Structural correlates of intellectual impairment and autistic features in adolescents

Michael D Spencer, T William J Moorhead, G Katherine S Lymer, Dominic E Job, Walter J Muir, Peter Hoare, David G C Owens, Stephen M Lawrie, Eve C Johnstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intellectual disability, a common but under-researched condition, is strongly associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Although studies have investigated the neural correlates of intelligence quotient (IQ) and ASD in intellectually unimpaired subjects, these issues have not been addressed in intellectually impaired subjects. We studied 63 intellectually disabled adolescents receiving additional learning support and 72 controls using whole brain tissue volumes extracted from native space and voxel-based morphometry (VBM) in normalised space. We applied a qualitative and quantitative review of VBM preprocessing and modified the optimised method to establish optimum co-registration of the brains in normalised space. We report tissue density differences at cluster level with adjustment for underlying smoothness. Individuals with intellectual disability had smaller total white matter and total brain tissue volumes than controls, as well as reduced grey matter density in the right cerebellar hemisphere and left temporo-parietal cortex, and reduced white matter density in the posterior corpus callosum. Intellectually disabled subjects were additionally subgrouped according to their degree of reported autistic features. Reduced grey matter density was detected in the thalamus of subjects with autistic features scoring within the pervasive developmental disorder range as compared to subjects below the threshold for ASD, and increased white matter density was detected in the left superior temporal gyrus of subjects scoring above the threshold for autism as compared to subjects below the threshold for ASD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1136-44
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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