There is now considerable evidence that white matter abnormalities play a role in the neurobiology of autism. Little research has been directed, however, at understanding (a) typical white matter development in autism and how this relates to neurocognitive impairments observed in the disorder. In this study we used probabilistic tractography to identify the cingulum bundle in 21 adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and 21 age- and sex-matched healthy volunteers. We investigated group differences in the relationships between age and fractional anisotropy, a putative measure of white matter integrity, within the cingulum bundle. Moreover, in a preliminary investigation, we examined the relationship between cingulum fractional anisotropy and executive functioning using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF). The ASD participants demonstrated significantly lower fractional anisotropy within the cingulum bundle compared to the typically developing volunteers. There was a significant group-by-age interaction such that the ASD group did not show the typical age-associated increases in fractional anisotropy observed among healthy individuals. Moreover, lower fractional anisotropy within the cingulum bundle was associated with worse BRIEF behavioral regulation index scores in the ASD group. The current findings implicate a dysregulation in cingulum bundle white matter development occurring in late adolescence and early adulthood in ASD, and suggest that greater disturbances in this trajectory are associated with executive dysfunction in ASD. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
Faculty, Northwell Researcher
School of Medicine; Northwell Health