Microstructural Abnormalities Discovered in Autism Cases in the Orbitofrontal Cortex and Amygdala

August 29, 2021

New Research Utilized MRI Brain Scans

The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is the part of the brain which is found at the very front that sits just above the orbits (eye sockets). It has extensive connections with the sensory system and is involved in multiple psychological functions, such as emotional and cognitive processing, learning, and social behavior. The amygdala is a collection of nuclei found deep within the temporal lobe. This part of the brain is recognized as a component of the limbic system. The amygdala has been recognized for playing an integral role in behavior and emotion and is especially tied to fear.  A recent study from Harvard Medical School and published in the European Journal of Neuroscience has determined that the OFC and the amygdala of people with autism show abnormal microstructures. This new research suggests that these malformations could be linked with the functional abnormalities and behaviors which are often displayed with the disorder, including social-emotional processing. The study’s authors came to this conclusion by using an ultrahigh field quantitative magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) on individuals with autism and also on a control group .  The researchers were able to view alterations to the OFC and amygdala in those with an autism diagnosis that was not observed in those without the disorder. Since this study was small and only constituted proof-of-concept, the authors call for future research involving a larger group of individuals to evaluate their discovered association.

Original Study

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