Constrained spherical deconvolution-based tractography and tract-based spatial statistics show abnormal microstructural organization in Asperger syndrome
Nieminen-von Wendt, Taina
Faculty of Sciences. Physics
, 11 p.
University of Antwerp
Background: The aim of this study was to investigate potential differences in neural structure in individuals with Asperger syndrome (AS), high-functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The main symptoms of AS are severe impairments in social interactions and restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests or activities. Methods: Diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging data were acquired for 14 adult males with AS and 19 age, sex and IQ-matched controls. Voxelwise group differences in fractional anisotropy (FA) were studied with tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS). Based on the results of TBSS, a tract-level comparison was performed with constrained spherical deconvolution (CSD)-based tractography, which is able to detect complex (for example, crossing) fiber configurations. In addition, to investigate the relationship between the microstructural changes and the severity of symptoms, we looked for correlations between FA and the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Empathy Quotient and Systemizing Quotient. Results: TBSS revealed widely distributed local increases in FA bilaterally in individuals with AS, most prominent in the temporal part of the superior longitudinal fasciculus, corticospinal tract, splenium of corpus callosum, anterior thalamic radiation, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFO), posterior thalamic radiation, uncinate fasciculus and inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF). CSD-based tractography also showed increases in the FA in multiple tracts. However, only the difference in the left ILF was significant after a Bonferroni correction. These results were not explained by the complexity of microstructural organization, measured using the planar diffusion coefficient. In addition, we found a correlation between AQ and FA in the right IFO in the whole group. Conclusions: Our results suggest that there are local and tract-level abnormalities in white matter (WM) microstructure in our homogenous and carefully characterized group of adults with AS, most prominent in the left ILF.