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Brain volumetric correlates of autism spectrum disorder symptoms in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms frequently occur in subjects with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While there is evidence that both ADHD and ASD have differential structural correlates, no study to date has investigated these structural correlates within a framework that robustly accounts for the phenotypic overlap between the two disorders. The presence of ASD symptoms was measured by the parent-reported Children's Social and Behavioural Questionnaire (CSBQ) in ADHD subjects (n = 180), their unaffected siblings (n = 118) and healthy controls (n = 146). ADHD symptoms were assessed by a structured interview (K-SADS-PL) and the Conners' ADHD questionnaires. Whole brain T1-weighted MPRAGE images were acquired and the structural MRI correlates of ASD symptom scores were analysed by modelling ASD symptom scores against white matter (WM) and grey matter (GM) volumes using mixed effects models which controlled for ADHD symptom levels. ASD symptoms were significantly elevated in ADHD subjects relative to both controls and unaffected siblings. ASD scores were predicted by the interaction between WM and GM volumes. Increasing ASD score was associated with greater GM volume. Equivocal results from previous structural studies in ADHD and ASD may be due to the fact that comorbidity has not been taken into account in studies to date. The current findings stress the need to account for issues of ASD comorbidity in ADHD.
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