OBJECTIVE: The authors investigated a possible cortical brain
dysfunction associated with infantile autism. METHOD: They measured
regional cerebral blood flow with single photon emission computed
tomography (SPECT) and xenon-133 in 21 children with primary autism
(according to DSM-III-R criteria). Five cortical brain areas including
frontal, temporal, and sensory association cortices were examined in order
to test the recent hypothesis of cerebral dysfunction in primary autism.
Anatomical references for each subject were obtained with computerized
tomography or magnetic resonance imaging and were used to delimit the
regions of interest for SPECT analysis. RESULTS: When the results from the
group with primary autism were compared with an age- matched group of
nonautistic children with slight to moderate language disorders (N = 14),
no cortical regional abnormalities were found. CONCLUSIONS: It appears that
there is no regional cortical dysfunction in primary autism; however, in
light of methodological limitations, one cannot exclude the possibility of
more localized or subcortical brain dysfunctions in autism.