Summary: A study by researchers at King’s College has identified a link between autism traits and isolated fetal ventriculomegaly – a common prenatal brain abnormality. Using brain MRIs, the study supports the need for early identification and intervention for families and may improve long-term support for those affected.
Source: King’s College London
The researchers used brain MRI scans of children with isolated fetal ventriculomegaly to measure neurodevelopment and investigate the presence of autistic traits at school age.
In an article published in Nature CommunicationKing researchers from the Center for the Developing Brain found evidence supporting an association between isolated ventriculomegaly and autism traits.
The study followed two groups of children, one with a normal fetal brain MRI assessment and those with a prenatal diagnosis of isolated ventriculomegaly, with follow-up developmental assessments at age 2 and age from primary school.
Participating children were first scanned as fetuses and then tested with a range of developmental measures including IQ, autism traits, sustained attention, neurological functioning, behavior, executive function , sensory processing, coordination and adaptive behaviors.
Fetal ventriculomegaly is the most common brain abnormality diagnosed before birth and is diagnosed when the lateral ventricles measure larger than normal on a prenatal ultrasound or MRI.
This study demonstrates an association between this most common fetal developmental brain anomaly and autism traits. The results may improve family counseling and facilitate early identification, support and intervention, with further research warranted to confirm the initial findings in a wider population.
“While this approach offers only a partial indicator of future outcomes, better prediction may have important implications for long-term support for families. For example, early identification means that parents can be counseled on potential future outcomes and increased awareness of the onset of autistic traits in their child would allow earlier and faster access to support programmes,” explains Dr. Vanessa Kyriakopoulou, Senior Research Associate in Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.
“There is a clear need for longer-term data combining high-quality brain imaging with long-term developmental monitoring in children with isolated ventriculomegaly diagnosed before birth or even with other common fetal brain abnormalities to improve our understanding of the susceptibility of developing autism,” says Professor Mary Rutherford, Perinatal Imaging and Health.
About this autism research news
Author: Press office
Source: King’s College London
Contact: Press Office – King’s College London
Picture: Image is credited to King’s College London
Original research: Free access.
“Characterization of ASD traits among a cohort of children with isolated fetal ventriculomegaly” by Vanessa Kyriakopoulou et al. Nature Communication
Characterization of ASD traits among a cohort of children with isolated fetriculomegaly
Fetal ventriculomegaly is the most frequently diagnosed brain anomaly in antenatal care. Imaging studies in isolated antenatal ventriculomegaly demonstrate enlarged ventricles and cortical proliferation that are also present in children with autism spectrum disorders/disorders (ASD).
We study the presence of ASD traits in a cohort of children (not= 24 (20 males/4 females)) with isolated fetal ventriculomegaly, compared to 10 controls (not= 10 (6 males/4 females)).
Neurodevelopmental outcomes at school age included IQ, ASD traits (ADOS-2), sustained attention, neurological functioning, behavior, executive function, sensory processing, coordination, and adaptive behaviors.
Preschool language development was assessed at 2 years. 37.5% of children, all male, in the ventriculomegaly cohort scored above the autism/ASD classification threshold.
Preschool language delay predicted an ADOS-2 autism/ASD classification with 73.3% specificity/66.7% sensitivity. Greater preschool language delay was associated with more ASD symptoms.
In this study, the neurodevelopment of children with isolated fetal ventriculomegaly, associated with impaired cortical development, includes ASD traits, difficulties with sustained attention, working memory, and sensation-seeking behaviors.