The first 3D mapping of cortical sulcal patterns in autistic children
Courtesy of Jennifer G. Levitt, University of California, Los Angeles.
3D variability in cortical sulci between the patient and the control groups.
Jennifer Levitt and colleagues (Cortical sulcal maps in autism, Cerebral Cortex 13, 728-735, 2003) using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) developed the first ever three-dimensional mapping of cortical sulcal patterns in autistic disorder. They studied autistic and normal children and built from single subject scans high resolution average sulcal maps for the two groups. The results reveal widespread deviations in cortical surface anatomy.
Among neuro-anatomical abnormalities that accompany autism, there are differences in limbic, cerebellar and neocortical regions, although there is no clear consensus on the role played by those abnormalities, their connection with pathology is no more in doubt. Jennifer Levitt’s group provides an important contribution to the study of the neocortex affected areas. Examining the differences between autistic and normal children in the pattern of cortical gyri and sulci could provide a piece of evidence that leads to the solution of problems related to the developmental pathology of the disorder. For example, the posterior shifting of the inferior frontal gyrus in normal development, doesn’t take place in its autistic counterpart, resulting in an anterior displacement. Such differences, Levitt speculates, could reflect delayed or incomplete maturation in the frontal lobe.