The objective of this paper was to study brain volumes in children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) as compared to children with a developmental delay (DD). Fifteen children with autism and ten children with developmental delay, ages between 2 and 8 years old, were included in this MRI study. Total brain (TBV), grey matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volumes were measured using SPM5. Parents completed The Child Behaviour Checklist 1.5-5 (CBCL) for all the children included in the study. Our results do not indicate statistically significant differences between the two groups, but we observed a higher average of the measured brain volumes in the ASD group. A significant correlation was found between age and GM and WM volumes (for GM volumes Spearman`s rho=.42, DF=23, p<.05 and for WM volumes Spearman`s rho=.57, DF=23, p<.01). We performed a univariate descriptive statistic for CBCL subscale scores and a non-parametric correlation analysis between the three brain volumetric measures (TBV, WM and GM) and participants’ scores on CBCL subscales. In both groups, correlations were found between the measured brain volumes and the scores of the CBCL Attention deficit/Hyperactivity Problems and Opposition Defiant Problems subscales. Unlike the correlations found in the ASD group, the DD group shows only positive correlations. This result suggests a possible moderator role of the disorder, in the relation between CBCL subscales and volumetric measures of the brain. Our data on the measured brain volumes of the two groups largely overlap those described in the literature. Structural measures interpreted in relation to standardized clinical scales can provide useful information for the field of pedopsychiatry.
Traditional conceptualizations of autism might endorse it as a good candidate for “pure” psychopathological categories. This special issue will try to challenge such a view, by offering an update on recent answers, but also by raising many questions for the future study of autism. Such an approach is essential because an optimal “intervention kit” cannot be perfected as long as we don’t know for sure what autism is. This means to clarify the phenomenal aspects as well as the hidden nature of autism. Still, new findings might seem opaque to many professionals, as long as they rely on a traditional view of autism, which might obstruct reality. The costs of such a perspective, however, are to be discovered in the limited efficacy of the interventions in use. We propose there are several assumptions supporting a distorted view of autism, assumptions currently questioned by research and practice, as it will be shown by the papers of this special issue: 1) Autism is a homogenous disorder; 2) The core deficits underlying autistic pathology are clearly defined; 3) The age of onset for autistic pathology is around 36 months; 4) Autism has a clear etiology; 5) Autistic development parallels normal development; 6) Persons with autism are “invisible” as adults.