Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of neurodevelopmental conditions associated with quantitative differences in cortical and subcortical brain morphometry. Qualitative assessment of brain morphology provides complementary information on the possible underlying neurobiology. Studies of neuroradiological findings in ASD have rendered mixed results, and await robust replication in a sizable and independent sample. Methods: We systematically and comprehensively assessed neuroradiological findings in a large cohort of participants with ASD and age-matched controls (total N = 620, 348 ASD and 272 controls), including 70 participants with intellectual disability (47 ASD, 23 controls). We developed a comprehensive scoring system, augmented by standardized biometric measures. Results: There was a higher incidence of neuroradiological findings in individuals with ASD (89.4 %) compared to controls (83.8 %, p = .042). Certain findings were also more common in ASD, in particular opercular abnormalities (OR 1.9, 95 % CI 1.3–3.6) and mega cisterna magna (OR 2.4, 95 % CI 1.4–4.0) reached significance when using FDR, whereas increases in macrocephaly (OR 2.0, 95 % CI 1.2–3.2), cranial deformities (OR 2.4, 95 % CI: 1.0–5.8), calvarian / dural thickening (OR 1.5, 95 % CI 1.0–2.3), ventriculomegaly (OR 3.4, 95 % CI 1.3–9.2), and hypoplasia of the corpus callosum (OR 2.7, 95 % CI 1.1–6.3) did not survive this correction. Furthermore, neuroradiological findings were more likely to occur in isolation in controls, whereas they clustered more frequently in ASD. The incidence of neuroradiological findings was higher in individuals with mild intellectual disability (95.7 %), irrespective of ASD diagnosis. Conclusion: There was a subtly higher prevalence of neuroradiological findings in ASD, which did not appear to be specific to the condition. Individual findings or clusters of findings may point towards the neurodevelopmental mechanisms involved in individual cases. As such, clinical MRI assessments may be useful to guide further etiopathological (genetic) investigations, and are potentially valuable to fundamental ASD research.
- Brain structural MRI
- Radiological assessment