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Focal atrophy of hypothalamus associated with third ventricle enlargement in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract : The hypothalamus is a brain structure containing multiple nuclei that mediate essential behavioral, autonomic, and endocrine functions including oxytocin synthesis. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide linked to complex social cognition and behaviors necessary for an effective social interaction. Oxytocinergic system dysfunction has been linked to social deficits in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Limited studies have been carried out on the hypothalamus because of its small size and methodological constraints in current technologies. This neuroimaging study examines hypothalamic atrophy in ASD in comparison with a typically developing population (a) by directly measuring gray matter (GM) density with a region-of-interest analysis using voxel-based morphometry in a homogenous sample of participants controlled for age and intelligence quotient; (b) for generalization, by measuring third ventricular volume, on the basis of its position bilaterally surrounded by the hypothalamus, using Freesurfer in a heterogeneous sample of participants. A voxel-based morphometry analysis of cerebrospinal fluid density on the first sample provides a link between GM density and third ventricle volume. Our results show decreased hypothalamic GM density and increased third ventricle volume in ASD compared with typically developing patients. Our findings provide neuroanatomical insights into social deficits in ASD within the hypothalamus that might be relevant for other psychiatric conditions.
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Farah Wolfe, Guillaume Auzias, Christine Deruelle, Thierry Chaminade. Focal atrophy of hypothalamus associated with third ventricle enlargement in Autism Spectrum Disorder. NeuroReport, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2015, 26 (17), pp.1017-1022. ⟨10.1097/WNR.0000000000000461⟩. ⟨hal-01461669⟩

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