Exploring Cerebellar Morphometric Trajectories and their Association with Clinical Severity in Autism Spectrum Disorder from Infancy to Early Adulthood

ContributorsLaneve, Chiara
Number of pages77
Master program titleMaîtrise universitaire interdisciplinaire en neurosciences
Defense date2023

The current cross-sectional study explored the cerebellar developmental trajectories of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their typically developing (TD) peers, aged 1-23 years old, across a wide range of cognitive functioning levels. The structural MRI images were acquired at the Autism Brain and Behavior Laboratory of the University of Geneva through a very unique protocol for structural MRI, allowing for the inclusion of very young infants. To increase the sample size and age range, additional data were obtained from New York University (NYU) through the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE).

The cerebellar parcellation was done with the CERES pipeline. Generalized linear models were used to assess differences in cerebellar morphometric trajectories in individuals with ASD compared to TD and further assess sex effects. Similarly, we examined the association between cerebellar morphometry and the behavioral phenotype of boys with ASD.

The findings indicated no significant differences in cerebellar volumetric developmental trajectories between ASD and TD groups. An overall pattern was found as all boys experienced a developmental increase in white matter and a grey matter decrease in the cerebellum. The investigation of group-by-sex interactions revealed increased trajectories of total and white matter volumes in the inferior posterior lobe for boys compared to girls.

Finally, notable effects emerged within distinct clinical profiles of ASD, specifically in the posterior lobe of the cerebellum. This region considered the most recent cerebellar area from an evolutionary standpoint, has previously been linked to higher cognitive processes, and could therefore play an important role in ASD. Overall, higher symptomatology was associated with stabilized or slightly decreased volumetric trajectories, and the opposite effect was found in patients with fewer symptoms.

This exploratory study sheds light on the cerebellar developmental trajectories in ASD compared to TD individuals and its association with the clinical severity of ASD. While no significant group differences were observed in the developmental trajectories, distinct clinical ASD profiles influenced cerebellar morphometry, particularly in the posterior lobe. The inclusion of very young infants, the relatively large sample size, and the inclusivity of a variety of cognitive functioning levels contributed to the significance of this study, deepening our understanding of ASD-related cerebellar differences.

Citation (ISO format)
LANEVE, Chiara. Exploring Cerebellar Morphometric Trajectories and their Association with Clinical Severity in Autism Spectrum Disorder from Infancy to Early Adulthood. 2023.
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Master thesis
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