Elsevier, NeuroImage: Clinical, (7), p. 525-536, 2015
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by impairments in social communication and restrictive, repetitive behaviors. While behavioral symptoms are well-documented, investigations into the neurobiological underpinnings of ASD have not resulted in firm biomarkers. Variability in findings across structural neuroimaging studies has contributed to difficulty in reliably characterizing the brain morphology of individuals with ASD. These inconsistencies may also arise from the heterogeneity of ASD, and wider age-range of participants included in MRI studies and in previous meta-analyses. To address this, the current study used coordinate-based anatomical likelihood estimation (ALE) analysis of 21 voxel-based morphometry (VBM) studies examining high-functioning individuals with ASD, resulting in a meta-analysis of 1055 participants (506 ASD, and 549 typically developing individuals). Results consisted of grey, white, and global differences in cortical matter between the groups. Modeled anatomical maps consisting of concentration, thickness, and volume metrics of grey and white matter revealed clusters suggesting age-related decreases in grey and white matter in parietal and inferior temporal regions of the brain in ASD, and age-related increases in grey matter in frontal and anterior-temporal regions. White matter alterations included fiber tracts thought to play key roles in information processing and sensory integration. Many current theories of pathobiology ASD suggest that the brains of individuals with ASD may have less-functional long-range (anterior-to-posterior) connections. Our findings of decreased cortical matter in parietal–temporal and occipital regions, and thickening in frontal cortices in older adults with ASD may entail altered cortical anatomy, and neurodevelopmental adaptations.