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November 1991

Absence of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Evidence of Pontine Abnormality in Infantile Autism

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Neurosciences (Ms Hsu and Dr Courchesne) and Radiology (Dr Press), School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, and the Neuropsychology Research Laboratory, Children's Hospital Research Center, San Diego, Calif (Ms Yeung-Courchesne and Dr Courchesne).

Arch Neurol. 1991;48(11):1160-1163. doi:10.1001/archneur.1991.00530230068024

• In vivo studies involving magnetic resonance imaging and studies of neuropathologic specimens have shown that autism is most consistently associated with developmental hypoplasia of the neocerebellum. We investigated whether the cerebellar hypoplasia was accompanied by gross structural abnormalities in the major input (cerebrocerebellar) and output (cerebrorubral) pathways to the cerebellum by measuring the area of the ventral pons (including the pontine nuclei and the transverse fibers) and the midbrain on midsagittal magnetic resonance images in 34 autistic and 44 subjects. The area of the entire pons and several regions of interest within the midbrain (including the superior and inferior colliculi) were also determined with midsagittal magnetic resonance images. We found no significant difference between measurements of the pons and midbrain in autistic and control subjects. Our data show no evidence of gross anatomic abnormalities in the input and output pathways to the cerebellum in autism, a finding that is consistent with previous studies of neuropathologic specimens; rather, the reduced size of the neocerebellum in autism appears to be the result of maldevelopment within the cerebellum itself.

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