Objectives: The study aimed to elucidate the nature of the corpus callosum abnormality in autism. It complemented previous morphometric studies by quantitating the shape of the corpus callosum boundary.
Methods: Seventeen high-functioning, autistic individuals were recruited (fourteen male, three female, all between 16 and 51 years of age). An equal number of non-autistic control subjects were enrolled, matched pairwise by age and sex with the autistic participants. T1-weighted images were acquired with Siemens MAGNETOM Vision 1.5 T scanners using an MPRAGE acquisition sequence. The corpus callosum was segmented from each image using a probabilistic model for corpus callosum shape. Boundary surfaces of the segmented corpora callosa were mapped into a standardized pseudocylindrical coordinate system (z, φ, ρ) to facilitate their comparison with each other. For each point z along a curvilinear axis from the genu to the splenium, and for each angle φ measured clockwise about this axis from anatomical right, ρ(z, φ) is the perpendicular distance from the axis to the boundary surface. The transformed surfaces were aggregated pointwise into a statistical parametric map of pairwise t statistics with 16 degrees of freedom. Regions of statistically significance were derived from the associated P-values using the method of Benjamini and Hochberg with a false discovery rate q* = 0.05.
Results: White matter in autism was reduced bilaterally along the body of the corpus callosum, apart from an increase in the region proximal to the right cingulate gyrus. There was also a reduction at the extreme posterior end of the structure. There was otherwise no significant difference around the mid-sagittal plane.
Conclusions: Results from our study indicate a generalized reduction of the corpus callosum in autism. The findings acquire relevance from previous neuroimaging studies that varied among themselves in regards to a preferred anatomical subdivision (e.g., genu, body, splenium). Generalized findings, involving the rostro-caudal extent of the corpus callosum, is expected from a mechanism involving corticalization, i.e. a mitotic event affecting periventricular germinal cells and the total number of cortical minicolumns.