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Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2017 Nov;2(8):664-672. doi: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2017.07.007. Epub 2017 Aug 12.

Subcortical Brain and Behavior Phenotypes Differentiate Infants With Autism Versus Language Delay.

Author information

1
Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Electronic address: meghan.swanson@cidd.unc.edu.
2
Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
3
Department of Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
4
Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
5
Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Department of Computer Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
6
Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
7
Department of Biostatistics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
8
Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
9
Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
10
Department of Psychiatry, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri.
11
Center for Autism Research at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
12
Department of Radiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
13
Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
14
Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are themselves at increased risk for ASD and other developmental concerns. It is unclear if infants who display developmental concerns, but are unaffected by ASD, share similar or dissimilar behavioral and brain phenotypes to infants with ASD. Most individuals with ASD exhibit heterogeneous difficulties with language, and their receptive-expressive language profiles are often atypical. Yet, little is known about the neurobiology that contributes to these language difficulties.

METHODS:

In this study, we used behavioral assessments and structural magnetic resonance imaging to investigate early brain structures and associations with later language skills. High-risk infants who were later diagnosed with ASD (n = 86) were compared with high-risk infants who showed signs of early language delay (n = 41) as well as with high- and low-risk infants who did not have ASD or language delay (n = 255 and 143, respectively).

RESULTS:

Results indicated that diminished language skills were evident at 12 months in infants with ASD and infants with early language delay. At 24 months of age, only the infants with ASD displayed atypical receptive-expressive language profiles. Associations between 12-month subcortical volumes and 24-month language skills were moderated by group status, indicating disordinal brain-behavior associations among infants with ASD and infants with language delay.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results suggest that there are different brain mechanisms influencing language development in infants with ASD and infants with language delay, and that the two groups likely experience unique sets of genetic and environmental risk factors.

KEYWORDS:

ASD; Brain; Infancy; Language delay; Language profile; Subcortical structure

PMID:
29560900
PMCID:
PMC5865637
DOI:
10.1016/j.bpsc.2017.07.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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