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Neurometabolite levels in the brains of patients with autism spectrum disorders: A meta-analysis of proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies (N = 1501).

Molecular Psychiatry 2023 April 29
Evidence suggests that neurometabolite alterations may be involved in the pathophysiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). We performed a meta-analysis of proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1 H-MRS) studies to examine the neurometabolite levels in the brains of patients with ASD. A systematic search of PubMed and Web of Science identified 54 studies for the meta-analysis. A random-effects meta-analysis demonstrated that compared with the healthy controls, patients with ASD had lower N-acetyl-aspartate-containing compound (NAA) and choline-containing compound (Cho) levels and NAA/(creatine-containing compound) Cr ratios in the gray matter and lower NAA and glutamate + glutamine (Glx) levels in the white matter. Furthermore, NAA and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels, NAA/Cr ratios, and GABA/Cr ratios were significantly decreased in the frontal cortex of patients with ASD, whereas glutamate (Glu) levels were increased in the prefrontal cortex. Additionally, low NAA levels and GABA/Cr ratios in the temporal cortex, low NAA levels and NAA/Cr ratios in the parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, and low NAA levels in the cerebellum and occipital cortex were observed in patients with ASD. Meta-regression analysis revealed that age was positively associated with effect size in studies analyzing the levels of gray matter NAA and white matter Glx. Taken together, these results provide strong clinical evidence that neurometabolite alterations in specific brain regions are associated with ASD and age is a confounding factor for certain neurometabolite levels in patients with ASD.

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