A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Winter, 2016 | Number 1, Volume 30

Brain anomaly may be marker for autism

French researchers say a specific “misfold” in the brain may be a marker for autism. 

In their study, Lucile Brun and colleagues measured the depth of geometric markers called sulcal pits. A sulcal pit is the deepest point of each sulcus (groove) in the cerebral cortex. All of the folds on the brain’s surface develop from sulcal pits. 

Using MRI, the researchers examined the sulcal pits of 102 boys between the ages of 2 and 10 years. The group included 59 children with autism, 21 children with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PD-NOS), and 22 neurotypical children. 

Analysis showed that in Broca’s area, a region involved in language and communication, the maximum depth of a sulcus was reduced in children with autism compared to the other two groups. However, the researchers found that counterintuitively, in individuals with autism, deeper sulcal pits in this region correlated with greater impairment in language skills. 

The researchers say their findings indicate abnormal early development in this specific region and suggest that the anomaly they detected may be a useful tool in diagnosing autism.


“Localized misfolding within Broca’s area as a distinctive feature of autistic disorder,” Lucile Brun, Guillaume Auzias, Marine Viellard, Nathalie Villeneuve, Nadine Girard, François Poinso, David Da Fonseca, and Christine Deruelle, Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, January 12, 2016 (online). Address: Christine Deruelle, [email protected]


“Is autism hiding in a fold of the brain?,” news release, CNRS, January 13, 2016.