding neurobiology. Study designs that are more informative regarding the sources of heterogeneity in ASD have the potential to improve our understanding of the neurobiological processes underlying ASD.

KEYWORDS:

autism; functional magnetic resonance imaging; intellectual disability; psychiatry and developmental disabilities; structural magnetic resonance imaging

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