Early Brain MRI Phenotypes of Autism Tied to Familial ASD Traits

Greater levels of proband ASD traits correlated with distinctive brain MRI findings in younger siblings who later develop ASD

Early Brain MRI Phenotypes of Autism Tied to Familial ASD Traits
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FRIDAY, May 27, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Autistic traits in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) probands correlate with neurodevelopment in younger siblings who go on to develop ASD, according to a study published online May 26 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Jessica B. Girault, Ph.D., from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues examined the associations between proband ASD traits and sibling brain development at 6, 12, and 24 months in key MRI phenotypes: total cerebral volume, cortical surface area, extra-axial cerebrospinal fluid, occipital cortical surface area, and splenium white matter microstructure.

The researchers found that in siblings who developed ASD, greater levels of proband ASD traits were associated with larger total cerebral volume and surface area and larger surface area and reduced white matter integrity in components of the visual system. Among all siblings during infancy, this aligned with weaker functional connectivity between several networks and the visual system.

"Autistic traits in ASD probands, as indices of familial genetic liability for ASD, correlate with neurodevelopment in the probands' infant siblings who were later diagnosed with ASD," the authors write. "Proband autism traits -- and, in particular, social behavior captured by multiple instruments -- explained variation in sibling cerebral volume, cortical surface area, and splenium white matter microstructure during the presymptomatic period leading up to diagnosis."

One author disclosed financial ties to Nous Imaging, Philips Healthcare, and Siemens Healthineers.

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