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Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017 Nov;26(11):1361-1376. doi: 10.1007/s00787-017-0990-2. Epub 2017 Apr 26.

Atypical age-dependency of executive function and white matter microstructure in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

Martínez K1,2,3,4,5, Merchán-Naranjo J6,7,8, Pina-Camacho L6,7,8,9, Alemán-Gómez Y7,8, Boada L6,7,8, Fraguas D6,7,8, Moreno C6,7,8, Arango C6,7,8,10, Janssen J6,7,8,11, Parellada M6,7,8,10.

Author information

1
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain. kenia.martinez.r@gmail.com.
2
Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Gregorio Marañón (IISGM), Madrid, Spain. kenia.martinez.r@gmail.com.
3
Ciber del área de Salud Mental (CIBERSAM), Madrid, Spain. kenia.martinez.r@gmail.com.
4
Universidad Europea de Madrid, Madrid, Spain. kenia.martinez.r@gmail.com.
5
Hospital Gregorio Marañón, Edificio prefabricado, entrada por Máiquez 9, 28009, Madrid, Spain. kenia.martinez.r@gmail.com.
6
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain.
7
Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Gregorio Marañón (IISGM), Madrid, Spain.
8
Ciber del área de Salud Mental (CIBERSAM), Madrid, Spain.
9
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, London, United Kingdom.
10
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.
11
Department of Psychiatry, Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Abstract

Executive function (EF) performance is associated with measurements of white matter microstructure (WMS) in typical individuals. Impaired EF is a hallmark symptom of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) but it is unclear how impaired EF relates to variability in WMS. Twenty-one male youth (8-18 years) with ASD and without intellectual disability and twenty-one typical male participants (TP) matched for age, intelligence quotient, handedness, race and parental socioeconomic status were recruited. Five EF domains were assessed and several DTI-based measurements of WMS [fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD) and radial diffusivity (RD)] were estimated for eighteen white matter tracts. The ASD group had lower scores for attention (F = 8.37, p = 0.006) and response inhibition (F = 13.09, p = 0.001). Age-dependent changes of EF performance and WMS measurements were present in TP but attenuated in the ASD group. The strongest diagnosis-by-age effect was found for forceps minor, left anterior thalamic radiation and left cingulum angular bundle (all p's ≤ 0.002). In these tracts subjects with ASD tended to have equal or increased FA and/or reduced MD and/or RD at younger ages while controls had increased FA and/or reduced MD and/or RD thereafter. Only for TP individuals, increased FA in the left anterior thalamic radiation was associated with better response inhibition, while reduced RD in forceps minor and left cingulum angular bundle was related to better problem solving and working memory performance respectively. These findings provide novel insight into the age-dependency of EF performance and WMS in ASD, which can be instructive to cognitive training programs.

KEYWORDS:

Age; Autism spectrum disorders; Cognition; Development; Executive function; White matter microstructure

PMID:
28447268
DOI:
10.1007/s00787-017-0990-2
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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