There is increasing evidence that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have differences in brain growth trajectory. However, the neurobiological basis of ASD in adults is poorly understood. We report evidence that brain anatomy and aging in people with ASD is significantly different as compared to controls-so that in adulthood they no longer have a significantly larger overall brain volume, but they do have anatomical and functional abnormalities in frontal lobe, basal ganglia and the limbic system. Further we present preliminary evidence that females have significantly greater abnormalities in brain than males to express the same symptom severity of ASD (i.e. the female brain is "protective" against developing ASD). Also we present preliminary evidence that, in adults, clinical services for autism in the United Kingdom are experiencing very significantly increased demand; but that just over 50% of people seeking a diagnosis from one expert service do not have ASD. This consumes very significant health care resources, and so we need to identify new cost-effective methods to aid current diagnostic practice. We present initial evidence offering proof of concept that brain anatomy can be used to accurately distinguish adults with autism from healthy controls, and from some other neurodevelopmental disorders (ADHD). Hence further studies are required to determine if sMRI can become an aid to current diagnostic practice in young adults with ASD. Lastly we report evidence that differences in serotonin, glutamate and GABA may partially explain neuroanatomical and neurofunctional abnormalities in people with ASD, and that genetic influences on brain maturation vary across the lifespan (with 5-HT transporter polymorphisms having significant modulatory effects in children but not adults)
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