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Autistic Disorders and Schizophrenia: Related or Remote? An Anatomical Likelihood Estimation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Charlton Cheung, Kevin Yu, Germaine Fung, Meikei Leung, Clive Wong, Qi Li, Pak Sham, Siew Chua, Grainne McAlonan, Grainne McAlonan

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12233
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages8
JournalPL o S One
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2010

King's Authors


Shared genetic and environmental risk factors have been identified for autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and schizophrenia. Social interaction, communication, emotion processing, sensorimotor gating and executive function are disrupted in both, stimulating debate about whether these are related conditions. Brain imaging studies constitute an informative and expanding resource to determine whether brain structural phenotype of these disorders is distinct or overlapping. We aimed to synthesize existing datasets characterizing ASD and schizophrenia within a common framework, to quantify their structural similarities. In a novel modification of Anatomical Likelihood Estimation (ALE), 313 foci were extracted from 25 voxel-based studies comprising 660 participants (308 ASD, 352 first-episode schizophrenia) and 801 controls. The results revealed that, compared to controls, lower grey matter volumes within limbic-striato-thalamic circuitry were common to ASD and schizophrenia. Unique features of each disorder included lower grey matter volume in amygdala, caudate, frontal and medial gyrus for schizophrenia and putamen for autism. Thus, in terms of brain volumetrics, ASD and schizophrenia have a clear degree of overlap that may reflect shared etiological mechanisms. However, the distinctive neuroanatomy also mapped in each condition raises the question about how this is arrived in the context of common etiological pressures.

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