Abstract

To investigate frontal lobe white matter in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we performed diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in 50 ASD children (mean age: 57.5 ± 29.2 months, 43 males) and 16 typically developing children (mean age: 82.1 ± 41.4 months, 11 males). The apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) was significantly higher for whole frontal lobe (P = 0.011), long (P < 0.001) and short range (P = 0.0126) association fibers in ASD group. There was a trend toward statistical significance in the fractional anisotropy (FA) of whole frontal lobe fibers (P = 0.11). FA was significantly lower in ASD group for short range fibers (P = 0.0031) but not for long range fibers (P = not significant [NS]). There was no between-group difference in the number of frontal lobe fibers (short and long) (P = NS). The fiber length distribution was significantly more positively skewed in the normal population than in the ASD group (P < 0.001). The long range association fibers of frontal lobe were significantly longer in ASD group (P = 0.026 for both left and right hemispheres). Abnormal frontal FA and ADC may be due to white matter organization abnormalities in ASD. Lack of evidence for excessive short range connectivity in ASD in this study may need to be re-examined with future advances in DTI technology.

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