Morphological Alterations in the Thalamus, Striatum, and Pallidum in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

TitleMorphological Alterations in the Thalamus, Striatum, and Pallidum in Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsSchuetze M, Park MTae M, Cho IYk, MacMaster FP, Chakravarty MM, Bray SL
Date Published2016 Oct

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder with cognitive, motor, and emotional symptoms. The thalamus and basal ganglia form circuits with the cortex supporting all three of these behavioral domains. Abnormalities in the structure of subcortical regions may suggest atypical development of these networks, with implications for understanding the neural basis of ASD symptoms. Findings from previous volumetric studies have been inconsistent. Here, using advanced surface-based methodology, we investigated localized differences in shape and surface area in the basal ganglia and thalamus in ASD, using T1-weighted anatomical images from the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (373 male participants aged 7-35 years with ASD and 384 typically developing). We modeled effects of diagnosis, age, and their interaction on volume, shape, and surface area. In participants with ASD, we found expanded surface area in the right posterior thalamus corresponding to the pulvinar nucleus, and a more concave shape in the left mediodorsal nucleus. The shape of both caudal putamen and pallidum showed a relatively steeper increase in concavity with age in ASD. Within ASD participants, restricted, repetitive behaviors were positively associated with surface area in bilateral globus pallidus. We found no differences in overall volume, suggesting that surface-based approaches have greater sensitivity to detect localized differences in subcortical structure. This work adds to a growing body of literature implicating corticobasal ganglia-thalamic circuits in the pathophysiology of ASD. These circuits subserve a range of cognitive, emotional, and motor functions, and may have a broad role in the complex symptom profile in ASD.

Alternate JournalNeuropsychopharmacology
PubMed ID27125303
PubMed Central IDPMC5026732