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White matter alterations in autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in relation to sensory profile

By Haruhisa Ohta, Yuta Aoki, Takashi Itahashi, Chieko Kanai, Junya Fujino, Motoaki Nakamura, Nobumasa Kato, Ryu-ichiro Hashimoto

Posted 31 May 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/656264 (published DOI: 10.1186/s13229-020-00379-6)

Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have high rates of co-occurrence and share atypical behavioral characteristics, including sensory problems. The present diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) study was conducted to examine whether and how white matter abnormalities are observed in adult populations with developmental disabilities (DD) and to determine how brain-sensory relationships are either shared between or distinct to ASD and ADHD. Methods: We collected DTI data from adult developmental disorder (DD) populations (a primary diagnosis of ASD: n=105, ADHD: n=55) as well as age and sex matched typically developed (TD) participants (n=58). Voxel-wise fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity, and radial diffusivity (RD) were analyzed using tract-based spatial statistics. The severities of sensory problems were assessed using the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile (AASP). Results: Categorical analyses identified voxel clusters showing significant effects of DD on FA and RD in the posterior portion of the corpus callosum and its extension in the right hemisphere. Furthermore, regression analyses using the AASP scores revealed that slopes in relationships of FA or RD with the degree of sensory problems were parallel between the two DDs in large parts of the affected corpus callosum regions, although a small but significant cluster did exist showing interaction between the diagnosis of DD and an AASP subscale score on RD. Conclusions: These results indicate that white matter abnormalities and their relationships to sensory problems are largely shared between ASD and ADHD, with localized abnormalities showing significant between-diagnosis differences within DD.

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