We used surface-based morphometry to test for differences in cortical shape between children with simplex autism (n = 34, mean age 11.4 years) and typical children (n = 32, mean age 11.3 years). This entailed testing for group differences in sulcal depth and in 3D coordinates after registering cortical midthickness surfaces to an atlas target using 2 independent registration methods. We identified bilateral differences in sulcal depth in restricted portions of the anterior-insula and frontal-operculum (aI/fO) and in the temporoparietal junction (TPJ). The aI/fO depth differences are associated with and likely to be caused by a shape difference in the inferior frontal gyrus in children with simplex autism. Comparisons of average midthickness surfaces of children with simplex autism and those of typical children suggest that the significant sulcal depth differences represent local peaks in a larger pattern of regional differences that are below statistical significance when using coordinate-based analysis methods. Cortical regions that are statistically significant before correction for multiple measures are peaks of more extended, albeit subtle regional differences that may guide hypothesis generation for studies using other imaging modalities.
- simplex autism
- sulcal depth