Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Magnetic Resonance Imaging Measurements and Cognitive Performance in Autism
This study examined the relationships between volumetric measurements of frontal lobe structures and performance on executive function tasks in individuals with autism. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were obtained from 38 individuals with autism and 40 matched controls between the ages of 8 and 45 years. Executive function was assessed using neuropsychological measures including the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and Tower of Hanoi. Differences in performance on the neuropsychological tests were found between the 2 groups. However, no differences indorsolateral prefrontal cortex volumes were observed between groups. No correlations between volumetric measurements and performance on the neuropsychological tests were found. Findings from this study suggest that executive function deficits observed in autism are related to functional but not anatomical abnormalities of the frontal lobe. The absence of correlations suggests that executive dysfunction is not the result of focal brain alterations but, rather, is the result of a distributed neural network dysfunction.