Structural brain abnormalities in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and patients with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Child Neuropsychology Section, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Hospital Aachen, Germany.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 6.46). 01/2008; 48(12):1251-8. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01799.x
Source: PubMed


Although autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are two distinct neurodevelopmental diseases, they share behavioural, neuropsychological and neurobiological characteristics. For the identification of endophenotypes across diagnostic categories, further investigations of phenotypic overlap between ADHD and autism at the behavioural, neurocognitive, and brain levels are needed.
We examined regional grey matter differences and similarities in children and adolescents with ASD and ADHD in comparison to healthy controls using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and voxel-based morphometry.
With regard to clinical criteria, the clinical groups did not differ with respect to ADHD symptoms; however, only patients with ASD showed deficits in social communication and interaction, according to parental rating. Structural abnormalities across both clinical groups compared to controls became evident as grey matter reductions in the left medial temporal lobe and as higher grey matter volumes in the left inferior parietal cortex. In addition, autism-specific brain abnormalities were found as increased grey matter volume in the right supramarginal gyrus.
While the shared structural deviations in the medial temporal lobe might be attributed to an unspecific delay in brain development and might be associated with memory deficits, the structural abnormalities in the inferior parietal lobe may correspond to attentional deficits observed in both ASD and ADHD. By contrast, the autism-specific grey matter abnormalities near the right temporo-parietal junction may be associated with impaired 'theory of mind' abilities. These findings shed some light on both similarities and differences in the neurocognitive profiles of ADHD and ASD patients.

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Available from: Susanne Neufang
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    • "Recent advances in brain imaging have enabled in vivo mapping of the structural and functional characteristics associated with ASD. Several structural neuroimaging studies have implicated abnormalities in a number of brain regions, including the frontal and temporal cortex, the caudate nucleus, cerebellum, amygdala and hippocampus (Abell et al., 1999;Waiter et al., 2004;McAlonan et al., 2005McAlonan et al., , 2008Brieber et al., 2007;Craig et al., 2007;Bonilha et al., 2008;Ke et al., 2008;Lange et al., 2010;Toal et al., 2010;Cauda et al., 2011;Via et al., 2011;Nickl-Jockschat et al., 2012;Nordahl et al., 2012). Functional neuroimaging studies have also reported altered activation of these regions during tasks involving social, emotion and language processing (Baron-Cohen et al., 1999;Pierce et al., 2001;Just et al., 2004;Ashwin et al., 2007;Philip et al., 2012). "
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    • "Specifically, greater EC abilities are associated with larger volumes of the left orbitofrontal cortex in healthy early adolescents (Whittle et al., 2008). Furthermore, adolescents with ADHD exhibit increased gray matter (GM) volumes in the left inferior parietal lobule (Brieber et al., 2007). Adults with deficits in attention (e.g., ADHD) exhibit decreased cortical thicknesses in the prefrontal, lateral IPL, and cingulate cortices (Rommelse et al., 2011). "
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    • "In addition, we note that while the results are not identical our findings do not to suggest that no overlapping atypical circuit characteristics exist between these populations, but rather that large-scale topological organization, as measured via the rich club, is in many ways distinct. However, the absence of left medial temporal gyrus from the structural rich club organization in ADHD population (refer Figure 2) may associate with grey matter reduction in the two groups (Brieber et al. 2007) and reduced left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the functional rich-club in ADHD and ASD groups than in TD might be associated with the underactivation of the region in the two disorders (Christakou et al., 2013). "
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