Sex differences in frontal lobe connectivity in adults with autism spectrum conditions.

E A Zeestraten, , M C Gudbrandsen, E Daly, M T de Schotten, M Catani, F Dell'Acqua, M-C Lai, A N V Ruigrok, M V Lombardo, B Chakrabarti, S Baron-Cohen, C Ecker, D G M Murphy, M C Craig
Transl Psychiatry. 2017-04-01; 7(4): e1090-e1090
DOI: 10.1038/tp.2017.9

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1. Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Apr 11;7(4):e1090. doi: 10.1038/tp.2017.9.

Sex differences in frontal lobe connectivity in adults with autism spectrum

Zeestraten EA(1), Gudbrandsen MC(1), Daly E(1), de Schotten MT(1), Catani M(1),
Dell’Acqua F(1), Lai MC(2)(3)(4), Ruigrok AN(2), Lombardo MV(2)(5), Chakrabarti
B(2)(6), Baron-Cohen S(2)(7), Ecker C(1); MRC AIMS Consortium, Murphy DG(1)(8),
Craig MC(1)(9).

Collaborators: Bailey AJ, Baron-Cohen S, Bolton PF, Bullmore ET, Carrington S,
Catani M, Chakrabarti B, Craig MC, Daly EM, Deoni SC, Ecker C, Happé F, Henty J,
Jezzard P, Johnston P, Jones DK, Lai MC, Lombardo MV, Madden A, Mullins D, Murphy
CM, Murphy DG, Pasco G, Ruigrok AN, Sadek SA, Spain D, Stewart R, Suckling J,
Wheelwright SJ, Williams SC, Wilson CE.

Author information:
(1)Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences, Institute of
Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK.
(2)Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge,
Cambridge, UK.
(3)Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative at the Centre for Addiction and
Mental Health and The Hospital for Sick Children, Department of Psychiatry,
University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
(4)Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University Hospital and College of
Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan.
(5)Department of Psychology and Center for Applied Neuroscience, University of
Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus.
(6)School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, Centre for Integrative
Neuroscience and Neurodynamics, University of Reading, Reading, UK.
(7)CLASS Clinic, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge,
(8)Sackler Institute for Translational Neurodevelopment, Institute of Psychiatry,
King’s College London, London, UK.
(9)National Autism Unit, Bethlem Royal Hospital, SLAM NHS Foundation Trust,
London, UK.

Autism spectrum conditions (ASC) are more prevalent in males than females. The
biological basis of this difference remains unclear. It has been postulated that
one of the primary causes of ASC is a partial disconnection of the frontal lobe
from higher-order association areas during development (that is, a frontal
‘disconnection syndrome’). Therefore, in the current study we investigated
whether frontal connectivity differs between males and females with ASC. We
recruited 98 adults with a confirmed high-functioning ASC diagnosis (61 males:
aged 18-41 years; 37 females: aged 18-37 years) and 115 neurotypical controls (61
males: aged 18-45 years; 54 females: aged 18-52 years). Current ASC symptoms were
evaluated using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Diffusion
tensor imaging was performed and fractional anisotropy (FA) maps were created.
Mean FA values were determined for five frontal fiber bundles and two non-frontal
fiber tracts. Between-group differences in mean tract FA, as well as
sex-by-diagnosis interactions were assessed. Additional analyses including ADOS
scores informed us on the influence of current ASC symptom severity on frontal
connectivity. We found that males with ASC had higher scores of current symptom
severity than females, and had significantly lower mean FA values for all but one
tract compared to controls. No differences were found between females with or
without ASC. Significant sex-by-diagnosis effects were limited to the frontal
tracts. Taking current ASC symptom severity scores into account did not alter the
findings, although the observed power for these analyses varied. We suggest these
findings of frontal connectivity abnormalities in males with ASC, but not in
females with ASC, have the potential to inform us on some of the sex differences
reported in the behavioral phenotype of ASC.

DOI: 10.1038/tp.2017.9
PMCID: PMC5416715
PMID: 28398337 [Indexed for MEDLINE]

Auteurs Bordeaux Neurocampus