Tract-based spatial statistics reveal altered relationship between non-verbal reasoning abilities and white matter integrity in autism spectrum disorder

Timothy M Ellmore, Hai Li, Zhong Xue, Stephen T C Wong, Richard E Frye
Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society: JINS 2013, 19 (6): 723-8
Altered brain connectivity accompanies autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but the relationship between connectivity and intellectual abilities, which often differs within ASD, and between ASD and typically developing (TD) children, is not understood. Here, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used to explore the relationship between white matter integrity and non-verbal intelligence quotients (IQ) in children with ASD and in age- and gender-matched TD children. Tract-based spatial statistical analyses (TBSS) of DTI fractional anisotropy (FA) revealed altered relationships between white matter and IQ. Different relationships were found using within-group analyses, where regions of significant (p < .05, corrected) correlations in ASD overlapped minimally with regions of FA-IQ correlations in TD subjects. An additional between-groups analysis revealed significant correlation differences in widespread cortical and subcortical areas. These preliminary findings suggest altered brain connectivity may underlie some differences in intellectual abilities of ASD, and should be investigated further in larger samples as a function of development.

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