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Review Article

Exp Neurobiol 2015; 24(4): 273-284

Published online December 30, 2015

© The Korean Society for Brain and Neural Sciences

Characteristics of Brains in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Structure, Function and Connectivity across the Lifespan

Sungji Ha1, In-Jung Sohn1,2, Namwook Kim1,2, Hyeon Jeong Sim1 and Keun-Ah Cheon1,2*

1Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Behavioral Science in Medicine and Yonsei Autism Laboratory, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul 03722, 2Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Severance Children’s Hospital,
Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul 03722, Korea

Correspondence to: *To whom correspondence should be addressed.
TEL: 82-2-2228-1633, FAX: 82-2-313-0891

Received: October 21, 2015; Revised: November 16, 2015; Accepted: November 16, 2015


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social communication and restricted and repetitive behaviors (RRBs). Over the past decade, neuroimaging studies have provided considerable insights underlying neurobiological mechanisms of ASD. In this review, we introduce recent findings from brain imaging studies to characterize the brains of ASD across the human lifespan. Results of structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies dealing with total brain volume, regional brain structure and cortical area are summarized. Using task-based functional MRI (fMRI), many studies have shown dysfunctional activation in critical areas of social communication and RRBs. We also describe several data to show abnormal connectivity in the ASD brains. Finally, we suggest the possible strategies to study ASD brains in the future.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Neuroimaging, Magnetic resonance image (MRI), Functional MRI (fMRI), Diffusion tensor image (DTI)