(HealthDay News) – Young men with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have differences in brain surface anatomy and increased brain immune activation, according to two studies published online Nov. 26 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Christine Ecker, PhD, from King’s College London, and colleagues used quantitative magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain cortical volume (and its components, surface area, and cortical thickness) in 84 young men with ASD and 84 age- and intelligence-matched control men. The researchers found that patients with ASD had significantly higher cortical thickness within frontal lobe regions and reduced surface area in the orbitofrontal cortex and posterior cingulum, which together translated into differences in cortical volume.

Katsuaki Suzuki, MD, PhD, from the Hamamatsu University School of Medicine in Japan, and colleagues used positron emission tomography and a radioactive microglial tracer to measure microglial activation in the whole brain in 20 young men with ASD and 20 age- and intelligence-matched healthy men. The researchers found that men with ASD had significantly higher binding potential values in multiple brain regions, including the cerebellum, midbrain, pons, fusiform gyri, and the anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal cortices. The patterns of binding potential values were similar for men with ASD and controls, but the magnitude was greater in the ASD group in all regions.

“Despite a substantial increase in autism research publications and funding during the past decade, we have not yet fully described the causes of ASD or developed effective medical treatments for it,” Geraldine Dawson, PhD, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, writes in an accompanying editorial.

One author from the Ecker study is employed part-time by GlaxoSmithKline and holds shares in the company.

Abstract – Ecker
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Abstract – Suzuki
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Editorial (subscription or payment may be required)