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Lateralization of Brain Networks and Clinical Severity in Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A HARDI Diffusion MRI Study.

Authors
  • Conti, Eugenia1, 2
  • Calderoni, Sara1
  • Gaglianese, Anna1
  • Pannek, Kerstin3
  • Mazzotti, Sara1
  • Rose, Stephen3
  • Scelfo, Danilo1
  • Tosetti, Michela1
  • Muratori, Filippo1, 2
  • Cioni, Giovanni1, 2
  • Guzzetta, Andrea1, 2
  • 1 Department of Developmental Neuroscience, Stella Maris Scientific Institute, Pisa, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 2 Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 3 The Australian eHealth Research Centre, CSIRO, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. , (Australia)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Autism Research
Publisher
Wiley (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
March 2016
Volume
9
Issue
3
Pages
382–392
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1002/aur.1533
PMID: 26280255
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

Recent diffusion tensor imaging studies in adolescents and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have reported a loss or an inversion of the typical left-right lateralization in fronto-temporal regions crucial for sociocommunicative skills. No studies explored atypical lateralization in toddlers and its correlation with clinical severity of ASD. We recruited a cohort of 20 subjects aged 36 months or younger receiving a first clinical diagnosis of ASD (15 males; age range 20-36 months). Patients underwent diffusion MRI (High-Angular-Resolution Diffusion Imaging protocol). Data from cortical parcellation were combined with tractography to obtain a connection matrix and diffusion indexes (DI ) including mean fractional anisotropy (DFA ), number of tracts (DNUM ), and total tract length (DTTL ). A laterality index was generated for each measure, and then correlated with the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Generic (ADOS-G) total score. Laterality indexes of DFA were significantly correlated with ADOS-G total scores only in two intrafrontal connected areas (correlation was positive in one case and negative in the other). Laterality indexes of DTTL and DNUM showed significant negative correlations (P < 0.05) in six connected areas, mainly fronto-temporal. This study provides first evidence of a significant correlation between brain lateralization of diffusion indexes and clinical severity in toddlers with a first diagnosis of ASD. Significant correlations mainly involved regions within the fronto-temporal circuits, known to be crucial for sociocommunicative skills. It is of interest that all correlations but one were negative, suggesting an inversion of the typical left-right asymmetry in subjects with most severe clinical impairment.

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