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Delayed maturation of the frontal cortex in childhood autism
Am J Psychiatry 1995;152:248-252.
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The authors investigated the metabolic maturation of the frontal cortex in pre-school autistic children. METHOD: Regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) in five children with primary autism diagnosed according to the DSM-III-R criteria was studied longitudinally. Regional CBF in each of the autistic children was measured with single photon emission computed tomography twice during their development: at the age of 3-4 years and 3 years later. At each stage, the autistic children were compared to an age-matched comparison group of five nonautistic children with normal development. RESULTS: A transient frontal hypoperfusion was found in the autistic children at ages 3-4 years; this corresponded to the pattern of perfusion observed in much younger normal children. By the ages of 6-7, the autistic children's frontal perfusion had attained normal values. CONCLUSIONS: Since CBF patterns in children are related to maturational changes in brain function, these results indicate a delayed frontal maturation in childhood autism. Such a delayed brain maturational process is consistent with the clinical data and cognitive performance of autistic children.

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