A voxel-based morphometry study of gray matter in parents of children with autism

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Previous structural imaging studies of autistic individuals have identified gray matter abnormalities. It remains unclear, however, which abnormalities contribute to the etiology of autism and, among these abnormalities, which reflect genetic factors. Using voxel-based morphometry, we compared regional gray matter volume in 23 parents of autistic children to an age and sex-matched control sample. We identified relative local gray matter volume increases and decreases in the parent group that are consistent with previous research with autistic individuals. Further, differences were identified in regions that are functionally associated with social-cognitive and motor processes that are impaired in autism. This investigation constitutes the first whole-brain study of regional brain volume in the parents of autistic children, and suggests that a number of structural changes observed in autism may be familial.

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